Charles Nelson Reilly, Match Game Panelist, Passes Away at 76

Charles Nelson Reilly, most known for being a regular on Match Game, passed away Friday at the age of 76. He had appeared on nearly every episode of the Daytime Match Game and Match Game PM, including many appearances on Match Game 90.

Reilly was originally an actor and acting coach but then gained a Tony Award for his portrayl of Bud Frump in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Reilly directed The Belle of Amherst, a one-woman play starring Julie Harris based on the life of Emily Dickenson and later directed Harris again in The Gin Game. His final work was Save It for the Stage: The Life of Reilly, an autobiographical piece. In the 70s and 80s, he gained more fame for his infamous role on Match Game plus countless other game shows and talk shows. Most recently, he has done voice acting on the popular cartoon Spongebob Squarepants and as the boss of Drug Co. on The Drew Carey Show.

He died of pneumonia, and it was said he was sick for more than a year.

He will be missed. Rest in Peace.

Paul Ford

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28 responses to "Charles Nelson Reilly, Match Game Panelist, Passes Away at 76"

  • Andy says:

    RIP CNR 1931-2007

  • Ben Ziek says:

    I was lucky enough to meet Charles on 3 separate occasions: Twice when I saw “Save it For the Stage,” and then again backstage when he was on “Hollywood Squares” game show week. He was the pinnacle of classiness. He will be sorely missed. First Gene Rayburn in 1999, and now CNR. My heart is truly feeling blank.

  • I think it couldn’t be put any better, Ben.

  • Harry says:

    I’ve seen pictures of him, clips of him, but now he’s gone. One person to remember.

  • Greg says:

    Ah, Match Game will never be the same without this man’s wit. However, I atttribute the man’s death to his habit of smoking pipes. The moral of this story is: Don’t smoke.

  • Greg says:

    Oh, it was pneumonia. Jim “Mr. Magoo” Backus died of the same thing in ’89. I thought it was his smoking habit. Sorry.

  • Intelligentfan777 says:

    I just heard. The great CNR has left us. Well, at least he passed in peace. He is a legend that I’m sure we all will remember for his ENTIRE career, not just for Match game. Although you can argue it is what put him on the map, so to speak.

    Oh, and to the young Spongebob fans out there, it seems as if “The Dirty Bubble” has popped for the final time.

  • Andy says:

    On pageoclips.com there’s a clip of CNR in “It Takes Two” check it out.

  • Marc Power says:

    Call this cheesey but:

    (Match Game music played on harps begins)

    Johnny Olson: “Get ready to match the stars! Gene Wood, Jack Klugman, Charles Nelson Reilly, Peggy Cass, Mclean Stevenson & Debra Lee Scott As we play the star-studded big money Match Game in Heaven and here’s the star of Match Game in heaven Gene Rayburn!!”

    Gene Rayburn wih angel wings crashes through the doors.

    Contestants are my grandpa and my mom’s Boyfriend’s mom.

    The star wheel is in storage awaiting Richard Dawson’s arrival, The grand prize is 10,000 “halos”.

  • Intelligentfan777 says:

    With all due respect, Jack Klugman is still alive my friend. :)

    Replace him with Tony Randall, or someone else.

  • Marc Power says:

    You know what, you’re right my apologizes I must have mistaken him for someone else. problem is I can’t think of the other name now.

  • Mike says:

    Is there a reason why there are three real corny ways to pay tribute to CNR? I don’t find any of those three tributes deserving of a legend. Ben’s comment put it best–a class act who will be missed, and he didn’t tread into borderline idiocy territory.

  • Brandon says:

    I had no idea he was even sick. He will definitely be missed. RIP

  • Brandon says:

    Marc, were you thinking of Tony Randall, his co-star from “The Odd Couple”?

  • Patrick says:

    I’m so sad about this.

    CNR was so far ahead of his time. His wit and the natural chemistry he had with everyone on Match Game provided some of the funniest moments on television in the 70′s. Without him, that show isn’t nearly the success that it is, even now.

    God bless you in your rest, Charles. And thank you for the joy you shared with us.

  • Ken says:

    It’s sad to hear about CNR passing away. The chemistry between him and Brett on Match Game was pricless. Rest in peace Chuck

  • Greg says:

    10K Halos. That’s pretty good. It’s almost as good as the “French/France” incident on Password Plus.

