John Conte (actor)
Conte in 1955 as the host of Matinee Theater
September 15, 1915|
Palmer, Massachusetts, U.S.
|Died||September 4, 2006
Rancho Mirage, California, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Marilyn Maxwell (m. 1944; div. 1946)
Ruth Harris Conte (m. 1954; div. 1964) (1 child)
Sirpuhe Philibosian (m. 1965)
|Children||1 (2 stepdaughters)|
Conte was born in Palmer, Massachusetts. His mother was Italian and his father was French-Italian. The family moved to Los Angeles, California when John was 5. While a student at Lincoln High School in Los Angeles, Conte focused on classes in drama and, for three years, was the school's top entrant in Shakespearian competition. After graduating, he joined the Pasadena Playhouse and "took every role offered to him – juvenile, leading man, character." He later got jobs as a radio actor and singer.
Conte entered broadcasting with a job at KFAC in Los Angeles. Two years later, he had become a network announcer. He was MC for the Maxwell House program that featured Fanny Brice and Frank Morgan, and he was announcer for Silver Theater on CBS radio. One of his first regular roles was on the Burns and Allen radio show in the 1940s.
His television career began as Master of Ceremonies on the 1951 late Sunday afternoon comedy hour, Star Time, co-starring Frances Langford and Lew Parker as John and Blanche Bickerson ("The Bickersons"), as well as sound-effects master stand-up comedian Reginald Gardner. His own weekly solo skit on Star Time was as an hilarious, heavily accented Italian-American chef ( in an all-white uniform, complete with huge muffin-shaped chef's hat) preparing bumbled recipes as he recited them along with frequent tangential references to "the homemade-a wine" fermenting in his bathtub visible from the kitchen. This led to a featured guest appearance with Sid Caesar on Your Show of Shows about a year later. He then hosted Matinee Theater, a live-drama series on NBC (one of the first daytime shows on network television).
Conte made five guest appearances on Perry Mason: In three different episodes, he played the role of the murder victim. In another episode, he was the defendant, and, in still another, the murderer.
His major film role was "Drunky" in The Man with the Golden Arm (1955). Later that same year, from October 31, 1955 to July 27, 1959, Conte was the host of Matinee Theater, a one-hour color anthology program on the fledgling NBC Television Network. The program aired at 12 noon New York Time live to the entire network from its new color studios in Burbank, California. Color television was new at that time and the network needed a program that would allow technicians to see if their new home television set installations were working properly. With his great physical appearance and wonderful professional demeanor, Conte was the perfect host for the program.
In 1968, he and his long-term third wife, Sirpuhe Philibosian Conte, launched KMIR-TV, an NBC-affiliated UHF station in the Palm Springs–Rancho Mirage market. The Contes built KMIR into the third-largest station in the Coachella Valley and, after thirty years (in 1999), sold the station to Milwaukee-based Journal Communications.
|1952||Musical Comedy Theater||Yolanda and the Thief|
- "Keeping Up With Fast Company" (PDF). Radio Life. January 16, 1944. p. 25. Retrieved 18 April 2015.
- Dunning, John. (1998). On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-507678-3. Pp. 615-616.
- Hollywood Walk of Fame
- Palm Springs Walk of Stars by date dedicated
- Kirby, Walter (November 23, 1952). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 48. Retrieved June 16, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- Rourke, Mary. (2006, September 7). "John Conte, 90; Stage, Screen, Radio Actor Founded the NBC Affiliate in Palm Desert". The Los Angeles Times
- Associated Press. (2006, September 8). "John Conte, 90, Actor on Stage and TV". The New York Times, page A25