THEN-CURRENT EVENTS: The "Daily Princetonian," the student newspaper of Princeton University, reported the following on Thursday, February 2, 1950, which was coincidentally the day of the first "What's My Line?" broadcast: "University officials yesterday denied a report by Dorothy Kilgallen that Princeton scientists were getting ready for a trip to the moon. Professor Daniel Sayre, chairman of the Department of Aeronautical Engineering, says Miss Kilgallen 'is a quarter century pre-mature.'" - Suzanne (2006)
Dr. Hoffmann: (to Phil Rizzuto) In spite of the fact you're a celebrity, do you consider your life worthwhile?
IN THE BEGINNING!!! This was the beginning of the long, wonderful, 17 and a half year journey of "What's My Line?" For this first episode, the panel was seated at a desk that was attached to John's desk. It definitely looked strange to see him seated next to the panel rather than in front of them on the other side of the stage. Also, one big difference was the absence of Arlene Francis. However, on the panel tonight was a feisty young girl reporter named Dorothy Mae Kilgallen who, along with Arlene and some scalawag named Bennett Cerf, would form the backbone of the most famous panel in history. Tonight, however, Dorothy is sitting in on the panel with poet Louis Untermeyer, former New Jersey governor Harold G. Hoffman and noted psychiatrist Richard Hoffmann. As for the panel's performance this evening, it was pretty solid for the first time out. In the first game, Louis correctly guessed that the young twentysomething girl from New York was a hat check girl. She was Pat Finch, who went down in history as not only the very first contestant but also the only regular contestant to appear three times on the show. In the second game, John called the game due to time and Arthur Feinberg of New York won the full prize by default. In the third game, Louis scored the second win by correctly guessing that Mr. Seymour Kolodny was actually Dr. Seymour Kolodny, DVM (Doctor of Veterinary Medicine). In the mystery guest round, Governor Hoffman correctly identified future Hall of Fame shortstop Phil Rizzuto. This definitely was a fine start for the panel and it was only the beginning. - Sargebri (2008)
WHERE WAS ARLENE? As was mentioned earlier, Arlene was not on the panel this week. She had been scheduled to appear on the panel, but a prior commitment kept her from appearing. She would make her debut appearance two weeks later on the second episode. However, Dorothy was away on assignment and wasn't on the panel for Arlene's debut. It wasn't until the third episode, a month later, that the two grand ladies of WML appeared together. Also, it was a good thing that Arlene and Dorothy would be on the panel together. Following the first show, some of the CBS brass didn't think very highly of Dorothy's competitiveness and her somewhat curt behavior. Many felt that the contrast of styles between Arlene's "good cop" nature and Dorothy's "bad cop" nature was the unbeatable combination that made the show such a classic. - Sargebri (2008)
WHERE WAS BENNETT? Everyone's favorite publisher panelist didn't make his appearance on the show until several months later. Interestingly, on his first appearance, he wasn't the punster nor did he give his famous long intro of John. It wouldn't be until a couple of years later that Bennett would join the panel full time and even longer before he would assume his very familiar anchor position at the end of the desk. - Sargebri (2008)
PAT FINCH!!! Little did anyone know, but this was the first of three WML appearances for young Pat Finch. When she appeared on this 1950 episode, she was an aspiring actress who was working at the Stork Club as a hat check girl. For the show's 5th anniversary in 1955, she returned with a new line, working as a chorus girl on Broadway. Her final appearance, appropriately, was on the show's 1967 grand finale when she appeared with tonight's fellow contestants Arthur Feinberg and Seymour Kolodny to give an update of what happened to them in the 17½ years since the first episode. It turns out that Pat was the busiest of the three. Not only did she achieve her dream of becoming an actress on Broadway and in commercials, but she got married and also added a new title to her resume, mom. - Sargebri (2008)
WORKING TITLE: Before going on the air, the program went by the working title Occupation Unknown, until CBS decided to change it to What's My Line? - agent_0042 (2008)
THE ORDER OF THINGS: In this first episode, mystery guest Phil Rizzuto appeared after all the regular occupations. In future episodes, the mystery guest would appear after the first two contestants. This was a wise move, as there often wasn't enough time for a final contestant to appear. - agent_0042 (2006)
