The son of Jewish emigrants from Denmark, Keats was a popular and prolific actor of the 1970s. He grew up in Canarsie, Brooklyn, New York, graduated from the New York School for the Performing Arts (now Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts). After serving a tour of duty in Vietnam with the Air Force from 1965–1966, Keats attended the prestigious Yale School of Drama in 1969 and 1970. He is the father of photographer and actor Thatcher Keats. Keats debuted on Broadway in the second cast of Oh! Calcutta! and appeared in over 80 films and TV shows. He was nominated for an Emmy in 1977 for his role as the ruthless, Great Depression-era entrepreneur Jay Blackman, who clawed his way to the top of the “rag trade,’ or clothing business, in the 1977 miniseries Seventh Avenue. He also portrayed Thomas Edison on the brink of inventing the electric light bulb in the science fiction TV series, Voyagers!. His film career included roles in The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973), Death Wish (1974), The Gambler (1974), The Gumball Rally (1976), The Last Dinosaur (1977), Black Sunday (1977), The Ivory Ape (1980), Hangar 18 (1980), Silent Rage (1982), Turk 182 (1985), Badge of the Assassin (1985), and the 1982 TV-movie of the Norman Mailer book The Executioner’s Song, starring Tommy Lee Jones. Another notable role was Keats’ memorable performance in the celebrated 1975 movie Hester Street (adapted from author Abraham Cahan’s original Yiddish story “Yekl.”) Set on New York City’s Lower East Side of the 1890s, Keats played Jake Podkovnik (late of Russia), an assimilated “Amerikaner,” complete with derby hat and an impressive handlebar moustache. Jake is less than favorably disposed toward his recently emigrated wife, the meekly-submissive Gitl (who still clings to the old ways), because she is a constant reminder of his own “greenhorn” (or newcomer) status which he is trying desperately to forget. Keats guest-starred on the episode of The A-Team called “Harder Than It Looks”. At the end of his career, Keats was playing the part of Ed McClain on the soap opera Another World, and guest-starred as Nicholas Davis II on All My Children. On May 8, 1994, he was found dead in his apartment in Manhattan.
- February, 06, 1945
- New York, New York
- May, 08, 1994
- Manhattan, New York, New York
Cause of Death