John Conte

Host / Station Owner


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his four-and-a-half-hour Archive interview, John Conte (1915-2006) talks about his early professional career as an announcer for network radio on such programs as "The Screen Guild Theater" and "Burns and Allen." Conte describes his roles as the "Singing M. C." on radio's "Maxwell House Coffee Time," acting as the straight man for the comedy of Frank Morgan. He talks about his brief appearance in movies as an actor, notably in the Abbott and Costello film "Lost in a Harem," before his entrance into the service in World War II. Conte details his work after the war as an actor and singer on Broadway and in "live" television. Among the series in which he appeared were Studio One, The Chevrolet Tele-Theatre, and Musical Comedy Time. Conte describes his work as a regular on Van Camp's Little Show, which through his association became known as John Conte's Little Show. This music show featured Conte and various musical guests and regulars. Conte also discusses in detail the Matinee Theatre anthology series, an ambitious undertaking that offered a different "live" production every afternoon for three straight years (1955-58). Conte appeared as the host on every show (and occasionally appeared as an actor on the series). Conte describes his appearances on four productions of Max Liebman Presents, which were elaborate musical specials on NBC. He talks about his numerous other appearances in television series as a regular and as a guest actor, including numerous appearances on Perry Mason. He describes in detail the creation of the Palm Springs television station KMIR-TV, an NBC affiliate, and his 30-year service as its president, general manager, and owner. Morrie Gelman conducted the interview on July 27, 1999 in Malibu, CA.

"Television is only a good business if they abide by a code. The mores, the standards in their community are going to do them in if they get too reckless."

People Talking About ...
Highlights
John Conte on announcing for the "NBC Spectaculars" for Max Liebman Presents and Producers' Showcase
John Conte on becoming announcer of the "George Burns and Gracie Allen" radio show
John Conte on his early television series John Conte's Little Show, and on the invention of the teleprompter
John Conte on appearing in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical "Allegro" on Broadway
John Conte on launching KMIR-TV, an NBC-affiliated UHF station in the Palm Springs–Rancho Mirage market with the help of Tom Sarnoff
John Conte on appearing as an actor on live television in the '50s 
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his early life and influences; on moving with his family to Los Angeles in 1920; on early radio he listened to
On his early singing career and his time at the Pasadena Playhouse; on acting on early radio programs; on becoming a radio announcer
On living through the Great Depression and furthering his singing career while he was an announcer; on becoming the chief announcer at his radio station

Chapter 2

On performing on stage in "Romeo and Juliet"; on his early film career; on becoming the announcer of the "George Burns and Gracie Allen" radio show
On appearing with Frank Morgan and Fanny Brice on the radio show  "Maxwell House Coffee Time"; on his singing career; on leaving George Burns to do his own show on CBS radio

Chapter 3

On the cancellation of his radio show and announcing for the radio dramas "Silver Theater" and "Screen Guild Players"; on announcing for the radio series "Big Town" starring Edward G. Robinson; on moving to New York in 1939
On seeing television at the 1939 World's Fair; on his activities during World War II, and on working with Bud Abbott and Lou Costello; on appearing in the Broadway-bound stage musical "Windy City," and on being discovered by Richard Rogers to appear on stage in "Carousel" and "Allegro"

Chapter 4

On appearing in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical "Allegro" on Broadway; on working with Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein
On his early television series John Conte's Little Show, and on the invention of the teleprompter; on announcing for the "NBC Spectaculars" for Max Liebman Presents and Producers' Showcase; on appearing as an actor on live television in the 1950s

Chapter 5

On appearing as an actor on Studio One, and on appearing on the Studio One production "Flowers From a Stranger" with Yul Brynner; on appearing on Chevrolet Tele-Theater; on acting on television as opposed to acting on stage
On appearing as "Billy Crocker" on the Musical Comedy Time production of "Anything Goes" with Martha Raye; on taking acting classes, on his stage fright before going on, and on appearing in Max Liebman Presents: "Naughty Marietta"; on appearing in various live television productions
On various people he worked with in his career; on hosting the game show Personality Puzzle; on appearing on Climax! and in the feature "The Man with the Golden Arm" with Frank Sinatra; on Matinee Theater, and being sent to Atlanta by David Sarnoff to promote NBC

