Russell Nype, Two-Time Tony Winner and Star of 'Call Me Madam,' Dies at 98

Russell Nype_One Touch of Venus - Photofest - H 2018
Courtesy of Photofest

After singing on Broadway with Ethel Merman, he teamed with Elaine Stritch in 'Goldilocks' and appeared in 'Love Story.'

Russell Nype, the clean-cut actor and baritone singer who won a pair of Tony Awards for his performances alongside Ethel Merman and Elaine Stritch in Call Me Madam and Goldilocks, respectively, has died. He was 98.

Nype died May 27 in West Palm Beach, Florida, his son, Russell, told The New York Times.

Recognizable for his horn-rimmed glasses, Nype also portrayed Dean Thompson of Harvard Law School in Arthur Hiller's Love Story (1970), and he played Bruce Jenner's boss in the Village People's Can't Stop the Music (1980), directed by Nancy Walker.

In his signature role, Nype starred as Kenneth Gibson, the timid press attache to Merman's Sally Adams, an American ambassador to a fictional European country, in the comedy Call Me Madam, directed by George Abbott from a book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse.

His duet with Merman, "You're Just in Love," written by Irving Berlin, was "the best showstopper ever written," he once said.

Call Me Madam opened in October 1950 and ran for 644 performances, with Nype receiving the Tony for best featured actor in a musical in 1951.

In 1959, Nype captured his second Tony, this time for portraying the millionaire George Randolph Brown, who is engaged to marry an actress (Stritch), in Goldilocks, also starring Tony winner Pat Stanley and Don Ameche. Set in the silent-film era, the musical featured a book by Jean and Walter Kerr and choreography by Agnes De Mille.

Nype reteamed with Stritch for a 1968 off-Broadway production of Private Lives, and he and Merman got back together in 1970, joining the cast of Hello, Dolly! as its long original run was winding down.

A native of Zion, Illinois, Nype earned his bachelor's degree from Lake Forest College and served in the U.S. Army during World War II. He came to New York and worked as an instructor at an Arthur Murray dance studio before being cast in 1949 in the Broadway musical drama Regina.

"I went to Lake Forest College," Nype said in a 2005 interview. "All the professors said, what do you mean, you're going into the theater, with the glasses — I never could see — and the buck teeth and all. But in New York, I was the only person who looked the way I looked. Everybody else was so glamorous. First thing I did was go out and buy contact lenses."

Crouse, though, told Nype to keep the glasses, saying, "They give you character."

Nype also appeared on Broadway in revivals of CarouselBrigadoon and Morning's at Seven and in the original 1967 production of The Girl in the Freudian Slip.

The actor also starred in TV adaptations of One Touch of Venus and Kiss Me, Kate and later appeared on shows including Fantasy IslandOne Day at a TimeThe Cosby Show and Who's the Boss?