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TV Game Shows of the 50s
by Billy Ingram

At various times in television history, game shows have been popular daytime AND prime-time fare. Here's a review of some of the more unusual programs from the first golden era of TV game shows.

You Bet Your Life was broadcast on radio beginning in 1947, initially moving to television in 1950 as the radio show with cameras. On the program, contestants had the potential to win $10,000, $5,000, or $2,000 in a bonus round at the end of the show.

People tuned in to You Bet Your Life to watch legendary movie comedian Groucho Marx grill the contestants, the game itself was almost inconsequential. George Finneman played the straight man and kept the game on track.

One famous feature of every episode was the 'duck' that would come down from the ceiling at the beginning to reveal the secret word. Groucho would greet each contestant with the phrase, "Say the secret word and win a hundred dollars".

Groucho's quick wit made for some of the funniest moments in television history, with much of the humor coming from the suggestive comments Groucho directed at the many gorgeous (often well-endowed) women that frequented the show.

One exchange from 1955, unearthed by film archivist Jeff Vilencia, is considered the most famous moment of the show. Legend has it that a woman on the show described how she gave birth to 17 children. One of the daughters explained: "My Daddy loves children", to which Groucho replied, "I like cigars, but I take them out of my mouth every once in a while!" In a TVparty exclusive, here is what actually aired.

Groucho DeSoto'You Bet Your Life' was almost canceled before it began. The show's original sponsor (DeSoto Automobiles) assumed when they signed Groucho that he would do the series in his familiar black frock coat and painted-on mustache from his movie roles. When Groucho refused, the sponsors tried to pull the plug, but discovered that there was no clause in the comedian's contract requiring him to wear a frock coat. "If I can't be funny on television without funny clothes and makeup, to hell with it." was Groucho's attitude. The program ran for 11 years.

 

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