FIRST MYSTERY GUEST: Phil Rizzuto was about to embark on his MVP season with the Yankees at the time of his appearance on the inaugural showing of "What's My Line?" He is the only MVP to lead his league in sacrifice bunts. He played on 7 World Champion Teams and was on 5 All Star Teams. He was a Yankee broadcaster from 1956-1996. He was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veteran's Committee in 1994. - cerfnet (2008)
FLIP REPORT: In this very first episode, John has not yet established the practice of flipping the remaining cards over when a contestant wins by time. As such, John announced that the second contestant won the full prize because time ran out, but this was not signified visually by the flipping of the cards. - agent_0042 (2006)
(1) NOT SO "FONT"-TASTIC: It wasn't just the set-up on this first show that was noticeably inauspicious. There was no "regular" type font for the overlay occupation screens, each of which appeared to be hand-painted and looked like a large sign, with some of them (e.g. the "Veterinarian" card) not accounting for television screen title safety as some letters at the beginning and end were missing. Furthermore, such overlays on this freshman effort were black type painted on a white background. It would be awhile before more professional typesetting (with white type against a black background) began to be used on "WML?," with Kabel Heavy (aka Sans Serif Bold, which was Monotype's name for the font) being the predominant typeface for occupation overlay screens (and after 1955, mystery guest names seen at the lower third of the screen) up to 1956, Futura Demi Bold from 1956 to the end of the network run in 1967, and News Gothic Bold for the 1968-1975 syndicated version.
(2) AN INTERESTING DETAIL: At the end of this premiere show, the off-screen announcer said (with accompanying end credit title cards which were the only professionally-typeset aspect of tonight's debut), "'What's My Line?' has been presented by CBS in association with Goodson-Todman Productions." This preceded by more than eight years G-T's sale of "WML?" to CBS, after which - beginning with EPISODE #422 of July 6, 1958 - the show was listed in the end credits as "A CBS Television Network Production in association with Mark Goodson and Bill Todman." In the years up to that point, the program had been "A Mark Goodson-Bill Todman Production in association with the CBS Television Network" - that is, except as noted within its first year on the air.
(3) IT WAS TWENTY YEARS AGO TODAY: On February 5, 1970, exactly twenty years and three days after tonight's premiere, Phil Rizzuto made an appearance on the 1968-1975 color syndicated incarnation of "WML?," his first appearance on the program since his last guest panelist stint on EPISODE #373 of July 28, 1957. On this syndicated installment, the "Scooter" was once again the mystery guest. The host at the time of the 1970 show was Wally Bruner, the panel on that occasion had consisted of Soupy Sales, Sheila MacRae, Bert Convy and Arlene Francis, and Gene Wood was filling in for then-announcer Johnny Olson. The 1970 episode was aired by GSN on August 2, 2006 as part of the month-long Baseball Hall of Fame 70th anniversary tribute.
An interesting side note about Mr. Rizzuto's 1970 syndicated mystery guest appearance is how the "WML?" dress code had come full circle, from the "street" clothes of the very first 1950 episode, to the more formal attire of tuxedos for the men and gowns for the women that within a few years of the 1950 premiere would come to be associated with the "Classic CBS" era, back to the more informal garb by the time the syndicated version came on the air. - W-B (2006)
(4) NEW YORK PRINT MEDIA IN 1950: At the time of "WML?'s" 1950 premiere, there were seven newspapers in New York. A month prior to the show's debut, there had been eight, but on January 4, 1950, the New York Sun (the paper famous for printing the legendary "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus" letter beginning in 1897) merged with the World-Telegram to become the New York World-Telegram and Sun, as it would be known for its remaining 16 years of existence. The writer A.J. Liebling, writing about the merger, compared the "and Sun" in the combined publication's name to the tail feathers of a canary in a cat's mouth. The other papers sold in New York at the time of tonight's 1950 debut were The New York Times, the Daily News, the New York Post (known during this period as the New York Post-Home News, the result of a 1948 merger with the Bronx Home News; the Post retained its old identity by 1954), the New York Herald Tribune, the Daily Mirror -- and Dorothy Kilgallen's place of employment, the New York Journal-American. The tabloid Mirror remained in publication through 1963; the World-Telegram and Sun, Journal-American and Herald Tribune -- broadsheets all -- ceased individual publication in 1966, then combined to form an ultimately ill-fated entity -- the World Journal Tribune -- which lasted until a few months prior to the last CBS "WML?" episode in 1967. Only the Times, the Post and the Daily News remained standing for "WML?'s" entire run.
