The Charm Of Chamberlain (Part 3)
When he left the series, Richard played parts in "Philadelphia Story" and "Private Lives" in a summertime repertory theater in the U.S.A.. He also tried his hand at musicals with the lead in a version of West Side Story (not a great success) and a star part in "Breakfast At Tiffany's" (an unmitigated disaster). Films followed including "Twilight Of Honor", "Joy In The Morning", "Petulia" and "The Madwoman Of Chaillot." He made records which showed off his pleasant if rather ordinary singing voice. Then came "The Portrait Of A Lady", the adaptation for television of Henry James' romantic 19th Century novel. "I'd finished a television project in America and things weren't really going very well. I was dissatisfied with the parts I was being offered and I had a strange feeling that Britain was the place to be. So when Eamonn Andrews asked me to take part on one of his shows I accepted", said Richard. "Then as a result of my being on that programme, it was suggested that I might be suitable for "The Portrait Of A Lady." So I read the novel and fell in love with the character and the whole book. I desperately wanted that part and it was a fascinating experience." That role, coupled with his smash-hit portrayal of "Hamlet" in Birmingham rep (making him the first US actor to play "Hamlet" in this country since John Barrymore in 1929) proved the turning point for Richardís career. He was accepted as the talented and versatile performer that he is, and the ghost of "Dr. Kildare" was finally laid to rest.
"Shogun" is the pinnacle of Richard's career and, ironically, a performance that once again glued Americans to their television sets and brought him shoals of fan mail and adulation. It took months of hard work on location in Japan but the effort has been more than worth while. Richard Chamberlain is now Hollywood's hottest box office property. "I am not wildly popular, not a superstar like Robert Redford," he says modestly. "Many things I do on stage don't get that exposure. "Shogun" will be a great help to my career, both in the theater and out. Blackthorne was a very taxing part. I look forward now to whatever it brings."
At the moment he is working on a new film, "Bells" in Canada. It's a psycho-thriller, set in the present day, which Richard finds a welcome change after the string of period parts he's played. "I play a contemporary leading man," he says. "And I get the girl, too."
Getting the girl is something Richard has avoided in real life. He has never married, although his life has been peppered with romantic interludes. One of his early loves was a singer called Clara Ray. They were together for more than three years; and he dated Taryn Power, daughter of the late Tyrone Power.
There was a secret romance too, with an unnamed American girl, but that finished. At the time Richard said, "I have not entirely worked out what went wrong but I suppose my career had something to do with it. Actors are such gypsies and I have been career-oriented for so long.
Today his views on his career have relaxed slightly. He says: "My career has always come first, and now I am getting tired of that. My current fantasy is to take a year off, just go away, not think about anything at all. "I have really married my career and that's something I'd like to change. I've had to do a lot of growing up before I could have the kind of marriage I would like to have and before I felt I could have anything to offer to children. But I'm getting to the point where I can imagine myself coping with kids."
Commitment to one person is hard for him. Closest to him today is an attractive Dixie Carter, 39, who has two children and two ex-husbands and is in no hurry to find husband number three. They met years ago in a play and have remained close every since. "Richard doesn't give himself easily in life, but when he does he's irresistible. He has a raucous, earthy sense of humour that's devastating." Says Dixie.
Richard spends his time between an apartment in Manhattan and a small beach house in Hawaii. He has always spent his free time away from the glamour and glitter of Hollywood, preferring to be alone or with a few friends. Now with the success of "Shogun", a whole new world is waiting for him.
Richard Chamberlain Online