John Conte (September 15, 1915 – September 4, 2006) was a stage, film and TV actor, and television station owner.
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. One of his first regular roles was on The Grape Nuts Program (1937-1938) with George Burns and Gracie Allen. Conte was host for Screen Test:298 and master of ceremonies for the Maxwell House program that featured Fanny Brice and Frank Morgan. He was the announcer for Silver Theater, It Happened in Hollywood,:165 and The Screen Guild Show.:297
In 1947, he appeared in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s short-lived Broadway musical Allegro. He returned to Broadway in 1950 to appear in the musical Arms and the Girl (1950) and Carousel (1954).
His major film role was Drunky in The Man with the Golden Arm (1955). He also was seen in The Carpetbaggers and Lost in a Harem.
Conte was host of his own variety program, titled John Conte’s Little Show (also known as Van Camp’s Little Show), on NBC from 1950 to 1951 and on ABC in 1953.:538-539 He was 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 as well as sound-effects master stand-up comedian Reginald Gardner. His own weekly solo skit on Star Time was as a heavily accented Italian-American chef 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.
Conte was host of The Feminine Touch (1951) on ABC. He had a featured guest appearance with Sid Caesar on Your Show of Shows about a year later. In 1953, Conte was host of Personality Puzzle, a game show on ABC.:825
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.
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 30 years (in 1999), sold the station to Milwaukee-based Journal Communications.
He was a founding sponsor of the Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage and one of the founders of the McCallum Theatre in Palm Desert, California.
On February 8, 1960, Conte was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6119 Hollywood Blvd. In 1997, a Golden Palm Star on the Walk of Stars was dedicated to him.
On September 4, 2006, Conte died at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, California, at age 90. He was survived by his wife, a son, two stepdaughters, six grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.
|1932||The Crowd Roars||Third Announcer||(edited from ‘Indianapolis Speedway’), uncredited|
|1937||That Navy Spirit||Announcer – Army-Navy Game||uncredited|
|1938||Touchdown, Army||Football Game Commentator||uncredited|
|1939||Confessions of a Nazi Spy||Radio Announcer||voice, uncredited|
|1939||Indianapolis Speedway||Third Radio Announcer||uncredited|
|1939||Each Dawn I Die||Narrator||uncredited|
|1939||Our Neighbors – The Carters||Reporter||uncredited|
|1943||Thousands Cheer||Dr. Conte in Frank Morgan Skit|
|1944||Lost in a Harem||Prince Ramo|
|1946||Nobody Lives Forever||uncredited|
|1955||The Man with the Golden Arm||Drunky|
|1962||When the Girls Take Over||Narrator||voice, uncredited|
|1964||The Carpetbaggers||Ed Ellis|
|1952||Musical Comedy Theater||Yolanda and the Thief|