(5) NEW YORK ELECTRONIC MEDIA IN 1950 - PART I: The CBS flagship station in New York, at the time of "WML?'s" debut in 1950, as well as at the time of the show's demise in 1967 and continuing to this day, was WCBS-TV (Channel 2). The other stations on the dial as of tonight were NBC-owned WNBT (Channel 4, which became WRCA-TV on October 18, 1954 and WNBC-TV on May 22, 1960), DuMont-owned WABD (Channel 5, which remained in existence even after the DuMont network's collapse in 1955, became WNEW-TV on September 7, 1958, with the parent company for years being Metromedia, and finally, after 1986, WNYW, the cornerstone of the Fox network), ABC-owned WJZ-TV (Channel 7, which signed on in 1948 and adopted its current call letters of WABC-TV on March 1, 1953), and independent stations WOR-TV (Channel 9, which signed on in October of 1949; it moved to Secaucus, NJ in 1983 and became WWOR-TV in 1987), WPIX (Channel 11, which signed on a few months prior to Channel 7 in 1948) and WATV (Channel 13, which became WNTA-TV in 1958 after the station was sold to National Telefilm Associates; following NTA's unloading the station in late 1961, the station was retooled as educational station WNDT in 1962, changing its call letters to the current WNET in 1970). All the above stations were on the VHF (Very High Frequency) dial. UHF (Ultra-High Frequency) did not exist until a few years later, but it didn't really take off until after a 1964 government mandate requiring that TV set manufacturers include UHF tuners in their sets. By the time "WML?" left the air in 1967, there were the following additional stations on the air: WNYC-TV (Channel 31), Newark, NJ-based WNJU-TV (Channel 47) and educational station WNYE-TV (Channel 25). When the syndicated "WML?" debuted in 1968, another station, Paterson, NJ-based WXTV (Channel 41), took to the airwaves, and by the time the plug was pulled on the syndicated version in 1975, there were still more stations in the New York area: WLIW (Channel 21, Garden City, NY), WNJM (Channel 50, Montclair, NJ), and WBTB (Channel 68, Newark, NJ; became WTVG in 1977, WWHT in 1979, WHSE -- the New York-area flagship of the Home Shopping Network -- in 1986; and as of this writing in 2008, is known as Spanish-language Telefutura station WFUT).
(6) NEW YORK ELECTRONIC MEDIA IN 1950 - PART II: A few months after "WML?'s" debut, a broadcast veteran who, up to that point, had been general manager of WNEW (1130 AM), was hired by NBC to oversee its New York radio and TV properties (WNBC-AM 660, WNBC-FM 97.1 and WNBT). He would remain there until 1955. The name of this broadcast executive: Ted Cott. This is the same Ted Cott who was married to a future "WML?" guest panelist, Sue Oakland, from 1956 until his death from a heart attack in 1973.
