|Date of Birth||6 July 1925, San Mateo, California, USA|
|Date of Death||12 August 2007, Los Angeles, California, USA (prostate cancer)|
|Birth Name||Mervyn Edward Griffin Jr.|
|Height||5' 9" (1.75 m)|
Mini Bio (1)
Merv Griffin was a singer and band leader, movie actor, television personality and media mogul who in his time hosting The Merv Griffin Show (1962) was second in fame and influence as a talk show host only to Johnny Carson. Griffin was best known for creating the two most popular game shows in television syndication history, Wheel of Fortune (1983) and Jeopardy! (1984) that are watched by hundreds of millions of people all over the world. In the business world, he was identified as the visionary chairman of The Griffin Group.
Born in the San Francisco, California suburb of San Mateo, Griffin "came up through the ranks" in the classic sense, entering talent contests, writing songs, singing on local radio station KFRC-San Francisco, and later touring with Freddy Martin and His Orchestra. He became increasingly popular with nightclub audiences and his fame soared among the general public when he struck gold in 1950 with "I've Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts", which reached the number one spot on the Hit Parade and sold three million copies.
Continuing to record hits, including "Wilhelmina" and "Never Been Kissed", Griffin made a foray into motion pictures after Doris Day saw his nightclub performance and arranged a screen test for him at Warner Bros. Studios. While under contract at Warner Bros., he appeared in a number of hit movies, including So This Is Love (1953) with Kathryn Grayson and The Boy from Oklahoma (1954) with Will Rogers Jr., and Lon Chaney Jr..
Television then discovered him. As a regular performer on The Arthur Murray Party (1950), The Jack Paar Tonight Show (1957) and others, he was offered the opportunity to host his own television series, Play Your Hunch (1958). It was during this period that he conceived the idea for what was to become one of the most successful game shows in television history, Jeopardy! (1964). But it was in 1962 that his career took its most dramatic turn. He became a substitute host for Jack Paar on The Jack Paar Tonight Show (1957) and scored some of the highest ratings in the show's history. As a result, NBC gave him his own hour-long daytime talk show program, The Merv Griffin Show (1962).
Griffin's name and talk show career will always be seen in the light of that of Johnny Carson, the "King of late night TV", whom he directly competed with on CBS from 1969 to 1972. Griffin's first daytime talk show began on the same day Carson first hosted The Tonight Show (1962). While Carson's style was indebted to his long apprenticeship in Los Angeles in the 1950s, Griffin was based in New York, where he socialized with New York's theater and café crowds. Griffin's approach to television talk was influenced by two New York shows, David Susskind's The David Susskind Show (1958) and Mike Wallace's Night Beat (1956), and like Susskind and Wallace, he openly embraced controversial subjects. In 1965, Griffin was criticized as a "traitor" when he aired a special from London in which Nobel Prize-winning philosopher Bertrand Russell denounced the Vietnam War.
Despite his success on daytime television, it was late night that was The Holy Grail for talk show hosts. In 1969, CBS hired Griffin to directly compete with Carson in the 11:30 PM to 1:00 AM time slot that had proven a grave yard for other personalities. Not one to shy away from controversy, Griffin began to be harassed by CBS censors who objected to the antiwar statements of his guests and ordered him to feature pro-war guests for balance. "The irony of the situation wasn't wasted on me", Griffin recalls in his autobiography. "In 1965, I'm called a traitor by the press for presenting Bertrand Russell, and, four years later, we are hard-pressed to find anybody to speak in favor of the Vietnam War".
In March 1970, CBS censors pixilated antiwar activist Abbie Hoffman because he was wearing a shirt that resembled an American flag. The resulting blurred image meant that Hoffman's voice emanated from a "jumble of lines". CBS also pressured Griffin into sacking his long-term sidekick Arthur Treacher, who had been his television mentor, because he was too old. The censorship did not boost the ratings for Griffin, who was facing stiff competition from the genial Carson, who himself was criticized during the era for shying away from controversial subjects.
In 1972, a fed-up Griffin negotiated a syndication deal with Metromedia to move his talk show back to the daytime in the event he was terminated by CBS. The deal was signed in secret as a penalty clause in his CBS contract gave him $1 million in the event of his being fired. Later that year, CBS terminated Griffin's late-night talk show and Griffin immediately made the transition to Metromedia's syndicated network.
While Griffin may have been a washout in late night television, his impact on daytime was immense, specifically through his production of game shows. An avid fan of puzzles since childhood, Griffin first produced a successful game show in 1964, Jeopardy! (1964) for NBC. After 13 seasons as a daytime talk show host, Griffin retired from his talk show in 1986 to devote himself to producing his highly profitable game shows.
Jeopardy! (2002) remains the second highest rated game show in television syndication while Wheel of Fortune (1983) continues to be the longest running game show to hold the number one spot in television syndication history. Other Griffin successes in the game show field included "One in a Million" and Joe Garagiola's Memory Game (1971), both airing on ABC, Let's Play Post Office on NBC, and Reach for the Stars (1967).
In 1986, Griffin sold his production company, Merv Griffin Enterprises, to Coca-Cola's Columbia Pictures Television unit for $250 million as well as a continuing share of the profits of the shows. At that time, the transaction represented the largest acquisition of an entertainment company owned by a single individual. Subsequently, Sony Pictures Entertainment purchased Columbia and he retains the title of executive producer of both "Wheel of Fortune" and "Jeopardy!" (for which he still creates puzzles and questions.) He served as Executive Producer of "Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus" (2000).
After his retirement from daytime chat, Merv became a real estate baron, acquiring the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, which is now the venue of choice for virtually all of the Tinseltown's most high profile events such as The Golden Globe Awards, The Soap Opera Digest Awards, and The American Film Institute's Lifetime Achievement Awards. He also owns the Hilton Scottsdale Resort and Villas in Arizona, and St. Clerans Manor, an 18th century estate once owned by director John Huston which is located near Galway, the premier resort destination in Ireland.
In January 1998, Griffin opened The Coconut Club, one of the country's hottest swing/dance clubs, at his Beverly Hilton Hotel. This weekend venue, fashioned after Hollywood's famed Coconut Grove (where Griffin headlined as a boy singer with The Freddy Martin Orchestra) features live Big Bands, Swing Orchestras, and Disco Bands amidst a glamorous nightclub setting.
He was honored with the prestigious 1994 Broadcasting and Cable "Hall of Fame" Award, alongside such figures as Diane Sawyer and Dan Rather. Winner of 15 Emmy Awards, Griffin was presented an Outstanding Game/Audience Participation Show Emmy for 1993-1994 as executive producer of Jeopardy! (1984) He had also been the recipient of the coveted Scopus Award from the American Friends of Hebrew University, "The Duke Award" presented by the John Wayne Cancer Institute, and he had been honored by the American Ireland Fund and the SHARE organization. He was Lifetime Honorary Festival Chairman of La Quinta Arts Festival and recently donated his Wickenburg Inn and Dude Ranch to Childhelp USA.
In March 2001, the Gold Label released his new CD, "It's Like a Dream", for which he composed the title song. Among his private passions are his family, son Tony Griffin, daughter-in-law Tricia, and grandchildren Farah and Donovan Mervyn, his long-haired sharpei dog Charlie Chan, his La Quinta ranch near Carmel, where he raises thoroughbred racing horses, and his 135 foot, four-story high ocean going yacht, Griff. Merv Griffin died at age 82 of prostate cancer in Los Angeles, California on August 12, 2007.
- IMDb Mini Biography By: Nicholas E. Terry and Jon C. Hopwood
|Julann Griffin||(18 May 1959 - 1976) (divorced) (1 child)|