You Bet Your Life
- TV Series
Groucho Marx hosts a quiz show which features a series of competitive questions and a great deal of humourous conversation.Groucho Marx hosts a quiz show which features a series of competitive questions and a great deal of humourous conversation.Groucho Marx hosts a quiz show which features a series of competitive questions and a great deal of humourous conversation.
They were immediately put to good use, as Channel 2 immediately launched feature films in some very strategic spots. First off, they inaugurated the Saturday Night 10:30 to Midnight(time approximate)slot with the top films that they had under the Umbrella Heading of "THE BEST OF MGM!"* The weekday nightly film, which started at either 10:30 or 11:00 entitled, "THE LATE SHOW." Logically, if there was a Late Show, then there had to be a daily afternoon film and it was called, (Are you ready for this one?)"THE EARLY SHOW!", in the 4:30 to 6:00 slot.
Well, it was the reason for this extended intro and seemingly unrelated couple o' paragraphs,that we both labored under. Of these 3 Marx Brothers, the first 2 were an Italian immigramt/Italian Impersonator, Chico with all his double talk routines, imitation Italian accent and malapropism; and brother, Harpo, mute on the screen but capable of generating as much laughter as any 2 lesser funny men.
And with them, was a young, energetic monologist, who used heavy greasepaint to feign bushy eyebrows and heavily mustachioed face. It was sort of shocking to a 5th Grader, but this young bespectacled and cigar smoking' guy looked like a younger version of a favourite TV Comedian of ours, Groucho Marx! What a shock to find-out that t'is was the very same fellow! You see, to a 'Baby-boomer' a film like this one, A DAY AT THE RACES(1935), was looked upon as a prequel to NBC TV's YOU BET YOUR LIFE!
Most of any folks of about 60 years got their first view of a middle-aged, sharp witted, fast on the draw, quick on the come back, Groucho. We learned of their movies at MGM later. Still later, we discovered 4 Marx Brothers when their five Paramount Pictures were also sold to television.
But as for our Groucho, he was the MC of this non spectacular quiz format half hour. The format of the game varied as little from season to season, as various ways of gaining about the same end were given tryouts over the 11 seasons. (That's eleven (11) years, not counting the show's Genisis on NBC Radio.) As Groucho's straight man and foil, Announcer George Fenneman, was present for all of the TV segments. George was the perennial "Good Sport" American Citizen. Whatever the craze or stunt, Groucho had George do it. Where something odd called for a 'volunteer' to act as a tester, Mr. Marx always 'volunteered' George. Whenever a lovely, young and eligible Lady would appear, you could be sure Groucho would try to act as 'Matchmaker'. All the time, never a mention of George's being happily married with children, already! There was some rumor that Fenneman did not like his Boss, and that Groucho mistreated him. In later years, George dispelled such as strictly bunk! In some latter day interviews for television special(THE UNKNOWN MARX BROS., I think), Mr. Fenneman proved him to be a true fan of the Marxes when growing up. He made mention of seeing the on-stage material try-outs that the Brothers did for their first MGM Pictures He saw them over and over again, never guessing that he'd work with Groucho one day.
The featured contestants were mainly just common folk, selected from the studio audience. They would have their time talk with and get interviewed by Groucho. Groucho would have benefit of summaries of each person's occupation, interests and peculiarities. The banter would back and forth, and everybody took their turn on the carpet.
As it was a filmed rather than live presentation(no video tape in use until 1958), naturally, it was edited. The crews reportedly filmed about an hour and left in the best to fill out this half-hour. This wasn't cheating, as Groucho was as fast with the barb as anyone and being TV, everything had to be sharply timed, split second precision and "humming" like a fine Swiss watch with jeweled movement.
In addition to the 'common folk', a large number of celebrities from the Worlds of Hollywood, the Sports Page and others of the Famous and Infamous, made regular appearances teamed with the regular folks. As just a sampling we remember*** seeing such luminaries as Boxing Legend- Mickey Walker, Action/Western Star-Ray "Crash" Corrigan, Singer-Bobby Van, The Champ(Himself)-Joe Louis,USC Football Twins Marlin McKeever and brother(?), the 'Dixie Derrick', World's Strongest Man-Paul Anderson (fresh from victory at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics), Mr. Universe-Reg Lewis, Pro Wrestlers "Wild" Red Berry and 600 lb.'Haystacks' Calhoun, Pacific Coast League(later American League)Umpire-Emmett Ashford. Character Comedian, Pedro Gonzalez-Gonzalez,with a little radio experience got 'discovered while a contestant on YOU BET YOUR LIFE!
Groucho never forgot the family either, as Harpo made an "unscheduled" appearance in order to hawk his 1961 autobiography, HARPO SPEAKS! Chico and Harpo were also seen in commercials for Prom Home Permanent.
As for commercial identification their with the program was a pair of now defunct cars from the Chrysler Corporation, who acted as the footer of bills for several seasons. We could count on the ending of each show to include Groucho's popping out of a port-hole, imparting his wisdom with, "....and be sure to stop in and see your local DeSoto/Plymouth Dealer! And when you do, tell him Groucho sent you!", ending it with a couple of rapid eyebrow raises!
And through all seasons, all shows, Groucho Marx proved himself to be a most intelligent, well (self)educated and decent of a man. He always seemed to be rooting for the contestants to win.
- Aug 8, 2007