(7) At the time of the most recent airing of tonight's inauspicious premiere by GSN on February 26, 2008, the show cut off right at the end credit title card. The last time the full credits -- such as they were -- were shown was on the special July 14, 2006 airing which was within the month-long 70th anniversary tribute to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
(8) GSN's February 26, 2008 airing of this debut "WML?" episode was followed by a repeat of an edition of "I've Got a Secret," hosted by Garry Moore with the regular panel of Bill Cullen, Betsy Palmer, Henry Morgan and Bess Myerson, which was first presented "live from New York" on June 3, 1963. The celebrity guest was Hugh O'Brian. This episode had last aired in 2007 on GSN when the cable and satellite channel's "Black and White Overnight" block only aired once a week. - W-B (2008)
IT ALMOST FLOPPED: This episode of "What's My Line?" is a genuine collector's item, but it was so rough CBS almost pulled the plug! Among the items to note: almost the entire panel and Daly smoke on camera and create a huge fog at one point in the broadcast. The episode features no music and has a dry, dead feel. Dorothy Kilgallen is the only female panelist and the only one of the eventual regulars to appear. The contestants sign in on an ill-staged artist's easel. One camera makes at least two awkward swish-pans down the panel. You can see why CBS almost canned the whole show. Not until after the third show when director Franklin Heller was brought on board to restage "Line" did Stopette agree to sponsor the game and CBS stuck with it on the road to a record prime time run. Heller said in "The Golden Years of Television" that the network had served notice on Mark Goodson that a fourth episode would not be produced unless the problems of the first two shows were solved. - Steve Beverly, Webmaster, TVgameshows.net (2006)
GSN BROADCAST HISTORY:
For the fourth airing, the episodes took longer than usual to cycle through their full rotation because GSN switched from daily airings to weekly airings between the dates of October 2, 2006 and January 1, 2008, when they once again resumed daily airings. - Suzanne (updated 2008)
1) Aired on January 1, 1999 as part of GSN's "1sts on the 1st" marathon of first episodes of game shows.
2) Aired on September 28, 2004, in regular rotation.
3) Aired on July 14, 2006, as part of GSN'S month-long "BASEBALL HALL OF FAMERS TRIBUTE" featuring celebrities from the field of baseball.
4) Aired on February 26, 2008, in regular rotation.
BASEBALL HALL OF FAME TRIBUTE: GSN aired this landmark premiere episode on July 14, 2006 as part of a month-long airing of "WML?" episodes with at least one game featuring a figure from the world of baseball, as tied in to the 70th anniversary of the Baseball Hall of Fame. - W-B (2006)
REVIEWS: In 1950, Billboard Magazine contained a very thorough review of this first episode. - cpdelta (2004)
HOW IT ALL BEGAN!!! This was how the legend was born. It's quite interesting to see the rather Spartan set, as opposed to the more stylish set that the show would get in later years. It is also interesting to see the rather prehistoric camera work that was being used on this first episode. But all of this would improve over the years, as well as the pacing of the show. As far as the games themselves went, the panel had a pretty decent night. They were able to guess that Pat Finch was a hat check girl. With Pat's three WML appearances over the years, she has the distinction of holding the record for the most appearances by a regular contestant. Next, the panel didn't do so well with Mr. Feinberg, as they couldn't figure out that he worked for a diaper service company. However, they did guess that Doctor Kolodny was a veterinarian. In fact, it was adorable when Dorothy literally "barked like a dog" as the panel was having their conference. The panel also did well in guessing that the mystery guest was none other than "The Scooter" Phil Rizzuto. Of course, Rizzuto was in the middle of his 15 year career as shortstop for the New York Yankees. He has been called by many as probably one of the greatest shortstops to ever play the game. Over the span of his career, he was on seven Yankee world championship teams, and he was about to experience his greatest offensive year ever, as he would bat a lifetime best .324 during the upcoming 1950 baseball season. He was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1994 by the Veterans Committee. After he finished playing baseball, he moved into the broadcast booth, where he became the voice of the Yankees, and his famous saying "HOLY COW" would be a highlight of each broadcast. Regarding tonight's personalities, it was quite interesting to see how the panel interacted with each other. Arlene won't join them until the second broadcast, and we are still quite some time away from Bennett and his bad puns. Bennett debuts as a guest panelist in October 1950, but doesn't become a regular panelist until March 1953. You get to see a younger Dorothy and John. In analyzing Dorothy's performance, she essentially acts and performs the same in this episode as she does in later years. She plays the game with her usual enthusiasm, and to this writer, doesn't display the negative qualities that many have said she displayed. In fact, she almost seemed to be flirting with Mr. Feinberg by feeling his muscles. Also, you get what probably is a very rare shot of John lighting up a cigarette on camera. This definitely was an interesting What's My Line? to look at. - Sargebri (2004 & 2006)
WML CBS STUDIO HISTORY: 1950 - 1967
Timeline compiled by Suzanne (2004)
CBS Studio 41 (Grand Central Studios at Grand Central Terminal, aka Grand Central Station, NY) (From EPISODE #1 on 2/2/1950 to EPISODE #4 on 3/16/1950.)
