Richard Nicholas Peter Conte was born in Jersey City, New Jersey on March 24, 1910. He was the son of Italian-American parents, Julia (Fina), a seamstress, and Pasquale Conte, a barber. Conte worked as a truck driver, messenger, shoe salesman, and singing waiter before starting his acting career. He was discovered by actors Elia Kazan and John Garfield while working at a Connecticut resort, this led to Conte finding stage work. He eventually earned a scholarship to study at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York City, where he became a standout actor.
He made his film debut in 1939 under the name Nicholas Conte in “Heaven with a Barbed Wire Fence”. That same year he made his Broadway debut in My Heart's in the Highlands for the Group Theatre, also for the Group he was in Clifford Odets’ Night Music (1940). He then performed in the road company of Golden Boy.
During World War II, Conte served in the U.S. Army, but was discharged because of eye trouble. In May 1943, Conte signed a long-term contract with 20th Century Fox and changing his name to Richard Conte. His first Fox film was “Guadalcanal Diary” (1943). He followed it with another war drama, “The Purple Heart” (1944). He then had a smaller part in “Captain Eddie” (1945), a biopic about Eddie Rickenbacker, and then played an Italian POW in “A Bell for Adano” (1945). Conte had the starring role in another war film for Milestone, “A Walk in the Sun” (1945), where he was teamed again with Dana Andrews.
He often appeared in television roles during the 1950s and ‘60s while continuing his film work in co-star and supporting roles.
Conte was married to actress Ruth Storey, with whom he adopted a son, film editor Mark Conte. He married his second wife, Shirlee Garner, in 1973; they remained married until Conte's death. His grandson is NFL free safety Chris Conte.
On April 3, 1975, Conte suffered a massive heart attack and a stroke. He was taken to UCLA Medical Center where the staff worked for eight hours to keep him alive. He was put in intensive care and died on April 15.
CONTE, Richard (aka Nicholas Conte) (Richard Nicholas Peter Conte) [3/24/1910, Jersey City, New Jersey, U.S.A. – 4/15/1975, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A. (heart attack)] – director, film, TV actor, singer, married to actress, singer Ruth Storey (Ruth Stromberg) [1913-1997] (1943-1963) father of adopted son film editor Mark Conte, married to actress Shirlee Garner (Shirlee Colleen Garner) [1935-2014] (1972-1975), grandfather of NFL player Chris Conte ]1989- ].
Death Sentence – 1967 (Diaz)
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