Chapter 6

On David Sarnoff and on working with producer Albert McCleery on Matinee Theater; on acting as host for Matinee Theater, and on the audience of the show; on the writers and producers of the show, including producer Albert McCleery
On the production of Matinee Theater, on the cost of the show, and on actors who appeared during its run; on mishaps during the broadcast of Matinee Theater, and on the cancellation of the show
On hosting the music series Mantovani; on hosting the syndicated anthology series The Best of the Post and on what made him a good host; on various series he guest-starred on

Chapter 7

On guest-starring on Bonanza; on guest-starring on Perry Mason starring Raymond Burr and Barbara Hale; on his experience with the Hollywood Blacklist
On launching KMIR-TV, an NBC-affiliated UHF station in the Palm Springs–Rancho Mirage market with the help of Tom Sarnoff; on his local station becoming an NBC affiliate
On his decision to sell local television station KMIR in 1999; on the financial aspects of owning a local, small market television station and on KMIR's relationship to its community; on the growth of his station

Chapter 8

On cable television's impact on his television station KMIR; on his competitors in the Palm Springs television market and KMIR's programming; on hosting Town Talk on his television station in Palm Springs
On KMIR's news department; on the responsibility of a small market television station general manager; on his career highlights
On advice to aspiring performers; on government's role in broadcasting; on the then-future of television and how he would like to be remembered

Chapter 9

On various people with whom he has worked
Shows

Bonanza

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John Conte on guest-starring on Bonanza

Chevrolet Tele-Theater aka Chevrolet on Broadway

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John Conte on appearing on Chevrolet Tele-Theater

Climax!

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John Conte on appearing on Climax! and in the feature "The Man with the Golden Arm" with Frank Sinatra

Max Liebman Presents

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John Conte on announcing for the "NBC Spectaculars" for Max Liebman Presents and Producers' Showcase
John Conte on taking acting classes, on his stage fright before going on, and on appearing in Max Liebman Presents: "Naughty Marietta"

NBC Matinee Theater

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John Conte on appearing on Matinee Theater, and being sent to Atlanta by David Sarnoff to promote NBC
John Conte on David Sarnoff and on working with producer Albert McCleery on Matinee Theater
John Conte on acting as host for Matinee Theater, and on the audience of the show
John Conte on the writers and producers of Matinee Theater, including producer Albert McCleery
John Conte on the production of Matinee Theater, on the cost of the show, and on actors who appeared during its run
John Conte on mishaps during the broadcast of Matinee Theater, and on the cancellation of the show

Perry Mason

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John Conte on guest-starring on Perry Mason, starring Raymond Burr and Barbara Hale

Producers' Showcase

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John Conte on announcing for the "NBC Spectaculars" for Max Liebman Presents and Producers' Showcase

Studio One

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John Conte on appearing as an actor on Studio One, and on appearing on the Studio One production "Flowers From a Stranger" with Yul Brynner
Topics

1939-40 World's Fair

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John Conte on seeing television at the 1939 World's Fair

Advice

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John Conte on advice to aspiring performers

Anthology Drama

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John Conte on appearing as an actor on live television in the 1950s
John Conte on appearing in various live television productions
John Conte on hosting Matinee Theater

Bloopers

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John Conte on mishaps during the broadcast of Matinee Theater, and on the cancellation of the show

Dwight D. Eisenhower

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John Conte on his local station, KMIR, becoming an NBC affiliate, and arranging a meeting between Tom and David Sarnoff with President Dwight David Eisenhower

Historic Events and Social Change

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John Conte on seeing television at the 1939 World's Fair

Hollywood Blacklist

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John Conte on his experience with the Hollywood Blacklist

Industry Crossroads

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John Conte on his experience with the Hollywood Blacklist

TV's Golden Age (1940s & '50s)

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John Conte on appearing as an actor on live television in the 1950s
John Conte on appearing in various live television productions
John Conte on hosting Matinee Theater