CBS Studio 51 (Maxine Elliott's Theatre, aka Maxine Elliott Theatre, 109 W. 39th St., NY) (From EPISODE #5 on 4/12/1950 to 1951.) (The theatre was demolished in 1956, per IBDB.)
CBS Studio 72 (On Manhattan's Upper West Side, Broadway at 81st St., NY) (One special early experimental color show was broadcast from this studio on EPISODE #225 on 9/19/1954.)
CBS Studio 59 (Mansfield Theatre, later in 1960 renamed the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, 256 W. 47th St., NY) (From 1951 to EPISODE #516 on 6/5/1960.)
CBS Studio 52 (254 W. 54th St., NY) (Note: the stage door entrance is located on W. 53rd St., NY) (From EPISODE #517 on 6/12/1960 to EPISODE #829 on 9/4/1966.) (Note: Later, from 04/26/1977 to 1986, this studio became the famous Studio 54 Discotheque.)
CBS Studio 50 (Later renamed the Ed Sullivan Theatre, 1697 Broadway at 53rd St., NY) (Color shows from EPISODE #830 on 9/11/1966 to EPISODE #876 on 9/3/1967.)
In addition, "WML?" originated outside of New York on two different occasions in its 17.5-year history. The addresses of these studios are below. - W-B (2008)
WBBM-TV (630 N. McClurg Ct., Chicago, IL) (EPISODE #323 on 8/12/56 originated from the studios of CBS's Chicago O&O, as John Daly was preparing to cover the Democratic National Convention for ABC News.)
CBS Television City (7800 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, CA) (The special "West Coast" EPISODE #397 on 1/12/58 emanated here.)
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT - Regarding guest panelists: In Gil Fates' 1978 WML book, in Chapter 7, which is titled "It's How You Play the Game," Gil said that first-time guest panelists were all invited and encouraged to attend a 30-minute "indoctrination session" to learn tips and pointers on how to be a guest panelist. For those who were unable to attend, Gil sent them a letter detailing the rules of game play and 15 sample questions. Gil said the "smart ones" attended, and the "not-so-bright" ones skipped the practice and sometimes went out on stage and floundered. - Suzanne (2004)
CONTESTANT PATRICIA FINCH - Pat Finch will appear two more times on WML. Her second appearance will be on the 5th anniversary show, EPISODE #244 on February 6, 1955. At that time, she will have a new occupation as a chorus girl in a Broadway play. Her third and final appearance will be on the very last show, EPISODE #876 on September 3, 1967. - Suzanne (2004)
ARLENE FRANCIS - In Arlene Francis' 1978 autobiography, she explains that she was hired as a panelist for What's My Line? from the very beginning. She said that she was supposed to appear on the first show, but was unable to attend that night, for some reason that she couldn't remember at the time she wrote her book. She makes her first appearance on the second show. - Suzanne (2004)
THE ORIGINS OF WHAT'S MY LINE? There are several differing explanations of the origins of WML. Here is what Gil Fates wrote in his 1978 WML book: "There are a dozen versions of the origin of "What's My Line?," but actually it evolved from an idea for a program called "Stop the Camera," which was the brainchild of Bob Bach with an assist from Martin Stone, the developer of TV's "Howdy Doody." Sprinkled among the studio audience of "Stop the Camera" were three or four celebrities. The moderator was to place a phone call to a contestant at home who was then to watch her television screen as a TV camera panned the audience row by row. As soon as the contestant on the phone saw a familiar face on her screen, she was to scream, "Stop the camera!" and then for a prize, identify the celebrity in the closeup.
