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the otto files

where the classics never go out of style

Two of the “Ocean’s 11” crew – the original crew – shared birthdays today: Richard Conte and Norman Fell. In fact, Conte’s character plays the vital role in the outcome of the 1960 heist film.

Richard Conte was a dark, tough looking Italian and subsequently played lots of tough guys roles in the movies and on television. From 1960 – 1968, Conte appeared in four Frank Sinatra movies: Ocean’s Eleven (1960), Assault on a Queen (1966), Tony Rome (1967), and Lady in Cement (1968). In the first half of his career, he appeared in some critically acclaimed war pictures as well as some top-notch film noir: Guadalcanal Diary (1943), A Walk in the Sun (1945),  Somewhere in the Night (1946), and House of Strangers (1949). For all the great roles and great films he appeared in, he will probably be best remembered for one of his last roles as Don Emilio Barzini in The Godfather (1972). In the immortal words of Don Vito Corleone: “Tattaglia’s a pimp. He never could have out-fought Santino. But I didn’t know until this day that is was Barzini all along.”

Norman Fell was one of the character actors who seemed to be in everything in film and television for over three decades. For better or for worse, despite Fell’s long and varied career, he is ultimately remembered for one rather dopey role – that of Mr. Roper, the nosey landlord on Three’s Company (1976 – 1981). In truth, he was a regular on other TV series as well including 87th Precinct (1961-1962), Dan August (1970-1971), and Needles and Pins (1973-1974). Nevertheless, I’m sure most people would be even more surprised to know that in addition to Ocean’s Eleven, he also appeared in such movie classics as The Graduate (1967), Bullitt (1968), and Catch-22 (1970). Personally, I liked it best when he surprised me with roles and appearances I wouldn’t expect like showing up as Sigmund Freud in Bewitched (1966) or playing himself in a Pepto Bismol commercial. Now that was unexpected!!

With Fell in this commercial is actor and legendary TV director Noam Pitlik.

Lest we forget, Norman was also the cop that came upon Smiler Grogan and the gang of goofballs in It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World!

In recent days, Norman Fell has achieved something of a cult renaissance as he is often mentioned on Gilbert Gottfried’s Amazing Colossal Podcast as one of the host’s favorite character actors. I would certainly agree with Mr. Gottfried on that opinion.

Happy Birthday Richard Conte and Norman Fell – wherever you are!







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