Saturday, October 28, 2006

The absolute classic quiz show "You Bet Your Life" premiered on NBC television fifty years ago this day. It starred the one and only Groucho Marx. I have always loved Groucho and I watched that show every single week. Groucho Marx was without doubt one of the funniest men on the planet. Together with announcer George Fennerman (who was the greatest straight man of all times) the show lasted on television for eleven years for 429 episodes. It was filmed before a studio audience long before Desi Arnaz applied this idea to "I Love Lucy" Groucho would be introduced with the music to "Hooray For Captain Spaulding" his signature song first introduced in the 1930 classic film "Animal Crackers". The show would revolve around the conversations that Groucho would have with the various contestants --they hoping of course that they would be able to say "the secret word" (pronounced "woid" on the show) for a $50 prize. If a contrestant uttered the word, a mustachioed toy duck wearing eye glasses and holding a cigar in his bill resembling Groucho, himself would come down with great musical fanfare! In one special episode, Harpo Marx, himself came down-- it was a classic moment in television! Contestants were paired individuals of the opposite sex who were not married to one another or related in any other way. Sometimes celebrities were paired with other "ordinary" people." In the contest itself, contestants would choose from several categories. Oner popular category was to name a state after Groucho would read a number of the names of cities to be found there. Each couple started with $20 (cheap, huh?) They were asked four questions in their chosen category. For each question they "bet" up to all of the money they had accumulated up to this point. If a couple had bet and lost all of their money, they were asked a dummy question like "Who's burried in Grant's Tomb?" or "What color is the White House"-- so that at least they'd get cab fare out of the evening! One classic evening a woman who had nineteen children (19!) came on. Groucho asked her incredulously "Why so many children?" To which the woman answered with the plaintive response "Because I love my husband" And Groucho replied (as only the Great Groucho Marx could) "And I like a good cigar, but I take it out of my mouth once in a while!" Oh the laughter-- it went on for two minutes straight! The show was sponsored by Plymouth automobile and their famous "DeSotto" line. Jack Benny once did a spoof of the program on his own television show and the two great comedians shared some comic barbs that have not been equalled to this day! Jack pretends to be someone else on this "game" and loses the competition based on the last question to be asked --and all because that question was "How old is Jack Benny?' Everybody in the world knows that Jack Benny never revealed his true age in his lifetime-- and so Benny who flubs the answer because he won't give the true answer loses the cash! Jack Benny losing cash? OMG! Another classic moment. This episode was so funny that it actually outshined the great Groucho. Jack's timning was absolutely impeccable. Groucho bought the Benny episode from the network and while he lived that episode could only be watched at Groucho's home in his projection room-- and then ONLY if you were invited to watch it! It has since shown up on DVD. It's classic! Before she was famous, Phylis Diller once appeared on the program and traded barbs with the great Groucho one on one! Head to head! Daws Butler appaered on the program and no one recognized him until he slipped into his famous Huckelberry Hound voice while answering a question about --you guessed it hound dogs. God love you, Groucho, you certainly made me laugh over the years!

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