In practice, the idea didn't work, so Martin Stone suggested that they skip both the audience shots and the celebrity idea and seat six ordinary people with different occupations on the stage. He suggested the emcee announce that one of these people was a plumber and as the camera panned the six faces, the contestant on the phone at home would ask to "stop the camera" on the person she thought was indeed the plumber. If she got it right, she would be awarded a prize and then be asked to indicate in the same way which of the remaining five was the telephone operator, etc. If she got all six, she would have hit some mind-boggling jackpot. This rather drastic revision seemed to work better, but not enough better.
It was then that Mark Goodson, intrigued by Bob's explanation of the idea, entered the picture. Over a period of weeks, the six occupations were reduced to one, the telephone contestant was replaced by a panel of four questioners, a Mystery Celebrity was introduced for variety, and the title was changed to "What's My Line?" Bill Todman pitched the idea to CBS and they went for it." - transcribed by Suzanne (2004)
THE GOODSON-TODMAN EMPIRE - Mark Goodson and Bill Todman were the geniuses behind Goodson-Todman Productions. In addition to "What's My Line?" they became famous for such hit game shows as "Winner Take All," "I've Got a Secret," "Beat the Clock," "The Name's the Same," "To Tell the Truth," "The Price is Right," "The Match Game," "Password" and more. They also produced a dramatic anthology, "The Web," which was broadcast on CBS television from July 1950 through September 1954 and then on NBC television for four months in 1957. By 1968, all of the G-T game shows had been cancelled by CBS in a "game show purge" off of the network. - Suzanne (2004)
77 PRE-TAPED EPISODES - Between July 1959 and July 1967, 77 CBS "WML?" programs were pre-taped. "WML?" was the Goodson-Todman show somewhat late to pre-taping, with the look-alike panel shows, "I've Got a Secret" having started the prerecording process in July 1958 and "To Tell the Truth" having followed suit shortly afterwards. The remaining 799 "WML?" programs were telecast "live" to the east coast and central United States. - WML Fan (2004)
THE VERY FIRST MYSTERY GUEST - Mystery guest Phil Rizzuto is a shortstop for the New York Yankees baseball team. He does not speak much on this episode. - Suzanne (2004)
BLINDFOLDS - On this first episode only, the "mystery guest blindfolds" were handed to the panel members by assistant Madeline Tyler. This was her only appearance on the series. As usual for WML and the era, remarks were made about her good looks. From the second episode forward, the masks would be on the panel desk before the program began. - Suzanne (2004)
FIVENINEGAL'S THOUGHTS - Dorothy Kilgallen looked lovely in this first episode, although she did appear rather nervous. The camera stayed on her quite a bit and I felt as though she might be thinking, "Get that wretched thing off me!!" Her acerbic wit was definitely present from day one, thank goodness! I loved how she, in classic DK form, had to feel the muscles of one male contestant. I'm greatly looking forward to Arlene appearing in the next episode and seeing how their on-screen relationship blossoms. As for John Daly, he looked SO young! I will be glad when they get the set into its regular positioning. I prefer John being across from the panel as opposed to right next to them. Overall, this was a highly entertaining episode, just for the history alone! - fiveninegal (2004)
HOST JOHN CHARLES DALY - John Daly uses the phrase that the contestant "stumped the panel!" This phrase will be continually used for the next 17.5 years. It is amazing how comfortable John Daly is on this episode. His friendly manner is essentially unchanged over the 17.5 year run. - Suzanne (2004)
THE LOOK OF THINGS - The opening credits show continuous graphic panels scrolling by. In order, they read, "Doctor," "Lawyer," "Merchant" and "Chief." Next to the text is shown drawings of these occupations. Finally, the last panel shows "What's My Line?" with a big question mark behind it, and of all things, a big shadow that doesn't belong there! There is no background music with either the opening or closing credits. The studio set is not in its familiar placement yet. Mr. Daly is situated between the sign-in board on his right and the panel desk on his left. His desk is directly adjacent to the panel's desk, situated at about a 45 degree angle. The men are wearing suits and ties. The sign-in board is a white piece of paper or art board on an easel. The contestant signs in with what appears to be a black felt marking pen. Even this was fairly new technology, as the first felt tip marker was estimated to have been created in the 1940s. - Suzanne (2004)
