You Bet Your Life (TV Series 1950–1961) Poster



Author William Peter Blatty once won $10,000 on this show. When Groucho Marx asked what he planned to do with the money, he said he planned to take some time off to "work on a novel". The result was The Exorcist (1973).
Usually a prop duck came down on a cable with the prize money when the secret word was spoken. On one occasion however, Groucho Marx's brother, Harpo Marx, came down instead.
Although the popular impression is that Groucho Marx entirely improvised his jokes, in reality the show also had gag writers who interviewed the contestants beforehand and prepared questions and comments for Groucho to use in addition to his own improvisations. To feed them to him subtly, a Tele-Score bowling alley projector located stage left and out of camera range was used.
One of the first TV variety shows to be pre-recorded. Eight 35mm cameras were used, duplicated in pairs, in four locations. While one set af cameras shot the program with 10-minute reels, the other set were re-loaded and put into action as the reels ran out.
Reportedly, the reason why this show was prerecorded for broadcast was because the network was afraid that Groucho Marx's ad-libs would run afoul of the censors. In reality, another reason was to condense the interviews to fit the allotted time with the most entertaining material Groucho was able to generate with them.
It is part of Hollywood legend that one of the source recordings for the "laugh track" sounds heard on sitcoms since the 1960s originated from a particularly long bit of laughter that erupted during an episode of this series.
The main reason why they used a duck to come down whenever someone said the secret word was that Groucho Marx didn't like the sound of sirens going off when a contestant said it.
Phyllis Diller received her first national exposure as a contestant on the show.
Groucho Marx stated that the biggest laugh he ever got on the show was when he was talking to a female contestant. He asked about her husband, and she replied earthily, "Have you ever been made love to by a Frenchman?" The audience went into gales of laughter, and Groucho answered, "Not that I can recall!"
Groucho Marx would always cite Pedro Gonzalez Gonzalez as the most popular contestant the show ever had. Gonzalez Gonzalez went on to a long career as a character actor in movies after his appearance.
George Fenneman, Groucho Marx's announcer on the show, was once asked if Groucho ever embarrassed him on the air. "Each and every show," Fenneman replied.
Although the ratings were still solid, the show stopped production because the producers wanted to begin syndicating reruns of the series. At the time, it was unusual to syndicate reruns of a series that was still on the air. So they replaced it with Tell It to Groucho (1962).
Groucho Marx wore a toupee through out the series, except at the end of each episode when he told viewers to visit a DeSoto-Plymouth dealer and "tell them Groucho sent you" (filmed separately); he was seen without the toupee.
Originally was a radio show starring Groucho Marx, premiering on ABC radio in October 1947.
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In every show a music theme is heard as the contestant spins a wheel. This music slows down like a record player which suddenly loses power. This bit of music was actually composed for the motion picture A Night to Remember (1942) when Brian Aherne's character pulls a burnt roast from an oven. The composer of the piece is Werner R. Heymann.
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On 11 August 2009 the US Postal Service issued a pane of twenty 44¢ commemorative postage stamps honoring early USA television programs. A booklet with 20 picture postal cards was also issued. On the stamp honoring "You Bet Your Life", star Groucho Marx appears with the stuffed duck that appeared from above with a $100 bill in his mouth whenever a contestant said the "secret word". Other shows honored in the Early TV Memories issue were: The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet (1952), Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955), The Dinah Shore Show (1951), Dragnet (1951), "The Ed Sullivan Show" (originally titled The Ed Sullivan Show (1948)), The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show (1950), Hopalong Cassidy (1952), The Honeymooners (1955), "The Howdy Doody Show" (original title: The Howdy Doody Show (1947)), I Love Lucy (1951), Kukla, Fran and Ollie (1947), Lassie (1954), The Lone Ranger (1949), Perry Mason (1957), The Phil Silvers Show (1955), The Red Skelton Hour (1951), "Texaco Star Theater" (titled The Milton Berle Show (1948), 1954-1956), The Tonight Show (which began as Tonight! (1953)), and Twilight Zone (1959).
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When the game show came to television, Groucho Marx was asked to wear his traditional greasepaint mustache. He declined and decided to grow a real one instead, which he wore for the rest of his life.
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