(written from a Production point of view)
Michael Dante (born 2 September 1931; age 84) is an American actor, stage and screen director and former professional athlete. He was a frequent extra on Star Trek: The Original Series and was ultimately cast in the role of Capellan chieftan Maab in the 1967 episode, "Friday's Child".
Dante was born Ralph Vitti in Stamford, Connecticut. He was a shortstop on the Stamford High School baseball team, then played for "The Advocate All-Stars" team which won a 1949 New England baseball championship. After graduating, he signed a bonus contract with the Boston Braves out of high school. His $6,000 bonus was used to buy his family a four-door Buick with whitewalls.
He took drama classes at the University of Miami in Florida while training with the Washington Senators. Soon after, musician and bandleader Tommy Dorsey arranged a screen test for Dante at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Dante's professional acting career began.
Dante and his wife Mary Jane have a home in Rancho Mirage, California. An avid golfer, Dante has hosted the Michael Dante Celebrity Golf Tournament, a charitable fund-raiser held annually in Palm Springs, California since 1991.
Dante landed his first film role in the biographical drama Somebody Up There Likes Me. This film was directed by Robert Wise, who would go on to direct Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Besides Dante, fellow Star Trek alumni Stanley Adams, Robert Easton, and Roy Jenson also appeared in this film. The following year, Dante appeared in the drama Raintree Country, which featured TOS star DeForest Kelley.
Dante changed his name at the urging of Warner Bros. president Jack Warner, who thought "Vitti" wouldn't look good on movie marquees. Warner suggested some first names, from which the actor picked "Michael." He chose the last name "Dante" because it had been used by some relatives.
In total, Dante has appeared in 30 films and 150 television shows. He is also notable for spending seven years in supporting roles under contract to three major studios at once: MGM, Warner Bros. and Twentieth Century Fox. He considers his best performances to be the role he played in the Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse episode "The Killer Instinct" in 1959. He also cites his roles in the films Westbound (1959), Seven Thieves (1960, co-starring Joan Collins) and Winterhawk (1975, with Elisha Cook, Jr. and Seamon Glass) among his best performances.
Other films featuring Dante include the Elvis Presley picture Kid Galahad (with Bert Remsen, Paul Sorensen and Bill Zuckert), the 1964 drama The Naked Kiss, the cult 1971 horror film Willard (starring Bruce Davison), the 1980 horror thriller Beyond Evill (co-starring David Opatoshu) and the 1983 crime film The Big Score (starring and directed by Fred Williamson). He would later work with Williamson in 1986's The Messenger.
In addition to Star Trek, Dante has been seen on such television shows as Cheyenne, Maverick, Perry Mason, Bonanza, Get Smart, The Big Valley and The Fall Guy. He also had recurring roles on the soap operas Days of Our Lives and General Hospital.
Over twenty years after his appearance on TOS, Dante again worked with TOS star George Takei on the 1989 war film Return from the River Kwai. Dante had a supporting role in the action film Cage that same year, co-starring Branscombe Richmond, Jimmie F. Skaggs and Paul Sorensen. This is his latest acting project to date.
Michael Dante is currently the host of a syndicated radio talk show, On Deck (previously known as the Michael Dante Celebrity Talk Show), on which he interviews some of Hollywood's biggest stars.
- The Silver Spur Award (called the "Golden Globe of the Western film and television genre") 2006, presented by Reel Cowboys
- The Golden Boot Award ("the Oscar of Westerns") in 1003
- Lee, Natasha, "A reel cowboy: Actor doesn't forget Stamford roots", article in The Advocate of Stamford, October 22, 2006, page 1
- Michael Dante at the Internet Movie Database
- MichaelDante.com - official web site