Richard Conte

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For the artist and art professor, see Richard Conte (artist).
Richard Conte
Richard Conte 1945.JPG
Richard Conte in 1945.
Born Nicholas Peter Conte
(1910-03-24)March 24, 1910
Jersey City, New Jersey, U.S.
Died April 15, 1975(1975-04-15) (aged 65)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death Heart attack
Resting place Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles
Occupation Actor
Years active 1939-1975
Spouse(s) Ruth Strome (1943-1962)
Shirlee Garner (1973-75, his death)
Children Mark Conte

Richard Conte (born Nicholas Peter Conte; March 24, 1910 – April 15, 1975) was an American actor.[1] He appeared in more than 100 films[2] from the 1940s through 1970s, including I'll Cry Tomorrow, Ocean's 11 and The Godfather.

Early years[edit]

Richard Conte was born Nicholas Peter Conte on March 24, 1910, in Jersey City, New Jersey, the son of Italian-Americans Julia (Fina), a seamstress, and Pasquale Conte, a barber.[3] He graduated from William L. Dickinson High School in Jersey City.[4]

Conte worked as a truck driver, messenger, shoe salesman and a singing waiter before starting his acting career. He was discovered by actors Elia Kazan and John Garfield during his job at the Connecticut resort, which led to Conte finding stage work. He eventually earned a scholarship to study at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York City,[5] where he became a standout actor.

Stage[edit]

He made his Broadway debut late in Moon Over Mulberry Street in 1939,[6] and went on to be featured in other plays, including Night Music and Walk Into My Parlor.

Film[edit]

Conte has been described as "a key actor in noir films ... invaluable because he could play tough heroes ... as well as conniving villains ...." His first film performance was in 1939, Heaven with a Barbed Wire Fence, in which he was billed as Nicholas Conte. His career started to thrive during the Second World War. In 1942 Conte signed a long-term contract with 20th Century Fox.[6] He then changed his name to Richard Conte. His first Fox film was Guadalcanal Diary (1943). During the World War II years, Conte played mostly soldiers in war dramas, including The Purple Heart (1944) and A Walk in the Sun (1945).

Conte appeared in many films noir after World War II. Conte appeared in the espionage movie 13 Rue Madeleine (1947) and in such Fox crime dramas as Cry of the City and Call Northside 777 (both from 1948), and Thieves' Highway. Conte appeared in Otto Preminger's classic film noir Whirlpool, co-starring Gene Tierney (1949). He also starred with Susan Hayward along with Edward G. Robinson and Luther Adler in House of Strangers (1949) as Max Monetti, a lawyer who defends his father (Robinson) against government charges of banking irregularities and goes to prison for jury tampering.

In the early-1950s, Conte, now not working for Fox, began appearing in films for various studios. Critics and fans consider his best films from that era include the film noir B-movies The Sleeping City (1950), The Raging Tide (1951), Highway Dragnet (1954), The Blue Gardenia (1953), The Big Combo (1955) and The Brothers Rico (1957). He also was featured in a leading role opposite Susan Hayward in the 1955 film production, I'll Cry Tomorrow, a biopic about singer/actress Lillian Roth.

Military service[edit]

Conte served in the United States Army but was discharged because of eye trouble.[7]

Television[edit]

In 1959, Conte starred in The Twilight Zone episode Perchance to Dream. He appeared as one of The Four Just Men (1959) in the Sapphire Films TV series for ITV. He appeared on American TV shows "throughout the late 1950s and much of the 1960s."[6] He guest starred on the ABC 1962-1963 drama series, Going My Way, and in the ABC sitcom, The Donna Reed Show. He and Anne Francis guest starred together in the episode "Hideout" of CBS's short-lived drama series, The Reporter, starring Harry Guardino in the title role as New York City journalist Danny Taylor, with Gary Merrill as city editor Lou Sheldon. In 1966, Conte landed a supporting role in the short-lived CBS sitcom, The Jean Arthur Show.[8]

Later years[edit]

Once film noir became less popular in the 1960s Conte’s career was at a standstill. He appeared as Lieutenant Dave Santini in two Frank Sinatra crime films, Tony Rome (1967) and Lady in Cement (1968). He had also appeared with Sinatra in the 1960 film Oceans 11 and the 1966 picture, Assault on a Queen.

Conte eventually moved to Europe and acted in a number of films. Later in life, Conte acted one of his most memorable performances in The Godfather (1972) as Don Barzini. He was at one time also considered for the title role, Don Vito Corleone, a role which Marlon Brando eventually filled.

He continued to work in European films until his death. His most notable of over sixty films include The Godfather (1972), Ocean's 11 (1960), The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965), and Call Northside 777 (1948).

Family[edit]

Conte was married to actress Ruth Strome,[5] with whom he adopted a son,[9] film editor Mark Conte. They divorced in 1963.[5] He married his second wife, Shirlee Garner, in 1973; they remained married until Conte's death. His grandson is National Football League free safety Chris Conte. Chris is the son of Mark Conte.

Death[edit]

He died April 15, 1975, of a heart attack followed by a stroke.[2] He is buried in the Westwood Memorial Park[10] in Los Angeles, California.

Awards[edit]

Year Group Award Result Film/Show
1960 Golden Laurel Top Action Performance Nominated They Came to Cordura (1959)

Selected filmography[edit]

Radio appearances[edit]

Year Program Episode/source
1946 Readers' Digest Radio Edition Our Lady's Juggler[11]
1953 Hollywood Star Playhouse Blackout[12]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Obituary Variety, April 23, 1975.
  2. ^ a b "Another Star dies". Wellsville Daily Reporter. April 16, 1975. p. 1. Retrieved June 10, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.  open access publication - free to read
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ Stevenson, L.L. (January 30, 1951). "Lights of New York". Valley Morning Star. p. 4. Retrieved June 10, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.  open access publication - free to read
  5. ^ a b c "Conte made film debut in '43". The Kerrville Times. June 2, 1991. p. 47. Retrieved June 10, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.  open access publication - free to read
  6. ^ a b c Mayer, Geoff; McDonnell, Brian (2007). Encyclopedia of Film Noir. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. pp. 136–137. ISBN 0-313-33306-8. Retrieved 10 June 2015. 
  7. ^ "Looks Like 'North Star' Hit for Goldwyn". The Salt Lake Tribune. May 24, 1943. p. 6. Retrieved June 10, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.  open access publication - free to read
  8. ^ "The Jean Arthur Show". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved January 26, 2009. 
  9. ^ "Actor Richard Conte Dies Of Heart Attack". Valley Morning Star. April 16, 1975. p. 9. Retrieved June 10, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.  open access publication - free to read
  10. ^ "Actor Richard Conte Dies". Cumberland Evening Times. April 16, 1975. p. 1. Retrieved June 10, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.  open access publication - free to read
  11. ^ "Those Were the Days". Nostalgia Digest 39 (1): 32–41. Winter 2013. 
  12. ^ Kirby, Walter (January 18, 1953). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 40. Retrieved June 20, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.  open access publication - free to read

External links[edit]