GLASGOW’S Empire Theatre was notoriously unforgiving when comedians faltered and acts failed to entertain.

But for Howard Keel, American singing superstar and Hollywood actor, all was forgiven.

In fact, not only did the Glasgow crowd let him off for forgetting his words not once, but THREE times during his concert in September 1954, they even gave him a helping hand.

The Glasgow Evening Times reported the next day:

“Hollywood singing star Howard Keel forgot the words of his songs three times at the opening of his British variety tour in the Empire Theatre, Glasgow, last night.

“But with such a handsome big laddie on the stage, working so hard and trying to please, what did his Glasgow audience do but sing the elusive words to help him out?”

The writer continued: “The more he forgot the louder they sang, and the more they clapped and cheered to cover his embarrassment.

“Twice the words of Annie Laurie eluded him, but his blushes soon turned to smiles as his audience showed that they didn’t mind a bit.”

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Keel’s “pleasant stage personality proves the good impression gained from his films,” continued the Evening Times, which added: “He and his pretty partner, Angel Marlo, delighted with an item from the screen version of Kiss Me, Kate, and there was a long list of other songs which the singer made famous in Annie Get Your Gun, Oklahoma and Carousel. Here is an American star who never once gives the impression that he adores the sight and sound of himself. The pity of it is that we cannot keep him on this side of the Atlantic for very long.”

The rest of the bill that night included trapeze artists The Spanglers, xylophone player Jack Simpson and Albert Burdon who ‘with his slap-happy companions bounced about the stage like a rubber ball’, which does not really explain what the act was, but the crowd and the reviewer seemed to enjoy it all the same. Olgo the ‘lightning calculator’ was the final act of the night – nothing to do with electrical storms, he was in fact “the man who never forgets figures and can do some bewildering tricks with them.”

Glasgow Times:

Howard Keel was back in Glasgow two years later, when, reported the Evening Times, he had the Empire audience once again ‘completely in his pocket by the time he concluded a well-balanced programme with the greatest love song of them all, Annie Laurie.”

The reviewer added: “His reminiscences of ‘there’s no business like show business’ was particularly well done, the setting being a darkened, after-the-show, backstage effect with small spotlights picking out the star as he moved around among the props singing some of the hit songs from his films. Nice singing, nice showmanship, Howard.”

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Keel starred in a string of classic musicals, including Annie Get Your Gun, Show Boat, Calamity Jane, Kiss Me Kate and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.

In the late 70s and early 80s, he won a whole new generation of fans as the silver-haired second husband of Miss Ellie in soapy drama Dallas. He died in 2004.