Actor John P. Connell, a longtime member of the Screen Actors Guild board who was also a television writer, playwright, and prolific commercial voiceover artist died today in his Woodland Hills home. He was 91.
Born in Philadelphia in 1924, Connell was a decorated World War II airman who received numerous decorations including five battle stars, serving as a radio operator and waist gunner aboard a B-24 as part of a crew that completed 43 missions during the war. Following his service, he attended the University of Missouri, graduating in 1950 with a degree in journalism, after which he moved to New York City to pursue a career in acting.
He soon appeared on Broadway in Time Limit and Uncle Willie, and with the National Company of Picnic. During the 1950s he appeared on numerous live television broadcasts and would go on to star as Dr. David Malone on the soap opera Young Doctor Malone, which ran on NBC from 1958 to 1963. He also appeared on shows like The Edge Of Night, Love Of Life, The Secret Storm and Dark Shadows.
As a film actor, he appeared in Three Days Of The Condor, Family Business, and the cold war thriller Fail Safe, but would experience his greatest success later in the 1960s, when he began to work as a commercial voiceover actor. Over his long career in commericial voice work, he was the voice of Maxwell House Coffee, American Airlines, Xerox, Proctor & Gamble, Ford, Uniroyal, McDonald’s and, for 12 years, H&R Block; in New York City, he was for years the voice of Brooklyn Union Gas. He also narrated industrial films and documentaries, and in 1967 performed as the narrator in a special performance of Man Of La Mancha for President Lyndon Johnson.
As a writer, Connell often collaborated with his wife, Mila, the two of them penning 100 scripts for Secret Storm. He also collaborated with his Man Of La Mancha costar Richard Kiley on an adaptation of Brian Moore’s The Feast Of Lupercal. Connell also wrote the off-Broadway one act plays The Only Way Out Is In and Who The Hell Is Rodney Chappel?, performed in 1969 under the umbrella title The Business of Show.
Connell was elected to several successive terms to the National Board of Directors of SAG, serving 13 years total. During this time he edited the Guild’s New York magazine, Reel. He also served as a councilor of the Episcopal Actors Guild, founding a Shakespeare-reading group made up of voiceover actors called the Come Hither Players.
He’s survived by his wife of 63 years, Mila, by his daughter Kathy Connell, who is executive producer of the Screen Actors Guild Awards, by his son John V. Connell, his son-in-law Daryl Anderson, and his granddaughter Tierney Anderson. In lieu of flowers, his family has requested that donations be sent to the Episcopal Actors Guild, the SAG Foundation or the Motion Picture & Television Fund.