The son of a barber, Richard Conte held down jobs ranging from truck driver, to Wall Street clerk before finding his place as an actor. In 1935, Conte became a waiter/entertainer in a Connecticut resort, which led to stage work when he was spotted by Group Theatre's Elia Kazan and John Garfield. Through Kazan's help, Conte earned a scholarship to study at the Neighborhood Playhouse. His first Broadway appearance was in the fast-flop Moon Over Mulberry Street. In 1939, still billed as Nicholas Conte, the actor made his first film, 20th Century-Fox's Heaven With a Barbed Wire Fence (1939). It was Fox which would build up the intense, brooding Conte as the "New John Garfield" upon signing him to a contract in 1943. His best parts during his Fox years included the wrongly imprisoned man who is exonerated by crusading reporter James Stewart in Call Northside 777 (1947), and the lead role as a wildcat trucker in Thieves' Highway (1949). Among Conte's many TV assignments was a co-starring stint with Dan Dailey, Jack Hawkins and Vittorio De Sica on the 1959 syndicated series The Four Just Men. Appearing primarily in European films in his last years, Conte directed the Yugoslavian-filmed Operation Cross Eagles. Richard Conte's most important Hollywood role in the 1970s was as rival Mafia Don Barzini in the Oscar-winning The Godfather (1972).