Anthony C. Mordente
December 3, 1935
|Occupation||Dancer, choreographer, television director, actor|
(m. 1957; div. 1966)
|Children||2 (Lisa Mordente)|
Born in New York City, Mordente attended the High School of Performing Arts and made his professional dance debut at the Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival in Massachusetts. Soon after he joined the ballet company at Radio City Music Hall, where he was discovered by Michael Kidd, who cast him in the 1956 Broadway musical adaptation of the Al Capp comic strip Li'l Abner.
Mordente was then featured in the Broadway (1957) and West End productions and film version of West Side Story, during which time he met his future wife Chita Rivera, who played Anita in the original Broadway cast. In the stage version Mordente played A-Rab, and in the film he played Action. "He wanted to play his original role in the movie and was very disappointed to be Action and I asked why they switched his role," Seth Rudetsky wrote in Playbill. "He said he never asked because sometimes you ask and you don’t like the answer. Regardless, he wound up being very featured in the movie."
Rudetsky said the actors told him that the Broadway cast had specific instructions that the Sharks and Jets were not allowed to fraternize. "Well, not only did [Rivera] fraternize with a Jet (Tony Mordente), they wound up having a daughter (Lisa Mordente)! Chita remembers seeing Tony in rehearsal and feeling like he literally flew."
Mordente was the voice of Oliver Cool on the 45 rpm single recording, "Oliver Cool" b/w "I Like Girls" by Oliver Cool (Roulette R-4292). The record did not chart nationally in the US but was a big hit in Australia in 1961.
He understudied the title role and served as assistant to Gower Champion in Bye Bye Birdie (1960) He next teamed again with Kidd for Ben Franklin in Paris (1964) and the ill-fated Breakfast at Tiffany's (1966), which closed during previews. He received his first credit as sole choreographer for Here's Where I Belong (1968), which never made it past opening night.
As an actor, Mordente appeared in the film Love with the Proper Stranger (1963) and had guest appearances on the tv series Combat! and The Outer Limits. He began to choreograph for television variety shows, including The Ed Sullivan Show and The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour.
In the mid-1970s, Mordente switched gears and began to direct for television. His credits include twenty-nine episodes of Rhoda, ten episodes of Matlock, thirty-seven episodes of Walker, Texas Ranger, five episodes of The A-Team, four episodes of The Love Boat, and thirty-three episodes of 7th Heaven, in addition to episodes of The Practice (1976), Busting Loose, Love, Sidney, Family Ties, Day by Day, M*A*S*H, and Burke's Law, among other television shows.
He married Jean G. Fraser in 1978. They are the parents of screenwriter Adriana Mordente.
- West Side Story Playbill.com; retrieved December 30, 2017.
- Rudetsky, Seth (May 20, 2020). "7 Behind-the-Scenes Stories From Broadway's Original West Side Story". Playbill. Retrieved 24 January 2022.
- Bye Bye Birdie Playbill, retrieved December 30, 2017.
- Mordente Credits broadwayworld.com, retrieved December 30, 2017
- Here's Where I Belong Playbill; retrieved December 30, 2017.
- Love with the Proper Stranger, tcm.com, retrieved December 30, 2017.
- Tony Mordente bio allmovie.com; retrieved December 30, 2017.
- Mordente bio tcm.com; retrieved December 30, 2017.
- "Chita Rivera Biography and Career Timeline" pbs.org, retrieved December 30, 2017
- Haun, Harry. "Read the Original 1984 Interview with Liza Minnelli and Chita Rivera in Rehearsals for 'The Rink!' " Playbill, May 23, 2015