Charles Nelson Reilly (January 13, 1931 – May 25, 2007) was an American actor, comedian, director and drama teacher known for his comedic roles in theater, movies, children's television, animated cartoons, and as a panelist on the game show Match Game.
Reilly was born in The Bronx, New York City, the son of Charles Joseph Reilly, an Irish Catholic commercial artist, and Signe Elvera Nelson, a Swedish Lutheran. When young he would often make his own puppet theater to amuse himself. His mother, foreshadowing his future as an entertainer, often would tell him to "save it for the stage." At age 13, he escaped the Hartford Circus Fire where over a hundred people died, and as a result, he never sat in an audience again through the remainder of his life.
As a boy, Reilly developed a love for opera and desired to become an opera singer. He entered the Hartt School of Music as a voice major but eventually abandoned this pursuit when he came to the realization that he lacked the needed natural vocal talent to have a major career. However, opera remained a life-long passion and after he achieved celebrity he was a frequent guest on opera-themed radio programs, including the Metropolitan Opera radio broadcasts. He also directed opera productions for the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Dallas Opera, Portland Opera, San Diego Opera, and Santa Fe Opera among others. He was also good friends with opera singers Renée Fleming, Rod Gilfry, Roberta Peters, and Eileen Farrell.