GUILT COMPLEX? - When Dorothy introduces former Governor Harold G. Hoffman, she calls him a "raconteur." He jokes that he's glad she didn't pronounce it "racketeer." A racketeer is a person who commits crimes for profit, especially one who obtains money by fraud or extortion. The truly ironic thing about Hoffman's comment is that in 1954, right after his death, it was discovered that he had embezzled $300,000 from a bank in Perth Amboy, New Jersey. More about his crimes on EPISODE #2. - Suzanne (2004)
TIDBITS: This is the first of two episodes to be directed by Paul Munroe. Half-way through the episode, John lights and smokes a cigarette, as does Dr. Richard H. Hoffmann, a panel member. On WML, Louis Untermeyer's name is always pronounced as "Louie," never as "Lewis." Even on this first episode, John Daly exhibits his sarcastic wit when he says, "But, I think that Mr. Untermeyer's mask improves his looks a great deal. Maybe we ought to get him one to use all the time." It's no wonder that in the future, when Bennett Cerf arrives with his own brand of sarcastic humor, John and Bennett begin a long habit of trading sarcastic barbs and jokes with each other. At all times, it is done in the spirit of good humor and friendship. - Suzanne (2004)
HOW MANY WHAT'S MY LINE? EPISODES REMAIN? - Due to some very short-sighted thinking in the early 1950s and some large mistakes made by TV editors in 1975, 118 CBS "WML?" programs are lost. We must praise our guiding force, Executive Producer Gil Fates, for saving the 758 programs we do have access to. As Gil discussed in his 1978 WML book, when "Line" first took air, he was an employee of CBS and was "more or less" the network overseer of WML. He left after the first few episodes for other assignments, including "The Faye Emerson Show." After Goodson-Todman hired him in late 1952 to produce "Line" and "I've Got A Secret," he discovered something very disturbing at "Line." Someone at Goodson-Todman wasn't paying attention to what the network was doing with the kinescopes, which were actually made for the sponsor and not for any long-term historical reference! "WML?" was kinescoped from the beginning, and the first shows were preserved, along with the debuts of Bennett Cerf and Steve Allen. Gil never could recall why those shows were spared the garbage can. However, by late 1950, someone at CBS made the horrible decision that all general shows were to be disposed of every six months. By July 1952, only nine (yes, nine!) programs had been saved between 2/1/50 and 7/13/52. 102 "WML?" half-hour programs were now forever history. There would be no seeing Sister Kenney, The Continental, Joe Louis, Carrmen Miranda, Sam Goldwyn or Earl Warren. (Little did John Daly know that Earl Warren would be his future father-in-law nine years later!) In one of his first acts as executive producer, Gil ended this wreckless destruction policy. From there forward, with 16 exceptions, all the kinescopes were saved. Photographs exist in the CBS Archive of a few of the early lost shows. As for the remaining 16 post-1952 lost episodes, a large portion of those were inadvertently destroyed when Goodson-Todman produced their 1975 special, "ABC's Wide World of Entertainment: What's My Line? At 25." In his 1978 WML book, Gil Fates described how this special show was created and how its use of old clips was ahead of its time. However, the then-innovative process of taking old clips and incorporating them into a new program on videotape damaged beyond repair several of the original irreplaceable program kinescopes. In addition, some additional remaining episodes contain "odd jumps" in the kinescope print from the poor editing job of cutting and splicing. When the editor tried to replace the old kinescope clip used in the 1975 program, more often than not, the "restoration" caused a jump in the original print. The lame edits and the loss of these programs is a terrible occurrence. However, it all goes back to the now-backward mindset of the 1970s that preached the lie that there was absolutely no residual value to these old panel shows. GSN proved that notion very wrong. - WML Fan (2004)
