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I happened to be up late one night and was channel surfing and came across the old "What's My Line" show. I watched it and set up my VCR to tape every night. After a week or so I found myself having a funny sort of feeling when ever I watched. It took a few weeks before I realized what the feeling was. I heard John Daly say that he would see us all next week on Sunday night at 10:30, a bell rang in my head and I remembered that when I was 6 to 12 years old we would spend every Sunday at my grandfather and grandmothers house. When we would get home that night my Dad would turn on the TV and if What's My Line was on I knew it was late and I would have a hard time getting up for school in the morning. I am retired now and the feeling still hits me when I watch this show. My favorite part is the mystery guest, the panel hardly ever misses. I like to look at IMDb and see who the guest's are and read their profiles.
I have enjoyed reading the above comments about "Whats My Line". I don't remember this show at all when I was a child, and during a period of insomnia I have discovered a brilliant game show that brings to life all that seems to be missing today, glamor, class, wit and humor. Right from my living room I can literally see time turned back to where I have always envisioned the 50's and early 60's to be if you were famous. I can't tell you how many people I have seen as the "mystery guests", or sitting on the panel that I recognize today and can't believe it is them! This show is a treasure, and I enjoy watching it so much. My curiosity got the better of me and I found myself at the computer actually looking up the regular panelist as I had no idea what their past was. My, how shocked I was to learn about Ms. Kilgalin's tragic death, it makes me wonder when watching her why she would commit suicide? I didn't know she was involved in the JFK controversy, this sure makes me question many things . And dear Arlene Francise.....what a career. May all these wonderful souls that have past rest in peace. Your contribution to entertaining many people lives on, even the "younger" generation.
WML is undoubtedly the most sophisticated and gracious program ever on
television. The panelists and the moderator ALL displayed unequaled
graciousness. Wouldn't it be interesting to have a high school or
college course using WML as it's course material? The time would
certainly be well spent.
This week I saw an episode (week of Sept 7, 2005) which had the conductor of the New York Ballet orchestra. He was 28 and had conducted the NYB orchestra for 3 years. He was the youngest conductor at that time. Did anyone see that episode? If so, please add his name; I'd like to read up on him. (His name was started with an "S".) Thanks.
My family loved What's My Line for the repartee mostly, although I
think my Dad had a crush on Dorothy Killgallan because of her
intelligence and subtle sense of humor. Dad always liked smart women,
and Mom understood and was tolerant.
One night Dad took us Toots Shor for dinner where Mom and he were introduced to Miss Killgallan by Joe Harrison, Dad's friend and the Maitre 'D. Dad and Mom had a drink with her and her husband Dick Kollmar. She drank Champagne and Kollmar paid for the drinks.
Back to What's My Line: John Daly was also great, and I learned my love of punning from the irrepressible Bennet Cerf.
Let's see, was Stoppette (an underarm deodorant) a sponsor? And for some reason another early sponsor, Timex comes to mind too.
Michael E. Katz
John Daly, without a doubt one of the best game show hosts, gave this
show a touch of class. Bennett Cerf, Random House Publisher, gave it an
aura of intellect while providing some really off beat humor. Arlene
Francis & Dorothy Kilgallen gave it the womens touch. The balance was
so great that people would watch it every Sunday night for many years.
The game itself was simple- just what is this contestants line of work? The format of 10 chances to get it never seemed to wear thin. Often the show passed on valued information about different occupations. The prize money- amazingly small. The entertainment value- over the top.
This show was the biggest hit for Mark Goodsen & Bill Toddman before their 1972 retooling of The Price is Right. As it started in the 1950's, the men always wore tuxedos, the women formal gowns. Everybody was so formal. The show is a great time machine piece to what the civilized world was like, particularly in New York City, before those Californians brought all this down with no class to where it is today.
The re-runs of this feature almost every person of fame or celebrity from this era either as a mystery guest or on the panel. The final episode is priceless as John Daly pulls his emergency mystery guest plan off which had been on the shelf for 17 years, but never had to be used as the mystery guests had always shown up. That in itself is an amazing record & shows the respect those guests had for the show. For 17 years, once a guest committed, they always made it on the show.
The list of mystery guests is a veritable who's who of famous people. Alfred Hitchcock, Vincent Price, Bishop Fulton Sheen, Charlton Heston, Bob Hope, Tyronne Powers, Audie Murphy, Ronald Reagen, Burns & Allen, and many other famous mystery guests came on this show. Unlike today, this show was done live and the reactions of the live audience to the guests coming on stage is priceless.
I doubt that young folks will ever appreciate how great this show was. The value of this gem is priceless, & none of the revivals has ever quite gotten to the original run. The world has changed too much, & now that many of the values this show represented have changed, this gem can't be recreated.
