Emile Ardolino, son of Italianimmigrants Emilio and Ester Ardolino, was born in a neighborhood of Queens. His father – who at the time of Emile's birth was 54 years old – died in 1949, when Emile was 6 years old.
He began his career as an actor in off-Broadway productions, but soon moved to the production side of the business. In 1967, he founded Compton-Ardolino Films with Gardner Compton. In the 1970s and 1980s Ardolino worked for PBS; his profiles of dancers and choreographers for their Dance in America and Live from Lincoln Center series won him a total of 17 Emmy Award nominations. He actually won the Emmy three times.
Ardolino, who lived openly gay, died in 1993 of complications from AIDS. He was buried in New York next to his parents, his mother having died in 1975. His last films, The Nutcracker, (based on George Balanchine's New York City Ballet version), and the television production of Gypsy starring Bette Midler in the role created on Broadway by Ethel Merman, were released and shown posthumously.