Richard Tompkins Kollmar
December 31, 1910
Ridgewood, New Jersey, U.S.
|Died||January 7, 1971 (aged 60)|
Manhattan, New York, U.S.
|Resting place||Gate of Heaven Cemetery|
|Alma mater||Tusculum College|
Yale School of Drama
|Occupation||Actor, television personality, stage producer and director|
(m. 1940; died 1965)
Anne Fogarty (m. 1967–1971)
Richard Tompkins "Dick" Kollmar (December 31, 1910 – January 7, 1971) was an American stage, radio, film and television actor, television personality and Broadway producer. Kollmar was the husband of journalist Dorothy Kilgallen.
Kollmar was born in Brooklyn, New York to John and Christine L. (née Smith) Kollmar. His great-great grandfather was Daniel D. Tompkins, the fourth Governor of New York and the sixth Vice President of the United States. The Kollmars moved to Ridgewood, New Jersey where John Kollmar worked as an architect. Kollmar later attended Tusculum College where he became interested in acting. While in college, he performed in the school's glee club and was the editor of the school newspaper. Upon graduation, he enrolled at the Yale School of Drama but dropped out after winning a role on a radio drama.
After moving to New York City and getting steady work on radio commercials, Kollmar appeared in the Broadway musicals Knickerbocker Holiday (1938) and Too Many Girls (1939). The cast of Too Many Girls included 22-year-old singer-actor Desi Arnaz. More than 35 years later, after Kollmar’s death, Arnaz’s memoir was published in which he said he and Kollmar had become close friends during the run of their musical show.
In the early 1940s, Kollmar portrayed the role of Dennis Pierce on the radio series Pretty Kitty Kelly on CBS Radio. From 1945 to 1950, Kollmar portrayed the role of Boston Blackie on the radio program of the same name on the Mutual Radio Network. He also had lead roles in other radio shows including the soap opera Bright Horizon, Gang Busters and Grand Central Station.
Kollmar tried his hand at producing a Broadway musical in 1943 when he helped launch Early to Bed. Its songs were composed by jazz pianist/popular song composer Fats Waller. Kollmar's role in introducing Waller's music to New York theatergoers was recalled in a 2016 essay about Waller by John McWhorter, an American academic and linguist who is Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, where he teaches linguistics, American studies, philosophy, and music history. (He is the author of a number of books on language and on race relations.)
Even as late as 1943, the idea of a black composer writing the score for a standard-issue white show was unheard of. When Broadway performer and producer Richard Kollmar began planning Early to Bed, his original idea was for Waller to perform in it as a comic character, not to write the music. Waller was, after all, as much a comedian as a musician. Comedy rarely dates well, but almost 80 years later, his comments and timing during “Your Feet’s Too Big” are as funny as anything on Comedy Central, and he nearly walks away with the movie Stormy Weather with just one musical scene and a bit of mugging later on, despite the competition of Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Lena Horne, and the Nicholas Brothers. Kollmar’s original choice for composer [of Early to Bed] was Ferde Grofé, best known as the orchestrator of George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” whose signature compositions were portentous concert suites. But Grofé withdrew, and it is to Kollmar’s credit that he realized that he had a top-rate pop-song composer available in Waller. Waller’s double duty as composer and performer was short-lived. During a cash crisis and in an advanced state of intoxication, Waller threatened to leave the production unless Kollmar bought the rights to his Early to Bed music for $1,000. (This was typical of Waller, who often sold melodies for quick cash when in his cups. The evidence suggests, for example, that the standards “I Can’t Give You Anything but Love” and “On the Sunny Side of the Street” were Waller tunes.) Waller came to his senses the next day, but Kollmar decided that his drinking habits made him too risky a proposition for eight performances a week. From then on, Waller was the show’s composer only, with lyrics by George Marion, whose best-remembered work today is the script for the Astaire-Rogers film The Gay Divorcée.
In April 1945, Kollmar and columnist wife Dorothy Kilgallen (whom he married in April 1940) began hosting a 45-minute breakfast radio show called Breakfast with Dorothy and Dick. The program aired Monday through Friday on WOR and was broadcast from the couple's 16-room Park Avenue apartment. Over breakfast, served by their butler Julius, the couple talked about New York City entertainment, celebrity gossip and the city's nightclub scene. The couple sometimes chatted on the radio airwaves with sports figures; Friday morning, May 9, 1947 was one such occasion. The couple's two children, Richard, Jr. ("Dickie") and Jill, often made appearances.
