May 6, 1939|
Chickasha, Oklahoma, United States
|Died||June 17, 1984
Columbus, Ohio, United States
Chet Allen (May 6, 1939 – June 17, 1984) was an American child actor of the 1950s known for his role as Amahl in Gian Carlo Menotti's Amahl and the Night Visitors, the first opera written for television, which he made with the NBC Opera Theatre.
At the time he was selected as Amahl, Allen was a soprano member of Columbus Boychoir, founded in Columbus, Ohio The music boarding school relocated in 1950 to Princeton, New Jersey, and in 1980 was renamed the American Boychoir School. Allen also reprised his role as Amahl in theatre in April 1952 with the New York City Opera, conducted by young Thomas Schippers.
In 1953, Allen starred with Dan Dailey in the film Meet Me at the Fair in the role of 14-year-old Tad Bayliss. That same year, he played the young teenager Jerry Bonino in the short-lived NBC series Bonino, a mostly forgotten situation comedy starring Ezio Pinza as a recently widowed Italian-American opera singer, Babbo Bonino, undertaking the rearing of his six children. Mary Wickes costarred as Martha the housekeeper.
Allen failed to make the transition into adult acting and was frequently admitted to psychiatric hospitals because of recurring depression. He procured his Social Security number in New Jersey, presumably when he joined the Columbus Boychoir. Allen spent his last years in Columbus, Ohio. When Menotti visited him there, in either 1982 or 1983, he found a bitterly unhappy young man for whom life had been a series of repeated disappointments. "No one could have helped him enough," Menotti later maintained.
In 1984, at the age of forty-five, Allen committed suicide by taking five times the fatal dosage of a prescription anti-depressant. Speculation persists that Allen may have been one of the many young victims of sexual abuse that took place at the Columbus Boychoir School, during his enrollment there years earlier. See The American Boychoir School.
- Social Security Death Index dates for Allen's life; "Famous Deaths on June 17 (1984):http://www.historyorb.com/deaths/june/17; Famous Deaths maintains that that Allen was born in 1932 in Chickasha, Oklahoma, and died in Columbus, Ohio, at the age of fifty-one, rather than forty-five. Actually, another Chet Allen, still living, was born in Chickasha, but in 1928, not 1932. The author is unable to confirm this Chet Allen's place of birth.
- TVparty.com, "An Opera for Television": http://www.tvparty.com/xmas-amahl.html
- The Boy Choir and Soloist Directory, Chet Allen, on-line: http://www.boysoloist.com/artist.asp?VID=1175
- Dan Dailey, Meet Me at the Fair (film): http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0046059/
- Alex McNeil, Total Television, New York: Penguin Books, 1996, p. 111
- IMDB, Minibiography of Chet Allen: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0020367/bio