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Ruth Conte; Actress and Psychotherapist

August 29, 1997|MYRNA OLIVER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Ruth Conte, the former actress Ruth Storey who appeared in such films as "Bells Are Ringing" and "In Cold Blood," then went on to become a psychotherapist, has died. She was 84.

Conte, who was married for several years to the late actor Richard Conte, died Saturday of cancer at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

Born and reared in New York, Storey moved to Los Angeles with Conte and made more than a dozen motion pictures in the 1950s and '60s.

With the encouragement of mentor and friend Charlie Chaplin, Storey also moved into theater. Chaplin directed her in "What Every Woman Knows."

Storey played the feminine lead Beatrice Carboni in a 1958 record-breaking run of Arthur Miller's "A View from the Bridge" at the Players' Ring Theater in Hollywood. She also appeared on the New York stage in such plays as "Stage Door," "The Fabulous Invalid" and "The American Way."

Among Storey's films, many with her husband, were "The Blue Gardenia," "I'll Cry Tomorrow" and a television production of "Awake and Sing."

The actress also was a guest star on television series, including "General Electric Theatre," "Have Gun Will Travel" and "Climax."

After her divorce from Conte in 1962, Storey earned a master's degree in social welfare at UCLA. She helped organize community rebuilding projects in Watts after the 1965 riots, and then co-founded the Center for Human Problems, a community clinic first located in Sherman Oaks and later in Tarzana. She later went into private practice, counseling many patients from the entertainment industry.

Conte told The Times in 1970 that her background in ballet, stage, movies and television helped her work in mental health by giving her a better understanding of emotions, a capacity to relate to people and an ability to perceive the real person behind the mask.

Throughout her practice, she stressed treating families rather than individuals.

"We've learned it's pretty hard to evaluate an individual separately from his family or work situations," she said. "Often symptomatic reactions to one member's stress will show up in other members of the family or work area.

"We discuss learning or behavioral difficulties at school, child development, human relationships, even getting ready for retirement, and give premarital counseling," she said, describing her work. "This approach of early intervention becomes a preventive thing--problems get solved before they're acute enough to require hospitalization."

Conte is survived by her son, film editor Mark Conte, and two grandsons.

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