The gentleman I just spoke to says it will return Monday mornings 3 AM
on October something -- oh, d---n -- well, just figure out what day of
the week Monday is, it was maybe the 12th? I'm sorry. Can't remember. A
My comment does not contain enough lines. So, why I love this show: it's a history lesson. I'm 48 and was an infant in the 1950's. On What's My Line we meet all kinds of people, every day jobbers, celebs, government officials (federal, state, etc.). Political people, though they may not even have known it. The Korean war, pre-MASH.
Dorothy always fascinates me. My Dad says she was considered a very conservative newspaper woman in the 50's, and that's kind of scary, in hindsight. I can't tell from the show. Mr. Cerf -- President of Random House, wow.
Anyway, hope they'll let me post this now. Don't forget. Mondays at 3 am beginning October something 2006.
"ekelks-2" said recently on this page that What's My Line is "a history
lesson." He goes on to report his baby boomer status and the U.S.
government officials and other historically important people who were
contestants on this show.
But I tend to agree more with "cindytrells" and her analysis on this page. Yes, you see people with careers that make great ideas for your kids today -- with certain exceptions, of course. You can't sell dynamite to owners of coal mines anymore, as did two contestants in 1964 / 1965. You can't sell the Beatle wig as did a contestant on the night the Beatles played Ed Sullivan for the first time. In fact, rock & roll / hip hop merchandise today doesn't emphasize hair.
Are the dynamite and the Beatle wig good history lessons for today's young people? Only coupled with something else. When John Daly and mystery guest Tallulah Bankhead discuss Winston Churchill as they will on a rerun you can see in early 2007, it helps to know who Churchill was. You can Tivo the episode, hear "Churchill" and then look him up.
But it's up to you to look him up. Some people won't. Maybe serious history and a bachelor's degree aren't for everyone.
We don't have Winston Churchill today to lead the fight against terrorists. Unless the man who makes the Eminem white T-shirt leads the fight, then please put enough meat and potatoes in your history. Learn about the Kennedy administration-sponsored coup that put Saddam Hussein on the road to power. What's My Line is dessert.
Getting back to career ideas for students, remember that the careers of Bennett, Dorothy, Arlene and John Daly were just distant scenery on every single episode. You hear somebody introduce Arlene's Broadway play, but you don't get the playwright or the plot. If you want your kid to consider publishing -- Bennett Cerf's field -- he/she has a lot of work to do besides watching GSN.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I watched this show faithfully as a kid in Dallas (we got it an hour
earlier, Central time). I think it's just as much fun today to see the
regulars and guest panelists -- and how times have thankfully changed
on what I'm calling stereotyped career perceptions.
As just a few examples, and I guess these can still be spoilers for a weekly show that began to air 60 years ago: One night, a woman came on and the studio/TV audience were told she was the sheriff of one of the eastern counties of New Jersey, perhaps Atlantic County. I don't recall.
The panel didn't have a clue: Are you in office work, such as a secretary or a clerk? The nursing medical field? The restaurant service business? And so it went.
Another night (and with apologies that I'm probably going to butcher the spelling of his name), Seiji Ozawa appeared as Leonard Bernstein's assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic.
Are you involved in gardening or landscaping? Well, florist sales? Laundry or dry-cleaning? Restaurants? Again, John Charles Daly turned over all the cards.
The week after Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963, they didn't broadcast "Live from New York," as Johnny Olson would say as he opened each show. Instead it was pre-recorded if a back-up were ever needed, and it was just Olson saying "From New York!!! It's What's My Line!!!!".
One guest appeared that night who had flowing white hair, a pure white goatee, black-rim glasses, and wearing a white linen suit. It was Col. Harlan Sanders himself, the guy who came up with the recipe and process to start the Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise.
Bless those marvelous Manhattenites, once again they didn't have a clue. After they bombed, Col. Sanders did quip something along the lines that, "Well, my mug is on every box/bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken sold at over "X" thousands of stores across North America and across Europe."
And finally, just to shut this off, one night a man appeared who had acquired the rights to be the first to import and be the exclusive distributor of electric tooth brushes being made somewhere in Europe.
After the panel lost, Bennett Serf was particularly dumbfounded. He couldn't believe it: "You mean people really need an ELECTRIC toothbrush!?!?!?!? They can't just put tooth paste on a brush and go up-and-down on their teeth????" as he was making up-and-down motions with his hand.
This just scratches the surface of a show that was very popular for so many years. It was great then. It's marvelous to watch now for so many reasons.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This was a really good show and what made it even better were the witty
panelists. Bennett Cerf, Arlene Francis and Dorothy Kilgallen were
excellent. They were usually right on the mark and with John Charles
Daly as the host, what could be better?
Not only were the occupations unusual to some degree, the last part of the show was the best. That was where they had the mystery guest. A famous celebrity came out and signed it. The panel put on their masks and the celebrity disguised their voices and it very often became quite comical.
