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Chet Allen (actor, born 1939)

  (Redirected from Chet Allen (child actor))

Chet R. Allen (May 6, 1939 – June 17, 1984)[1] 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.[2]

Chet Allen
Chet Allen Amahl.jpg
Allen as Amahl, 1951
Born(1939-05-06)May 6, 1939
DiedJune 17, 1984(1984-06-17) (aged 45)
Columbus, Ohio, U.S.
Years active1952–1958

Allen was born in Chillicothe, Ohio, and later moved to Columbus, Ohio.[3] 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.[4]

In 1953, Allen starred with Dan Dailey in the film Meet Me at the Fair in the role of 14-year-old Tad Bayliss.[5] 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.[6]

One of Allen's young Bonino costars was Van Dyke Parks, a future composer and musician with whom he had roomed at Columbus Boyschoir.

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.[4] 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.[7]


  1. ^ Social Security Death Index dates for Allen's life; "Famous Deaths on June 17 (1984):; Famous Deaths maintains 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 was born in Chickasha, but in 1928, not 1932.
  2. ^, "An Opera for Television":
  3. ^ "Chillicothe Youth Is Nation's First Television Opera Star". The Palouse Republic. March 7, 1952.
  4. ^ a b "The Boy Choir and Soloist Directory, Chet Allen".
  5. ^ Dan Dailey, Meet Me at the Fair (film):
  6. ^ Alex McNeil, Total Television, New York: Penguin Books, 1996, p. 111
  7. ^ Smith, Starita (June 19, 1984). "Talent Too Much for Chet Allen, 44". Columbus Dispatch. p. B3.

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