Charles Keating, actor who played soap opera villain, dies at 72

Share via

Charles Keating, a Shakespearean actor who injected passages from the Bard into his portrayal of the villainous Carl Hutchins on the soap opera “Another World,” has died at his home in Weston, Conn. He was 72.

Keating’s death from cancer on Friday was confirmed by his son Sean.

Performing with the Royal Shakespeare Company long before landing in soaps, Keating was best known for a character whose malevolence would have made him feel right at home in a Shakespearean tragedy. “Another World’s” Hutchins was a seductive manipulator who lacked a conscience but had a knack for swindling, poisoning, bombing, kidnapping and arranging for the maiming of his fellow characters.

Like King Lear, he ultimately was a victim of age. When “Another World” was canceled in 1999 after 35 years on the air, an NBC executive told The Times that “we wanted to bring in the next generation.”


“When you are 25, you don’t relate to a 50-year-old’s love story,” said Susan Lee, a vice president of daytime programming. “There’s a lot of stuff that went down in our research that I wouldn’t tell the people on ‘Another World’ because it would be too painful for them.”

With long silver hair that he often wore in a ponytail, Keating was a regular on the show from 1983 to 1986 but returned whenever his character — presumed dead at various times from a fall off a cliff, a helicopter crash, a hospital fire, gunshot wounds and drowning — was resurrected. Keating was fired from the show in 1998 but agreed to come back for its 1999 finale.

“Even if it is not going to be terribly satisfying storywise,” he said, “the fans need to see this wrapped up.”

Keating was nominated for four Daytime Emmys, and received the award for outstanding lead actor in a drama series in 1996. He also received three “outstanding villain” nominations from Soap Opera Digest.

He appeared in the 1978 TV miniseries “Edward and Mrs. Simpson” as Wallis Simpson’s former husband Ernest, and in the 1981 TV adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s “Brideshead Revisited.” His films included “The Thomas Crown Affair” (1999) and “Deuce Bigelow: European Gigolo” (2005).

Born in London to Irish parents on Oct. 22, 1941, Keating immigrated with his parents to Canada when he was a teenager. At 19, he was a hairdresser in Buffalo, N.Y., when a customer suggested that he try out for a play in nearby Niagara Falls.


“I was dreadful. It was rubbish,” he recalled in a 1996 interview with the New York Daily News. “So much for virginity.”

Within a few years, he found steady work as an actor at the Cleveland Play House and the Tyrone Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. After Guthrie asked him to open the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, England, in 1971, Keating stayed in Britain for 12 years, appearing with the Royal Shakespeare Company and at the Chichester Festival Theatre.

He got to know Laurence Olivier and sent him a note asking for advice on playing Macbeth as the blood-soaked Scottish king has a vision of a dagger floating in midair.

“The dagger scene,” Keating wrote intensely. “Where do you see the dagger?”

The celebrated actor’s reply was both generous and inscrutable: “Oh, dear boy. See the dagger wherever you want to.”

On Broadway, Keating was nominated for a 1986 Tony award for portraying a new widower in Joe Orton’s farce “Loot.”

In the 1990s, Keating and his “Another World” costar, Victoria Wyndham, toured in “Couplets,” a play they based on the poetry-laden exchanges between their characters Carl and Rachel.


While Hutchins was evil, Keating gave evil a particularly literate flavor.

When the soap’s writers had the idea of Carl romancing Rachel on location in Manhattan, Keating had an instant objection: “Please don’t have us walking up Fifth Avenue looking into the window at Tiffany’s!” he recalled during a Soap Opera Digest Web forum.

He suggested that the couple emerge from a bookstore reading poems to each other. The writers loved it.

After his cancer diagnosis several years ago, Keating revived a show that featured poems, stories, folk songs and English music hall pieces performed by himself, his wife Mary, and his sons Sean and Jamie.

“He knew it would be important to us to have time performing again,” Sean Keating said. “And onstage, he was in his element. It was like being in the wake of ship.”

In addition to Mary, his wife of more than 50 years, and his two sons, Keating is survived by six grandchildren.


Twitter: @schawkins