Howard Keel, who sang and danced to stardom in the heyday of MGM musicals, died Sunday of colon cancer at his home in Palm Desert, Calif. He was 85.

Howard Keel, who sang and danced to stardom in the heyday of MGM musicals, died Sunday of colon cancer at his home in Palm Desert, Calif. He was 85.

With his full-throated baritone and 6-foot-4-inch frame, Keel was a romantic figure in such classic musicals as "Annie Get Your Gun," "Showboat," "Kiss Me Kate," "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" and "Kismet." He was paired with the most glamorous of leading ladies: Esther Williams, Doris Day, Kathryn Grayson and Jane Powell.

When the studios veered away from musicals in the late 1950s, he picked up in action pictures and dramas, including "The Big Fisherman" and "The War Wagon" with John Wayne. More recently, he co-starred for 11 years as Clayton Farlow, husband of "Miss Ellie" Ewing, on the hit show "Dallas."

Keel was 66 and presumably nearing the end of his career when he suddenly became a star in the latter medium.

Keel achieved stardom in 1950 with his second film, "Annie Get Your Gun," when he played a singing cowboy who was Betty Hutton's love interest. His stunning turn in "Annie" vaulted him to stardom at a time when MGM boasted having "more stars than there are in the heavens."

From 1951-55, Keel starred in the top MGM musicals: "Showboat," "Lovely to Look At," "Kiss Me Kate," "Rose Marie," "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, "Kismet" and "Jupiter's Darling" in which he played Hannibal invading Rome.

Following his musical run, Keel often performed with touring companies and in nightclubs where he was a popular figure. He also took sporadic movie roles, including a turn as a seaman battling a carnivorous plant monster in the British sci-fi film "The Day of the Triffids" (1962).

During the '70s, Keel appeared frequently as a TV guest star on series including "The Love Boat," "Here's Lucky," "The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour," "Murder She Wrote" and "Walker, Texas Ranger."

He also is survived by 10 grandchildren and one great-granddaughter.

The funeral will be private, with a memorial service to follow.

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