Dance number years ago at Kemp school
Conrad Wolfe's career
By JIM NICHOLS
When he was six, and a student at Kemp school, teacher asked, "Are
there any boys here who can dance?" Conrad Wolfe promptly raised his hand.
There was a little girl in the school show with whom he was dying to dance,
So he got the part. As they say In show business, he "faked it." He got by and eventually taught himself to tap dance.
When he was 12 he went to Hollywood and tried out for the role of Tom in David Selznlck's Tom Sawyer. He didn't get the role, but did get to go on a promo tour of the show.
Later Selznick, in Hollywood, was talking about that show and said to Wolfe, "Who remembers Tommy Kelly?" Tommy Kelly got the role of Tom.
NOW WOLFE, A 1938 graduate of old Steele High School, has pursued a career in the theater both as an actor and director. Currently he's in nearby Sprlngboro directing the La Comedia dinner theater's latest production of Woody Allen's Don't Drink the Water.
: His home Is now In Florida, but for the last two years he has been traveling the country as a director for dinner theater productions. Sitting in a semi-darkened house, Wolfe talks of his long career and present occupation. "I hate the fact, but dinner theater is the salvation of living theater. Road shows, at present, are almost always losing propositions."
WOLFE'S LIFELONG romance with theater which started at Kemp school has taken him around the world and Into 390 play productions, 21 films, 36 television productions and 190 radio shows. Back as far as 1939 he was playing In the memorable soap opera "One Man's Family" on radio as Claudia's first boyfriend.
In 1940, he went on his first road tour in Life With Father, starring at that time the Immortal Dorothy
Gish. It toured for nine months.
About that time a thing called World War II came along. Conrad Wolfe was a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division. It almost finished his career. "My face got smashed," he recalls. "When I came back, I couldn't talk right. I could make sounds, but there was no articulation."
But his determination to return to the stage was overwhelming.
USING THE GI BILL he
went to the Pasadena Playhouse and teacher Belle
Kennedy. "It took awhile, but she got me to talking
again," he says. It was during this time
that he became a friend and roommate of Raymond Burr
of Perry Mason and Ironsides fame. He did his first
movie In 1949, a documentary type thing narrated by
Jimmy Stewart, called How Much Do You Owe? This
film, an appeal to hire veterans, was nominated for
an Academy Award. "I thought I would go big after
the nomination," Wolfe says, "but it took me four
years to get another film.",
Then he did a thing called Serpent of the Nile with Burr, William Lundigan and Rhonda Fleming.
"IT'S ONE OF those things they have on the late show and you turn It off," Wolfe adds with a grin.
But some of the biggest moments of his career were still ahead of him. He was director of the English-speaking theater In Bombay, India, and lectured at the University of Bombay,
played the role of Dude in Tobacco Road starring John Carradine, and directed Delores Del Rio In the Mexican film, The Barrier, which won the Mexican Film Festival award.
In 1959 he won the best direction medallion for an Italian film, The Stan, which took the silver medal at the Cannes Film Festival.
WITH HONORS IN Mexico and Europe, he headed back to Hollywood expecting there would be work aplenty. "But I got there right at the demise," he says. "In 1960 it was a ghost town. I couldn't get anything."
He came home to visit. He stayed on at Memorial Hall helping Jim Alex who had the summer theater here in 1960. He went to Canton for three years and put the Canton Players Guild back on its feet.
In between he did television things like Playhouse 90 and the Schlitz Playhouse.
HE LIKES TO recall his beginnings In theater in Dayton. "I remember we were doing a play at the Dayton Art Institute for the Theater Guild. Bette Rogge had the lead. At that time Jack Werst (former Dayton Jeweler) had the Vanderbilt diamond. He let us use it for the play, but it was delivered each night by armored car and plainclothes men were on guard backstage and in the audience."
Theater efforts In Ohio impress him. "It is the most vital state in the country for theater," he claims.
[Dayton Daily News, Dayton, OH, 14 Mar 1976, Sun, Page 104]