A fine dramatic actor who never quite made it as a movie star and so settled with a highly successful career as a television leading man, Stacy Keach is best known for playing the title character in the television detective drama Mike Hammer (1984-1987). Though born with an irreparable harelip, Keach is a sturdy and handsome fellow who is often cast as policemen or other authority figures.
Keach is the son of a British actor and drama coach, Stacy Keach Sr., and was born in Georgia but raised in Los Angeles. While attending the U.C. Berkeley, Keach became interested in drama. An agent told him that his harelip would make it impossible for Keach to get leading roles. Keach disbelieved him and went on to study drama at Yale. He then received a Fulbright scholarship to study at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. In New York, he essayed a number of Shakespearean roles and those of other classic plays. He also worked in more contemporary productions such as the off-Broadway McBird!, which won him his first Obie and a Vernon Rice Drama Desk Award. He again won these awards after he played Hamlet at the New York Shakespeare Festival. In 1969, Keach won a Tony nomination for his Broadway debut, portraying Buffalo Bill in Arthur Kopit's Indians. For his performance in The Kentucky Cycle, Keach earned a Drama League Outstanding Artist Award, the Helen Hayes Award for Best Actor, and a Drama Award nomination for Best Actor. Keach made his feature-film debut as an alcoholic wanderer in The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (1968). Keach's movie career took off afterward and he appeared in several major movies in quick succession, including Brewster McCloud (1970) and The New Centurians (1972). In 1971, Keach made an award-winning short film, The Repeatery. Later, he also made a television version of Pirandello's complex Six Characters in Search of an Author. As a movie actor, Keach's heyday ended by the early '80s, after appearing in both American and international productions of widely varying quality; Keach then turned to television.