Keene Curtis: Mormon Actor
Keene Holbrook Curtis was an award-winning versatile actor, whose career was launched after Orson Welles directed a college production of Macbeth (part of the Utah centennial celebration in 1947) and cast Curtis in the same role of “Lennox” in his 1948 motion picture adaptation of the play. He was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Curtis was born on February 15, 1923, in Salt Lake City, Utah. He earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Utah, where he was both an actor and a cheerleader. He later endowed a scholarship at the university to help graduates launch their acting careers. He donated his theater memorabilia, personal correspondence, and Tony award to the university.
He had a successful career in stage, film, and television. He also did voice work. In addition to Welles’ Macbeth, Keene appeared in Heaven Can Wait, Sliver, Rabbit Test, The Buddy System, I.Q., American Hot Wax, and Richie Rich’s Christmas Wish.
His theatrical career began as a Broadway stage manager. He was an assistant stage manager on a tour of the Martha Graham Dance Company and later managed for Katharine Cornell and Guthrie McClintock. He was cast in a 1965 revival of You Can’t Take It with You and appeared in The Cherry Orchard, A Patriot for Me, Via Galactica, Night Watch, and La Cage aux Folles. He won a Tony Award for Best Supporting actor in the musical The Rothschilds and a Drama-Logue Award for his portrayal of "Daddy Warbucks" in Annie. He was nominated for an Obie Award for his role in The Cocktail Hour. He also made numerous appearances on stages in Phoenix and Los Angeles.
On television, he appeared in multiple dramas and sitcoms, including Hawaii Five-O; Quincy, M.E.; MASH; Star Trek Voyager; Murder, She Wrote; ER; Lou Grant; Hart to Hart; Trapper John, M.D.; Full House; Coach; Beverly Hills, 90201; Touched by an Angel; Baretta; Stargate SG-1; Three’s Company; Ally McBeal; and numerous others. He had a recurring role in Cheers, and Amanda’s by the Sea. He appeared in the television movies Gypsy, the miniseries Ben Franklin, Stowaway to the Moon, and The Royal Family.
In voice work, he is best known for his role as Lord Balthazar on The Smurfs, from 1981 to 1989. He also lent his voice to many other cartoons, including Paddington Bear, The Little Mermaid, The Scooby & Scrappy-Doo Puppy Hour, Stories from the Bible, Adventures from the Book of Virtues, and Mother Goose and Grimm.
Keene also served for three years during World War II as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy and was presented with a Distinguished Service Award in 1973. He died on October 13, 2002, in Bountiful, Utah.