Breakfast with Dorothy and Dick was broadcast locally throughout New York City and its suburbs, drawing an audience of 20 million listeners. In 1952, the Kollmar family moved from their Park Avenue apartment to a townhouse on Manhattan’s East 68th Street, and the show began originating from there. Breakfast with Dorothy and Dick ceased production on March 21, 1963.
On April 11, 1945, Kollmar took up the lead role in the radio series, "Boston Blackie." The series ran from April 11, 1945 - October 25, 1950. It also starred Jan Miner as Blackie's girlfriend, Mary, and Maurice Tarplin as Inspector Farraday. 
In 1948, Kollmar made his first and only film appearance in the 1948 low-budget crime drama Close-Up, directed by Jack Donohue. In June 1949, he began hosting the live television variety series Broadway Spotlight. The series, which aired on NBC, was canceled in September 1949. Throughout the early to mid-1950s, Kollmar continued his career as an actor with guest roles on television. In 1952, he became the master of ceremonies for the DuMont Television Network game show Guess What?. That show was also canceled after one season. From 1952 to 1965, Kollmar made five appearances on the game show What's My Line?, on which his wife was a regular panelist. Kollmar appeared once as an occupational guest, twice as part of a group of mystery guests and twice as a panelist.
In addition to his work in radio and television, Kollmar produced and directed several Broadway stage plays. He produced his first Broadway show, By Jupiter, in June 1944. In May 1944, he produced and directed the fantasy musical Dream With Music. The production starred ballerina Vera Zorina and was written by Kollmar's wife Dorothy, Sidney Sheldon and Ben Roberts. The musical was praised for its ballet sequences, but received largely poor reviews. It closed after 28 performances. Kollmar fared better with his next two productions, Are You With It? and Plain and Fancy, both of which were hits. In 1958, Kollmar produced The Body Beautiful, a musical about prize fighters starring Steve Forrest, singers Lonnie Sattin and Barbara McNair (in their Broadway debuts), Mindy Carson and Jack Warden. He hired two newcomers, lyricist Sheldon Harnick and composer Jerry Bock, both of whom would go on to write the lyrics and music for the hit shows Fiddler on the Roof and Fiorello!. Upon its debut on January 23, 1958, reviews were generally mixed. However, more influential critics panned the show and the music (though two songs, "All of These and More" and "Summer Is", became standards) with one critic from The New Yorker calling the show "vulgar and feeble minded in equal degrees." The Body Beautiful failed to attract an audience and closed in March 1958, after 60 performances. It was the last show Kollmar would produce.
When not active in acting and producing, Kollmar operated a New York City supper club called The Left Bank (the club closed by 1965). He was also involved in the arts community, working with the Art Students League of New York and opened an art gallery in midtown Manhattan.
Kollmar was married twice and had three children. On April 6, 1940, he married columnist Dorothy Kilgallen at the St. Vincent Ferrer Church in Manhattan. The couple had three children: Richard, Jr. (born 1941), Jill (born 1943), and Kerry (born 1954). They remained married until Kilgallen's death in November 1965.
On January 7, 1971, Kollmar died at his Manhattan home. Newspaper reports stated that he "died in his sleep late Thursday in his New York home." According to his friends, he had broken his shoulder after falling at his home on January 4, three days before his death.
|October 19, 1938 – March 11, 1939||Knickerbocker Holiday||Brom Broeck|
|October 18, 1939 – May 18, 1940||Too Many Girls||Clint Kelley|
|January 14 – January 18, 1941||Crazy With the Heat||Performer|
|June 3 – June 12, 1943||By Jupiter||Producer|
|June 17, 1943 – May 13, 1944||Early to Bed||El Magnifico||Producer|
|May 18 – June 10, 1944||Dream With Music||Producer, director|
|November 10, 1945 – June 29, 1946||Are You with It?||Producer|
|January 27, 1955 – March 3, 1956||Plain and Fancy||Producer|
|January 23 – March 15, 1958||The Body Beautiful||Producer|
|1949||Broadway Spotlight||Host||Unknown episodes|
|1950||The Web||Episode: "The Witness"|
|1951||Penthouse Party||Himself||Episode #1.29|
|1952||Guess What?||Host||Unknown episodes|
Credited as Dick Kollmar
|1952-1965||What's My Line||Himself/panelist||5 episodes|
|1954||Armstrong Circle Theatre||Episode: "Evening Star"|
|1954||Who's the Boss?||Himself/Panelist||Unknown episodes|
Credited as Dick Kollmar
|1956||Person to Person||Himself||Episode #3.21|
|1956||NBC Matinee Theater||Episode: "Pygmalion Jones"|
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- "Anne Fogarty's Fashion 'Rebel'". The Pittsburgh Press. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. February 20, 1975. p. 16. Retrieved June 12, 2015.
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