They're all gone now but the memories linger on. This was typical 1950s television.
Reruns of this series on GSN work well as entertainment, but people are
overstating its historical value. Where are historical figures like
Hubert Humphrey, Lyndon Johnson, J. Edgar Hoover, Martin Luther King,
Clare Booth Luce, Rachel Carson, Beryl Markham, etc. ?
Out of 800 - some surviving black & white episodes, you get the rare treat of seeing Eleanor Roosevelt, Frank Lloyd Wright, Carl Sandburg and Herman Wouk. Wouk, an Orthodox Jew, looks uncomfortable sitting on the panel in 1956 when the contestant turns out to be somebody who "boxes kangaroos" for a living. He never appeared on What's My Line again.
Besides Wouk, another intelligent person who did What's My Line and possibly no other TV show comes to mind: U.S. Senator George Smathers. Then I found him on a dumbed - down 1985 BBC documentary / amazon.com product "Marilyn Monroe: Say Goodbye To The President." Oh well, easy come easy go.
I'd love to talk more about Eleanor, Frank and Carl, but everybody in the Yahoo and Google discussion groups wants to talk instead about the movie stars and the goofballs who make nail polish for dogs.
Don't get me wrong, I love most of the banter between Bennett Cerf and John Daly. Arlene Francis gives people a cheery lift. The tension between John and Dorothy Kilgallen is fascinating when she tries to break through his filibuster. Maybe the tension between those two was so essential to the show's success that her death made the show fail.
If a schoolteacher wants to screen What's My Line for her social studies students, that's fine. It's okay as long as he / she chooses just a few episodes -- the right ones.
So many baby boomers are saying online that they recall fondly getting permission to stay awake until 11:00 Sunday nights for this show as long as their homework was done. What they forget is that the primitive technology of the 1950s / 1960s forced them to take What's My Line in small doses. It worked great as a little icing on the cake of their Sputnik - inspired competitive education.
But too much icing is bad. These days if you Tivo, say, 25 episodes and watch them back to back, you get the false impression that the Manhattan sophisticates of yesteryear were obsessed with celebrities and movie stars. Wrong. It just seems that way when your need for sleep at 3:30 in the morning (when GSN shows reruns) makes you depend totally on Tivo. Then you have other commitments that make you catch up on several episodes at a time. Then you go to the grocery store check - out line and you might think that What's My Line was a precursor to all those horrible magazines. Something like what Benjamin Bradlee (1970s Washington Post editor) calls "the birth of celebrity culture." Please don't do that to What's My Line.
TODAY people are obsessed with celebrities. But New Yorkers and their followers were NOT in the 1950s / 1960s. They knew how to read books written by serious writers, NOT Kitty Kelley. Watching What's My Line in that era hardly put a dent in that reading. Today if you overload your Tivo you can dumb down your life. Don't just listen to Bennett joke about the Tilton School in New Hampshire. Learn a little of what the Tilton boys learn. Read the nice things Gertrude Stein said about Bennett even though he couldn't understand a word she wrote. Can you?
The mystery guest round was a little icing on the cake once a week. That person was sometimes called the "mystery celebrity," but celebrities hardly mattered to Dorothy, Arlene, Bennett or John.
Dorothy Kilgallen didn't make her gossip a priority; she was really a crime reporter. Arlene Francis acted on Broadway, which was then considered high - brow sophisticated culture. During World War II she played the part of a Russian woman who could fire a rifle very well. Can you imagine Vanna White doing such a thing today ? Bennett Cerf published Faulkner, for heaven's sake. Please don't remember him totally for his zealous questioning of the mystery guests. He was just being competitive; he knew the TV western "Rifleman" wasn't something kids should study in school. Even the star of that western, Chuck Connors, sat on the What's My Line panel and proved that Reading Is Fundamental.
Franklin Heller was the director of What's My Line. Don't confuse his job with Mike Nichols' job. A TV director of a quiz show broadcast live is a technician who switches cameras at precisely the right moments during the live feed. Then consider what job Mr. Heller took on after CBS axed the show in 1967: literary agent.
Please don't remember John Daly for narrating an episode of Green Acres. That's the treatment he gets in online discussion groups.
Please don't dumb down these high achievers in the era BEFORE "The Closing of the American Mind" (title of a 1987 best - selling book). Just enjoy these black & white reruns for what they are: evidence of a witty game that entertained people for 27 minutes each week.
Then improve your reading, especially if you have kids. Sputnik doesn't matter today, but look at what Buddhist and Islamic countries are doing to us. Their people immigrate here and the kids do better in school than kids named John Smith. Johnny can't read very well, but Lu Ping Zhu can discuss Confucius AND Ray Bradbury AND Stephen King. And people wonder why "What's My Maginot Line?" can't get on television today ...
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