Michael Callan, well remembered for his Broadway performance as Riff in West Side Story, died on October 10 at the age of 86. Callan’s daughter Rebecca Goodman told The Hollywood Reporter that her father died on Monday night from pneumonia complications at the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills. Callan worked in the entertainment business for over five decades. He was well-known for his roles in musicals such as West Side Story, as well as films such as Gidget Goes Hawaiian, The Interns, and Cat Ballou.
The character of Michael Callan in West Side Story
In 1957, Michael Callan portrayed the Riff in the original Broadway production of West Side Story. In the show, Riff is the leader of The Jets. The musical was inspired by William Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet. The plot revolved around the rivalry between two juvenile street gangs, the Jets and the Sharks, on Manhattan’s Upper West Side in the mid-1950s.
Tony, the protagonist, is a former Jets and Riff’s player. He falls in love with Maria, the sister of the Sharks’ leader, Bernardo. West Side Story was turned into a film for the first time in 1961 by Robert Wise, and again in 2021 by Steven Spielberg. Ansel Elgort and Rachel Zegler played key roles in the 2021 film. Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, Russ Tamblyn, Rita Moreno, and George Chakiris appeared in the 1961 picture.
RIP Michael Callan. I must go watch Cat Ballou now. pic.twitter.com/pGx0cCRyUf
— Waoac (@Janet52177263) October 11, 2022
All About Michael Callan
Martin Harris Calinieff, born on November 22, 1935, liked to sing and dance as a youth and began dancing at local nightclubs when he was 15 years old. He subsequently relocated to New York City and began performing as Mickey Calin. Initially, he was cast in two musicals: The Boy Friend and Catch a Star. When he was 21, he auditioned for the part of Riff in West Side Story and was successful after numerous tries. Columbia Pictures talent scout Joyce Selznick discovered Callan and signed him to a seven-year contract.
He made his cinematic debut in 1959 with They Came to Cordura, followed by The Flying Fontaines the following year. Callan played Griff Rimer in the 1960 drama picture Because They’re Young and appeared as a cameo in Pepe. He was then cast in the 1962 picture The Interns, which was Columbia’s highest-grossing film of the year. He went on to star in films such as Gidget Goes Hawaiian, Mysterious Island, 13 West Street, Bon Voyage!, The Victors, The New Interns, and more.
Michael Callan was also well-known for his television appearances. He made his television debut in the NBC comedy Occasional Wife as the lead. Breaking Point, The Name of the Game, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Marcus Welby, 12 O’Clock High, Charlie’s Angels, Fantasy Island, Love, American Style, and more series followed.
He then acted in and co-produced the 1982 thriller horror film Double Exposure with Von Deming and William Byron Hillman. He returned to the theater on occasion and performed in a number of different musicals. Dawn and Rebecca Callan, Michael Callan’s children, survive him. He married Carlyn Chapman in 1960, and they divorced in 1967. Michael then married Patricia Harty in 1968, but the couple divorced in 1970. His most recent marriage was to Kareen Malouf, with whom he was married from 1975 until 1984.