Joe De Santis

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For the basketball commentator, see Joe DeSantis.
Joe De Santis
Joseph V. De Santis (1950s)
Born (1909-05-15)May 15, 1909
New York City, New York, United States
Died August 30, 1989(1989-08-30) (aged 80)
Provo, Utah, United States
Occupation Radio, stage, film, and television actor; sculptor
Years active 1933–1977
Spouse(s) Wanda June Slye (1959-1977) (her death)
Margaret Draper (1949-1956) (divorced) 1 child
Miriam Moss (1935-?) (divorced) 1 child

Joseph Vito DeSantis (June 15, 1909 - August 30, 1989) was an American radio, television, movie and theatrical actor and sculptor.


Joe De Santis was born Joseph Vito Marcello De Santis to Italian immigrant parents in New York City. His father, Pasquale De Santis, was a tailor from San Pietro Apostolo in Catanzaro, Italy; his mother, Maria Paoli, emigrated from Gioviano in the province of Lucca in Tuscany and worked in a paper flower factory. He worked his way through New York University studying sculpture and drama, his first performances being in Italian. After obtaining a part in a play at Hunter College, he secured work as an actor for three seasons with the Walter Hampden Repertory Company, which marked the beginning of his performances in the English language. His career in broadcasting began on radio in May 1940 with Pepper Young's Family and continued with major network shows including Mr. District Attorney, The March of Time, Gangbusters, and The Kate Smith Show. One of his most important contributions to the industry was his narration of Norman Corwin's On a Note of Triumph, broadcast nationwide at the conclusion of World War II. On May 17, 1985, De Santis was inducted into the Pacific Pioneer Broadcasters Diamond Circle.[1] During his early years he also did numerous Italian-language broadcasts. He made several contributions to "Remember Radio", a column in one of the trade publications.

With the advent of television, Joe became known as a skilled character actor who could play convincing dialect characters, mugs, suave heavies and emotional leads. He was active in such early television series as Playhouse 90, Studio One, Sheriff of Cochise, and he appeared regularly on the programs of Red Buttons, Martha Raye and Sid Caesar shows. In addition to many single performances on other series like Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Joe had a recurring presence in such shows as The Untouchables, 77 Sunset Strip, Perry Mason, Mission: Impossible, and in the westerns such as Sugarfoot, Daniel Boone, Gunsmoke, Sara, and Bonanza. One of his choicest moments came while playing a role with Frank Sinatra, a performer whom he greatly admired, on a made-for-TV movie, Contract on Cherry Street. At one point during the filming, Sinatra remarked to De Santis, "You should have played The Godfather." De Santis cherished this comment to the end of his days. He made three guest appearances on Perry Mason; in two of the episodes he played the murder victim: George Castle in the 1958 episode, "The Case of the Long-Legged Models," and Melvin Slater in the 1959 episode, "The Case of the Borrowed Brunette." He was also cast as Louie Parker in the 1965 episode, "The Case of the Deadly Debt."

In 1960, De Santis was cast as Juan Cortilla, a Mexican bandit, in the episode "Chicota Landing" of the NBC western series, Riverboat. Richard Chamberlain was cast as United States Army Lt. Dave Winslow. In the story line, Cortilla is stormed from jail, and Winslow enlists series lead character Grey Holden (Darren McGavin) to transport Cortilla and his men to a military garrison. Instead, Cortilla takes over Holden's vessel, the Enterprise and its gunpowder. Connie Hines portrays Lucy Bridges in this episode, and Ted de Corsia is cast with De Santis as another bandit.[2]

De Santis played in numerous films; the high point of his career came in 1962 with A Cold Wind in August. He was also featured in I Want to Live! and The Brotherhood. De Santis was an active member of the Players' Club in New York City, and the Masquers' Club in Los Angeles, California.

In 1935, De Santis married Miriam Moss, an actress; they had one son and later divorced. In 1949, he married Margaret Draper, also an actress, whom he met while both were playing parts on Pepper Young's Family. They had one son by this marriage and divorced in 1956, at which time Joe moved to California to pursue his work in television and films. In 1959, he married Wanda Slye who preceded him in death in 1977.

De Santis retired to Provo, Utah in 1978 to be close to family, and resided there until his death in 1989. Along with sculpting, he contributed regularly to the activities of the Provo Eldred Center. He was a heavy smoker for much of his life and suffered from chronic bronchitis and borderline emphysema; he died in 1989 at the age of eighty of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Offbeat Trivia: In the liner notes to Frank Zappa's first album, Freak Out, one finds "These People Have Contributed Materially in Many Ways to Make Our Music What it is. Please Do Not Hold it Against them." De Santis' name is listed along with many others. An explanation for this can be found in an interview [1] with Carl Franzoni, a vocalist for whom the first song on that album, Hungry Freaks, Daddy was written. Franzoni and Zappa were acquainted with Vito Paulekas, a sculptor and dancer and the L.A. freak scene guru in the early sixties. Apparently certain movie stars, De Santis included, would come to Vito's studio to sculpt, and somehow something about Joe stuck in Zappa's mind.

Partial filmography[edit]


  1. ^ "PPB Diamond Circle Recipients"
  2. ^ ""Chicota Landing", Riverboat, December 5, 1960". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved February 21, 2013. 

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