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What's My Line
February 2, 1950 - September 3, 1975

 

1950 - 1967 1968 - 1972 1972 - 1975

Network Television's longest running primetime game show. For seventeen years the show aired Sunday nights at 10:30 P.M. on CBS. The game, which remained unchanged throughout its long run, consisted of four panelists trying to guess either the unusual occupation of a contestant or a product associated with them. A panel member asked questions and the guest would answer yes or no. The panelist remained in control of the questioning until he or she received a no answer. The next member of the panel could then ask questions. A contestant received $5 for each no answer and ten "no"s ended the game in favor of the contestant. In the last round of the evening, the panelists put on blindfolds and tried to guess the identity of a celebrity mystery guest, who often disguised his or her voice to avoid identification.

Columnist Dorothy Kilgallen, Arlene Francis, and Bennett Cerf were continuing members of the panel for 15 years.

On September 19, 1954, "What's My Line?" became the first panel show broadcast in color. And the program won the Emmy Award for Best Quiz or Audience Participation show three times, in 1952, 1953, and 1958.

Tragically, Kilgallen died suddenly of an overdose of medication in 1965.

When "What's My Line?" ended its network run in 1967, producers Goodson-Todman only had three shows left, all running daily on daytime television: To Tell the Truth, The Match Game, and Snap Judgment.Both Truth and Snap were gone the next year, with only Match running. Goodson-Todman executives had to do something, since they didn't want to be a one show company. They came up with an idea: Why not bring back "What's My Line?" as a daily show running five times a week? So rather than pitch the ideas to the networks, they turned to the newly formed production company Viacom (Spun-off from CBS and re-merged in 1999) and asked them to syndicate the new show to local stations. A deal was successfully worked out and by the fall of 1968, What's My Line would return.

One thing Goodson-Todman did was something unheard of at the time: Produce five shows in one day! Now with videotape becoming a standard, five shows would be taped, edited, and sent out to stations all over the nation. It's a practice that is now the norm in today's industry! Five shows in one day meant this: The same four panelists for the entire week, plus ten contestants and five mystery guests were needed. At first it was assumed impossible, but it was accomplished! A new, "mod", set was designed for the new What's My Line, featuring icons of different trades behind the panel and host, a new chalkboard inside a fancy display that can be rolled away off stage, and a center stage with a curtain and the WML logo hanging above. The animated intro used during the final two years on CBS returned (It was shot in color) to open each show. New music, including a new theme song, was recorded by Score Productions. And of course, a new host was needed.

 

With John Daly now working as the Voice of America, the producers discovered Daly's perfect replacement: Veteran newscaster Wally Bruner (who died in 1997), who at the time anchored the news on a Washington DC TV station, and previously reported from the Vietnam War for ABC. Arlene Francis returned as panelist and Johnny Olson returned to announce, too. Eventually, Soupy Sales was tapped to be the other regular panelist, with the other two chairs open to weekly guests.

The first shows were taped at the Ed Sullivan Theater in the summer of 1968 (Later episodes were taped at NBC in New York). The panel on the first week of shows were Francis, Sales, Meredith MacRae (Petticoat Junction), and Gene Rayburn. The game play was the same as the CBS version, except to make the game go quicker, Bruner would give the panel clues to help them identify the contestant's occupation. Another new feature on the shows was an element used on I've Got a Secret, demonstrating one's product or skill, which is why a stage has been set and the chalkboard moved away if needed.

The show was an immediate success. So successful that Goodson-Todman brought back both Beat the Clock and To Tell the Truth the following year.

By 1972, with over 1000 episodes under his belt, Wally Bruner decided to leave What's My Line in favor of his own show, Wally's Workshop, a do-it-yourself instructional show he hosted with his wife, Natalie. In the fall that year, the show began a new season with a new host, Larry Blyden, fresh from his hosting duties on The Movie Game. Blyden's enthusiasm and his warm and friendly approach to the contestants, panelists, and mystery guests brought a new dimension to the show.

And that wasn't the only change to the show. In addition to the flip cards being replaced by pull cards to keep score, a new segment used an an extra time filler (if needed) was added: Who's Who? In Who's Who?, four people selected from the studio audience stood on stage. An easel with names of occupations written on cards were beside them. Each panelist had thirty seconds to match the cards with the right person.

By the fall of 1974, a new set was unveiled, red throughout with the familiar question mark scattered behind the desks, and the music slightly remixed. Gone was the animated intro, as well as the panel introducing themselves. Instead, Chet Gould (who replaced Johnny Olson in 1972 when Olson moved to both The Price is Right and Wally's Workshop) started each show with a profile of the first or second contestant of that particular show, then introduced the panel and host.

Unfortunately, by the beginning of 1975, when renewal time came, few stations were interested in renewing the show and not enough did Production of the series was discontinued. The final episodes were taped near Christmas time in 1974, with enough shows, including reruns, in the can to last the rest of the season. At the time, no one knew that these were the last shows, which is why the final show wasn't even close to the final CBS episode back in 1967. In all, 1,315 episodes were produced for syndication.