  • Karen V. says:

    Yes he was multitalented, but I remember CNR for “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir” series. Considering the post’s title, he knew how pop culture works. Check out his personal quote:

  • DDELE7 says:

    Match Game for many years was GSN’s flagship program. And the secret to its success was Gene, Richard, Brett and Charles. And lets not forget Johnny O.

    The chemistry the 4 had give MG cult status as well as generations of loyal fans. I was so surprised to hear of his passing.

    Im sure GSN will give him a tribute that would do him justice. He was the most loyal panelist in the whole series. And a fine actor.

    I wouldnt be surprised if Betty White or Brett Summers made some comments in a interview following the wake of his death.

    RIP charles.

  • Jim says:

    It was kind of surreal being on the air this morning and hearing on our CNN radio feed about the death of Charles and soon after reporting the story in our extended news blocks. He, by his own admission, was indeed a game show fixture. Match Game just wasn’t as entertaining without him on the panel. What people forget about Charles is that he was quite an accomplished actor.

    All and all, he entertained generations on television and Broadway and brought some brevity to the American public for so many years. That’s the true legacy: the fact that he made us smile, laugh, and forget our troubles. RIP CNR.

  • Anonymous says:

    Off on a tangent, but Debralee Scott is dead?

    I guess it is true what they say about death happening in threes. First Kitty, then Tom Poston and now good ol’ “Chuck” Reilly.

    I grew up on TPiR and Marc’s Double Dare, but it was Match Game that made me a true game show fan through and through. And of course, a huge part of MG was the play between Brett and Charles. I daresay that had the only regular been Richard Dawson the show wouldn’t have been as fun even with Gene’s antics still there. And of course, even though I like MG90, Charles was a big part of that too.

    He was also on the only episode of the MG/Hollywood Squares Hour I’ve ever seen, and I was left wondering why he was not a regular there too.

    I hear the show he did prior to MG, It Pays to Be Ignorant for Hatos-Hall, was really funny. I wish I could see it. But even for such a brilliant comic mind, he couldn’t help Gene salvage Break the Bank, which is sad.

    The man will be missed. We can only take consolation in the fact that he isn’t sick and suffering anymore.

  • Brandon says:

    Anonymous, Debralee passed away in 2005.

  • Andy says:

    Debralee Scott passed away two year ago in 2005 just three days after her 52nd birthday. IMDB website said she died of natural causes, but think she drank too much which might have contributed to her death. She always looked wasted whenever she was on Match Game, and remember her “wardrobe malfunction” on Password Plus?

    There’s a Match Game clip on youtube where Brett Summers and Charles Nelson Reilly sing with Bill Anderson. That clip is more in memory of Debralee Scott instead of Charles Nelson Reilly because Bill sings about Debralee.

    Scott and Reilly are now reunited in the spirit world.
    RIP CNR 1931-2007 and DS 1953-2005

  • Greg says:

    I didn’t know CNR was gay!

  • Donald says:

    He did leave his mark in TV primarily for Match Game. He will be missed.

    May he Rest In _______

  • steve baxley says:

    The memory I will have of CNR is when he served as host for the GSN tribute to last episodes of Games shows called “Y2PLAY”

    In memory of CNR, I think it would be cool to have a 72 hour marathon of Match Game with a phone number where fans can record their memories

  • Scott says:

    Anyone who could play an (incredibly campy) evil magician on a kids’ show (Lidsville) is true genius. What was great about CNR was that he was comfortable in his own skin, and that the network (and fellow panelists and host) allowed him to be who he was. He didn’t beat us over the head with anything but his vibrant personality. And, he seemed not to be haunted by any demons (drinking, etc.), and was in no way a diva or full of himself. He never became sullen like Richard Dawson and Paul Lynde did (great talents though both were).

    The only sad thing was his reported remark that game shows killed his career. Since he was a Tony-award winning actor, I can see why he may have felt that way, but it didn’t seem to kill Tony Randall’s career (who was very involved in theatre through the end of his life). Maybe it’s about how one defines “career.” Gene Rayburn had a great one and it centered around radio, game and panel shows. CNR had a great “career” whether he realized it or not.

  • Andrew says:

    What a shocker. The chemistry between him and all of the others, especially Brett, is impossible to recreate. I knew I recognized the voice of “Dirty Bubble” somehow!!

    “This is not a job, this is a social engagement.”

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