PHIL RIZZUTO - In about 1986, when I was working as a sports writer in Pennsylvania, I went to a sports banquet to talk to Phil Rizzuto. Most older folks then remembered him from his days as the star shortstop of the New York Yankees, but younger people were more familiar with him as one of the Yankees' radio and TV broadcasters. At the time, though, there were people who knew him not from either of those pursuits, but from some TV commercials he had just been doing for "The Money Store." I remember asking him about that, and it really hit a nerve of his, because he said it amazed him how he'd been affiliated with the Yankees for about 40 years, and yet people would see him on the street and yell, "Hey, it's the Money Store guy!" He also said how the same sort of thing used to bother Joe DiMaggio, who, to anyone under 50 at the time, was known more as "Mr. Coffee" than as one of the greatest baseball players of all time. Anyway, Rizzuto was one of the nicest fellows I'd ever met, professionally or otherwise. I'm a journalist and have always strived not to get too chummy with anybody I've interviewed or covered, but Rizzuto was just a great guy to talk to in any circumstance. I remember two other things about our encounter. I hardly ever used a tape recorder, but I did that night, and I thought it had broken at one point. I was fooling with it trying to get it going, and Rizzuto was trying to give me some advice on what might be wrong with it. We didn't realize it was actually working, and somewhere in my boxes of junk I probably still have an audio tape of him giving me advice on what might be wrong with the recorder. Also, I remember him telling me how, when he grew up, every young boy "either wanted to be Joe Louis, play for Notre Dame, or play for the Yankees." At the time, I certainly remembered the old "What's My Line?" shows on CBS. But nobody had seen the show in nearly 20 years, and I was unaware that Rizzuto had been the first mystery guest on the first episode in 1950. If I had known that, I certainly would have asked him for some recollections about the first show. - Bill Savage, August 2004
FIRST WHAT'S MY LINE? EPISODE - The first show has no formal sponsor yet. What's My Line? was originally scheduled as a thirteen-week 1950 summer replacement show. They soon acquired a sponsor, Stopette Deodorant, and the rest is history. By September 1967, What's My Line? had aired for over seventeen years with no repeat broadcasts! Its telecast history began in CBS Studio 41 in Grand Central Studios. The large studio was housed in a third-floor loft directly over the main waiting room of New York's Grand Central Station. With pigeons looking on from the rafters, this primetime series debuted on Thursday February 2, 1950 at 8:00 PM EST and aired on alternating weeks. On Wednesday April 12, 1950, the broadcasting was changed to alternate Wednesday evenings at 9:00 PM EST. On Sunday October 1, 1950, CBS moved the quiz show to Sunday at 10:30 PM EST, finally airing weekly. WML then remained in this weekly Sunday evening time slot until the final show, EPISODE #876 on September 3, 1967. This classic CBS series had survived for seventeen and one-half years on the air. - Suzanne (2004)
HOST: John Charles Daly (2/20/1914 - 2/24/1991)
More information about the host:
John Daly is a news reporter for CBS radio. During part of WML?'s run, he moved to ABC News TV and was eventually named vice-president for news, special events and public affairs of ABC. He was employed by ABC from 1953 until 1960.
PANEL: Harold G. Hoffman, Dorothy Kilgallen, Louis Untermeyer, Richard Hoffmann, MD.
More information about the very first panel:
Harold G. Hoffman (2/7/1896 - 6/4/1954) was the former Republican New Jersey Governor from 1935 to 1938.
Dorothy Kilgallen (7/3/1913 - 11/8/1965) is a Broadway gossip columnist and crime journalist.
Louis Untermeyer (10/1/1885 - 12/18/1977) is an American poet, anthologist and critic.
Dr. Richard H. Hoffmann (4/27/1887 - 6/18/1967) is a Park Avenue, New York neuropsychiatrist.
Note: In Gil Fates' 1978 WML book, he misspells Dr. Hoffmann's name as Richard Hoffman. - