LOS ANGELES (Sept. 10, 2015) – John P. Connell, 91, a veteran actor best known as the star of the live daytime drama Young Dr. Malone, a leading commercial voiceover artist, television writer and playwright, a longtime Screen Actors Guild Board member, and a decorated World War II flier, died Thursday, Sept.10, 2015 in Woodland Hills, California.
Born in Philadelphia, Connell received five battle stars and a Purple Heart during World War II. From September of 1944 through April 1945, he was a radio operator and waist gunner aboard a B-24 with Squadron 513 of the Fifteenth Air Force, 376th Heavy Bombardment Group. The crew completed 43 bombing missions before the conclusion of World War II. Connell often spoke in praise of the Tuskegee Airmen, the all-black 99th Pursuit Squadron, who provided protective cover for two-thirds of the missions he flew.
After the war, he attended the University of Missouri, where he met Mila, his wife of 63 years. After graduating with a degree in journalism in 1950, he moved to New York to act. He appeared on Broadway (Time Limit and Uncle Willie) and with the National Company of Picnic. Working in the heyday of live television, he appeared in dozens of live broadcasts, including Studio One in Hollywood, Kraft Theatre, You Are There, Goodyear Playhouse, Danger, The Alcoa Hour and Robert Montgomery Presents. He starred for five years as Dr. David Malone on the live soap opera Young Dr. Malone, and made appearances on The Edge of Night, Love of Life, The Secret Storm and Dark Shadows. He also collaborated with his wife to write more than 100 Secret Storm scripts.
His film work included Three Days of the Condor, Family Business and Fail Safe. In the 1960s, his professional apex developed from what was then a little-trod path in the acting profession: commercial voiceovers. With his warm, rich tones, Connell became a preeminent and ubiquitous radio and television spokesman for hundreds of sponsors and products. He was at various times the voice of Maxwell House Coffee, American Airlines, Xerox, Proctor & Gamble, Ford, Uniroyal, McDonald's and H&R Block (12 years). New Yorkers will remember his "This is John Connell for Brooklyn Union Gas" (16 years). He also narrated industrial films and documentaries including Rice, which won a Rockefeller Foundation award.
On Sept. 19, 1967, he played the narrator in a special abbreviated version of Man of La Mancha starring Richard Kiley that was performed at the White House for President Lyndon Johnson.
He and Kiley collaborated on an adaptation of Brian Moore's The Feast of Lupercal, which was performed to acclaim at the Actor's Studio. Connell's one-acts The Only Way Out Is In and Who the Hell Is Rodney Chappel? were produced off-Broadway at the Triangle Theatre in 1969 under the umbrella title The Business of Show.
Connell served as a councilor of the Episcopal Actors Guild, where he founded the Come Hither Players, a Shakespeare-reading group made up of voiceover actors. He was elected to several successive terms on the National Board of Directors of Screen Actors Guild, serving 13 years and editing the Guild’s New York magazine, Reel.
He is survived by his wife Mila; son John V. Connell of Rhinebeck, New York; daughter Kathy Connell, executive producer of the Screen Actors Guild Awards®; son-in-law Daryl Anderson; and granddaughter Tierney Anderson. The family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations be sent to the Episcopal Actors Guild, the SAG Foundation or the Motion Picture & Television Fund.
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