What's My Line?

Caproni

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What's My Line? is one of my favorite classic television game shows. It originally aired as a weekly series on CBS from 1950 to 1967, and then again as a daily series from 1968 to 1975 in first-run syndication. In total, the show ran for twenty-five seasons and produced 2,196 episodes. It is one of the longest-running prime time game shows in the history of American television.

In case you are unfamiliar with the show's format, the game uses a group of four celebrity panelists to question contestants in order to find out their occupation (or their "line" of work). There were sometimes two or three (and rarely a fourth) guest that was merely presented as means of finding out their occupation. Each episode also featured at least one (sometimes more) celebrity "mystery guests" that required the panelists to be blindfolded.

Any fans of this show?

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Seaviewer

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American game shows used to be shown a lot here. Now we only get our local versions.
I do remember watching What's My Line? with Arlene Francis and Soupy Sales as regular panelists and Wally Bruner as host back in the early seventies.
 

Caproni

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My favorite is Arlene Francis, the "popular star of stage and television".

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Angela Channing

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One of my favourite actors of all time is Paul Muni but he didn't seem to do any interviews that I could find. The only thing I've seen him in that wasn't one of his films was an old episode of What's My Line that I found on YouTube. He didn't speak, he just gave his answers by playing on the violin.

 

Caproni

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One of my favourite actors of all time is Paul Muni but he didn't seem to do any interviews that I could find. The only thing I've seen him in that wasn't one of his films was an old episode of What's My Line that I found on YouTube. He didn't speak, he just gave his answers by playing on the violin.

I don't believe I've ever watched that episode. There's many, many that I haven't seen, and that's one of them.
 

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I really like a lot of the classic game shows. Unfortunately I didn’t get to see this one when it was on. I’ve caught it on YouTube and I really like the concept of the show. I didn’t realize it had such a long run but I could see why cause it seemed fun
 

Caproni

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Poor Dorothy Kilgallen and Larry Blyden!

Anyway, I'll occasionally watch an old episode if I run across it. It's a period piece, for sure.

It's funny that you linked an episode featuring Joan Crawford as the celebrity mystery guest. It seems she appeared on the show more times than anyone else.

Now, I'm not sure if that's true, but I know she was probably on the show six times or better.

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Caproni

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Does it strike anyone else as odd that Bennett Cerf always introduces John Charles Daly? I don't understand why he always says his full name? I believe Daly's Wikipedia page also lists him under his full given name. Was that the way he always worked---John Charles Daly?
 

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The Wikipedia article says he is known by both. although it doesn't explain why.
It mentions an uncredited appearance in Bye Bye Birdie as a reporter. In fact he appears as himself, and gives his name as "John Daly".
 

Caproni

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It always tickles me at how Zsa Zsa Gabor befuddles the panel in this chuckle-filled 1960 episode.

 

Snarky Oracle

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Wasn't there some controversy surrounding Dorothy Kilgallen's death?

Big controversy. She was probably murdered. Even the local cops thought her death scene seemed staged.

She was the only reporter to secure an interview with Jack Ruby, and she bragged she was going to blow the JFK case wide open.

Kilgallen died only hours before NYC's most infamous black-out... speaking of Joan Crawford.

 
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Caproni

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Jayne Mansfield appeared on WHAT'S MY LINE? on four separate occasions.

This was Mansfield's first appearance as a mystery guest, at the time when she was still starring as fictional film actress Rita Marlowe in WILL SUCCESS SPOIL ROCK HUNTER? on Broadway.

In her second appearance, Jayne has already achieved screen success with THE GIRL CAN'T HELP IT, and she was gearing up for the screen version of WILL SUCCESS SPOIL ROCK HUNTER?, which was another big hit at the box office.

By her third appearance on the show, Mansfield's film career had already declined. Her heyday at Fox was over, but she was still making low-budget foreign and B-grade American films while still making frequent appearances on TV. She stopped by to appear on the show shortly before migrating to Yonkers, New York where she'd star in BUS STOP in an Off-Broadway production.

Jayne's final appearance on the show was just under a year before her death. This time she was starring in a touring production of GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES, the "one role of Marilyn's she longed to play" according to one biographer.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BPmU8UJVfqI
 

Caproni

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Last night before bed I watched the 1958 episode of WHAT'S MY LINE? where Swedish-born actress Anita Ekberg popped in as the mystery guest. There were several comments about the roar of applause, whistles, and wolf calls heard as she entered, and many questioned if Ekberg's entrance offered the biggest audience reaction to a celebrity guest the show witnessed. Others theorized that bombshells like Jayne Mansfield and Mamie Van Doren got equally big responses.


Jayne Mansfield did get a big ovation during her 1964 appearance.


Mamie Van Doren excited the audience when she appeared on the show to promote UNTAMED YOUTH in 1957.


The audience went wild to see Debbie Reynolds on the show in 1959. This was during (perhaps shortly after) the publicity surrounding the end of her marriage to singer Eddie Fisher, and the public was very sympathetic towards her.


Doris Day received a strong audience response when she came on the show promoting THE PAJAMA GAME in 1957.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2tfYBaGjNfQ

Lana Turner caused the crowd to uproar in 1959 when she appeared shortly before the New York premiere of IMITATION OF LIFE.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MInlqjzIuBo

Lucille Ball, the First Lady of Television, excited the audience when she appeared as the celebrity mystery guest in 1965. This was during the time she was starring on THE LUCY SHOW, which was then bringing in strong Nielsen ratings.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=unYI4grbYrY

Is there anyone else any of you can think of that had a large response from the studio audience?​
 

Caproni

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I know one thing:

I don't like the syndicated version of WHAT'S MY LINE? that aired after CBS cancelled the prime time version. It aired from 1968 to 1975. Arlene Francis and Bennett Cerf were brought back as panelists (until Cerf passed away in 1971), while others included Soupy Sales, Alan Alda, Joyce Brothers, Jack Cassidy, Ruta Lee, Meredith MacRae, and Gene Rayburn.

A few of the rules were changed along the way. For instance, during the mystery guest round, the panelists were often given a time limit in which they were allotted the identity of the celebrity challenger. There was also a "Who's Who" round added when extra time was available. Essentially four contestants were chosen from the studio audience and their occupations were written on cards and the panelists had to unscramble to cards to decide which person aligned with which occupation.

One of the main things I dislike about the syndicated version is how less formal the whole setup is from the original. Everyone's mentioned by their first names, and the attire is much more casual. And personally I think the host and fellow panelists were somewhat dismissive of veterans like Arlene Francis and Bennett Cerf, who were well up in age and had been doing the show for more than 20 years.

Here's an episode from 1971 with Burt Reynolds as the guest. He was starring on DAN AUGUST, the TV detective series at the time.


Here's another early-'70s episode featuring Mama Cass Elliott as the celebrity guest.

 

Caproni

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Of course, that was the shift in the era overall.
Yes, but perhaps that's why I'm partial to the era it left behind. It also has to do with the fact that, in my mind at least, WHAT'S MY LINE? is synonymous with fine clothes and manners.​
 

Snarky Oracle

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Yes, but perhaps that's why I'm partial to the era it left behind. It also has to do with the fact that, in my mind at least, WHAT'S MY LINE? is synonymous with fine clothes and manners.​

Oh, yes. In the '50s and early-'60s, people were still dressing to go to the market. After that, they went in their underwear -- not that there's anything wrong with that, because underwear is comfortable.

 
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