Quick question: what did Richard Conte share with many prominent leading men (Conte himself was just shy of making that category) including Kirk Douglas, Robert Mitchum and William Holden?
Quick answer: all had cleft chins.
Of the group, probably Douglas made the biggest onscreen fuss about this facial feature, and even had leading ladies comment on it appreciatively. More discreet, Conte just presented himself as is without comment, which may have had something to do with the fact that today he is not considered a prominent leading man.
However, Conte, who died of a heart attack in 1975 at age 65, was a solid actor who packed some 95 movie and tv credits in his relatively short life.
For our money he is perhaps best remembered for his sympathetic truck driver role in director Jules Dassin’s 1949 drama, Thieves Highway, about crime and mayhem in the California agri-business. (There’s our man in character pictured to the left above.)
Ok, let’s get to the answers to our Conte Quiz. Here we go:
1) Question: Sharing Italian heritage and hailing from New Jersey, Conte and Frank Sinatra naturally became friends both onscreen and off. Which one of the following pictures did Sinatra and Conte NOT appear in? a) 1967’s Tony Rome; b) 1968’s Lady in Cement; c) 1960’s Ocean’s 11; or d) 1954’s Highway Dragnet.
1) Answer: d) 1954’s Highway Dragnet, which besides Conte, stars Joan Bennett and Wanda Hendrix. No Sinatra.
2) Question: Conte is a fairly prominent part of The Godfather movie. Why doesn’t he then appear in the 1974 sequel, The Godfather Part II? a) Director Francis Coppola soured on Conte as an actor; b) His character was killed off in the original; c) Conte demanded what was considered an exorbitant salary; or d) none of the above.
2) Answer: b) Conte portrayed Don Barzini, the rival of Don Corleone in the original The Godfather. His character is killed off in the picture, thus didn’t live long enough for first sequel.
3) Question: Which one of the following is credited with “discovering” Conte during his period as a stage actor? a) John Garfield; b) Elia Kazan; c) Samuel Goldwyn; or d) Darryl Zanuck.
3) Answer: Who discovered whom is sometimes a dicey question, but (b) Elia Kazan and (a) John Garfield are given credit for discovering Conte. Both were stage actors (as was Conte) at the time.
4) Question: During his scuffling early days as an actor, Conte worked many temporary jobs. Which one of the following did he NOT hold down? a) Singing waiter; b) Nightclub bouncer; c) Truck Driver; or d) Wall Street clerk.
4) Answer: b) Conte, to our knowledge, was ever a nightclub bouncer.
5) Question: Which one of the following actors appeared in two of Conte’s best movies? a) Ricardo Montalbon; b) Marlon Brando; c) Lee J. Cobb; or d) Dan Duryea.
5) Answer: c) Lee J. Cobb, the superb actor who appeared with Conte in Thieves Highway (in a role comparable to his corrupt union boss in On The Waterfront) and in 1948’s Call Northside 777 (playing a cynical newspaper editor).