'Match Game's' Reilly Dies at 76
Reilly, a longtime resident of Beverly Hills, died Friday (May 25) of complications from pneumonia at
"The average person thinks of him as being on 'The Match Game.' That was a mixed blessing for him," Linke told The Times on Monday. "One of the reasons I was so motivated to get his show out there was because I wanted people to recognize that this was a heavyweight talent."
When a Times reporter visited his home in 2000, Reilly displayed an opera review that referred to him as "Charles Nelson Reilly of '
"It's like a scarlet letter," Reilly yowled in his high-pitched, nasal voice.
Wearing his trademark ascot and oversized glasses, Reilly made a near-record 97 appearances on "The Tonight Show Starring
After a "Tonight Show" guest who was talking about Shakespeare dismissed Reilly's attempt to join the conversation, he silenced her by delivering Hamlet's "the play's the thing" monologue straight, with depth and passion, the
He broke through on Broadway in 1961, winning a Tony for playing the insidious nephew Bud Frump in the original production of "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying." Reilly also received Tony nominations for his role in "Hello, Dolly!" in 1964 and for directing a revival of "The Gin Game" with
Reilly often directed plays that starred Harris, including "The Belle of Amherst," a 1977 one-woman play about
"He's a wonderful actor but never gets enough chance to do it," Harris told The Times in 2000. "He's taught me a lot about theater. It's his insight into the personal idiosyncrasies of human beings. He's attuned to small details — the pieces of the puzzle that make up the whole picture."
Reilly's close friend
"We have a thing in this town that if you are enormously witty and gregarious, you can't be very deep. There's something wrong with a society that says, 'You're the wit, but you're not the teacher.' People just haven't seen him in this arena," Reynolds said.
A well-regarded acting instructor, Reilly moved to
In his one-man show, which would be his final work, Reilly told the story of his life, which began Jan. 13, 1931, in
He was the only child of the former Signe Elvera Nelson and Charles Joseph Reilly, who designed outdoor advertising for Paramount Pictures.
After his father had a nervous breakdown, partly brought on because his wife made him turn down a job offer from
Reilly and his mother moved to
By 18, he had moved to
Reilly never tried to hide his homosexuality, and frequently cracked double-entendres on television about being gay.
He got a job as a night mail boy at the
"Charles' response was, 'It didn't bother me. I knew in my heart his words weren't true,' " Linke said. Later, Reilly would count how many game show appearances he would make in a week — once it was 27 — and consider it his revenge.
When he first came to
Reilly made more money in one or two TV appearances with
Reilly went on to make many guest appearances in sitcoms and was a regular on "Laugh-In." In the late 1960s, Reilly bought his Beverly Hills home and also owned a 34-foot cabin cruiser that he kept in Marina del Rey.
"The world is a slightly less funny place now," Linke said. "He made people laugh along the way, and that's a legacy that lives on long after the game shows."
Reilly is survived by Patrick Hughes, his companion of more than 25 years.