Technological Innovation

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John Conte on his early television series John Conte's Little Show, and on the invention of the teleprompter
John Conte on cable television's impact on his television station KMIR

Television Industry

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John Conte on his experience with the Hollywood Blacklist
John Conte on his ownership of KMIR-TV, an NBC-affiliated UHF station in the Palm Springs–Rancho Mirage market 
John Conte on owning televison station KMIR in Palm Springs, California
John Conte on advice to aspiring performers
John Conte on government's role in broadcasting
John Conte on the then-future of television

Television and the Presidency

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John Conte on his local station, KMIR, becoming an NBC affiliate, and arranging a meeting between Tom and David Sarnoff with President Dwight David Eisenhower
Professions

Actor

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John Conte on acting on television as opposed to acting on stage
John Conte on advice to aspiring performers

Executives

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John Conte on the responsibility of a small market television station general manager

Performers

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John Conte on acting on television as opposed to acting on stage
John Conte on advice to aspiring performers

Station Manager

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John Conte on the responsibility of a small market television station general manager
Genres

Classic Anthology Series

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John Conte on appearing as an actor on Studio One, and on appearing on the Studio One production "Flowers From a Stranger" with Yul Brynner
John Conte on appearing on Chevrolet Tele-Theater
John Conte on appearing on Climax! and in the feature "The Man with the Golden Arm" with Frank Sinatra
John Conte on appearing on Matinee Theater, and being sent to Atlanta by David Sarnoff to promote NBC
John Conte on hosting the syndicated anthology series The Best of the Post and on what made him a good host
John Conte on hosting Matinee Theater

Legal Dramas

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John Conte on guest-starring on Perry Mason

Music Shows & Variety Shows/Specials

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John Conte on announcing for the "NBC Spectaculars" for Max Liebman Presents and Producers' Showcase
John Conte on hosting the music series Mantovani

News and Documentary

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John Conte on KMIR's news department

Talk Shows

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John Conte on hosting Town Talk on his television station in Palm Springs

Western Series

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John Conte on guest-starring on Bonanza
People

Bud Abbott

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John Conte on his activities during World War II, and on working with Bud Abbott and Lou Costello

Eddie Albert

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John Conte on Eddie Albert

Gracie Allen

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John Conte on Gracie Allen and Mary Livingstone

George Burns

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John Conte on becoming announcer of the "George Burns and Gracie Allen" radio show
John Conte on leaving George Burns to do his own show on CBS radio

Raymond Burr

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John Conte on guest-starring on Perry Mason, starring Raymond Burr and Barbara Hale

Lou Costello

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John Conte on his activities during World War II, and on working with Bud Abbot and Lou Costello

Dwight D. Eisenhower

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John Conte on his local station, KMIR, becoming an NBC affiliate, and arranging a meeting between Tom and David Sarnoff with President Dwight David Eisenhower

Arlene Francis

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John Conte on Arlene Francis

Lorne Greene

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John Conte on Lorne Greene

Barbara Hale

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John Conte on guest-starring on Perry Mason, starring Raymond Burr and Barbara Hale

Oscar Hammerstein II

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John Conte on working with Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein

Max Liebman

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John Conte on announcing for the "NBC Spectaculars" for Max Liebman Presents and Producers' Showcase

Mary Livingstone

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John Conte on Gracie Allen and Mary Livingstone

Albert McCleery

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John Conte on David Sarnoff and on working with producer Albert McCleery on Matinee Theater
John Conte on the writers and producers of Matinee Theater including producer Albert McCleery

Gloria Monty

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John Conte on Gloria Monty

Martha Raye

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John Conte on appearing as "Billy Crocker" on the Musical Comedy Time production of "Anything Goes" with Martha Raye

Edward G. Robinson

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John Conte on announcing for the radio series "Big Town" starring Edward G. Robinson

Richard Rodgers

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John Conte on working with Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein

David Sarnoff

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John Conte on appearing on Matinee Theater, and being sent to Atlanta by David Sarnoff to promote NBC
John Conte on David Sarnoff and on working with producer Albert McCleery on Matinee Theater

Robert Stack

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John Conte on Robert Stack

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