Sadly, on June 6, 1975, while on vacation in Morocco, Larry Blyden died from serious injuries sustained in an automobile accident a week before. He would have turned 50 only twenty-two days later, and was set to star in a new game show, Showoffs.

In 1978, Prentice Hall published the "What's My Line?" book. Written by longtime producer Gil Fates, it included the complete history of the show, plus never before published pictures of the show. The book has since been long out-of-print.



Episodes Known To Be In Existence

Listed by Mystery Guest

Sophia Loren - 5-28-61

Phil Silvers  6-4-61

George Burns  6-18-61

Bill Cullen  7-9-61

Peter Lind Hayes & Mary Healy - 8-13-61

Joe E Lewis - 10-8-61

Bob Newhart - 2-4-62

Chubby Checker/Joan Collins  4-1-62

Hedda Hopper - 4-22-62

Abe Burrows - 5-6-62

Willie Mays & Paul Anka - 7-15-62

Benny Goodman - 7-22-62

Dick Powell - 9-9-62

Daniel Zanuck/Jacqueline Mayer - 9-16-62

Robert Ryan & Nanette Fabrey - 10-21-62

Tony Martin - 10-28-62

Jane Russell - 3-18-62

Vaughn Meader - 12-30-62

Anthony Quinn - 2-3-63

Judy Holiday - 4-28-63

Gil Hodges - 5-28-63

Peter Paul & Mary - 7-7-63

Van Heflin - 1-19-64

George Burns - 2-2-64

Johnny Mercer/Jane Fonda - 2-9-64

Bert Lahr - 2-23-64

Debbie Reynolds - 3-1-64

Stan Musial/Steve Allen - 3-8-64

McGuire Sisters - 5-3-64

Beatrice Lillie - 5-10-64

Frank Fontaine - 6-21-64

Steve Lawrence & Eydie Gorme - 9-27-64

James Garner - 10-25-64

Gene Kelly - 12-27-64

Floyd Patterson - 2-7-65

Tommy Sands & Nancy Sinatra - 2-28-65

Lucille Ball - 3-7-65

Eli Wallick/Alan Arkin/Anne Jackson - 3-14-65

Art Carney - 3-21-65

Robert Mitchum - 3-28-65

George Jessel - 4-11-65

Marian Anderson - 4-18-65

Barbara Streisand - 4-25-65

Anthony Newly & Joan Collins - 5-30-65

Talluhah Bankhead - 6-6-65

Art Linkletter - 6-13-65

Ethel Mermen - 6-27-65

Trini Lopez - 7-4-65

Jack Dempsey -7-11-65

Milton Berle - 7-18-65

Carol Channing/Ginger Rogers/Lucille Ball - 7-25-65

Vonda Kay Van Dyke/Allen Ludden & Betty White - 9-5-65

Edgar Bergen & Candace Bergen - 9-12-65

Muhammad Ali - 9-19-65

Sean Connery/Henry Fonda - 10-3-65

Gordon & Sheila McRae - 10-10-65

Oscar Levant - 10-17-65

Danny Kaye/Bette Davis - 11-24-65

Joey Heatherton - 11-7-65

Maureen O'Sullivan - 11-14-65

Ray Milland - 11-21-65

Haley Mills - 11-28-65

Edward G Robinson - 12-5-65

Kate Smith - 12-12-65

Alan J Lerner & Buddy Hackett - 12-26-65

Hugh Hefner & Polly Bergen - 1-9-66

Carol Channing - 2-6-66

Carol Burnett - 3-20-66

Gwen Verdon - 5-15-66

Soupy Sales - 5-29-66

Carroll Baker - 6-26-66

Jayne Mansfield - 7-17-66

Pearl Bailey - 8-28-66

Peter Ustinov - 9-18-66

George Hamilton - 10-16-66

Michael Caine - 11-13-66

Frank Sinatra & Mia Farrow - 11-27-66

Steve McQueen - 12-18-66

Abbe Lane - 1-15-67

Vince Lombardi/Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass - 1-22-67

Tony Randall - 2-5-67

Andy Griffith - 2-19-67

Marty Allen & Steve Rossi - 2-26-67

Jacqueline Susann/Judy Garland - 3-5-67

Raquel Welch - 4-30-67

Allan Sherman - 5-14-67

The Supremes - 5-21-67

Lawrence Welk - 5-28-67

Jack Jones - 6-4-67

Betty Grable - 6-18-67

Everett Dirksen - 7-9-67

Lauren Bacall - 7-23-67

Jack E. Leonard - 8-6-67

Woody Allen - 8-13-67

Jill St. John - 8-20-67

Hugh O'Brian - 8-27-67

John Daly - 9-3-67

 



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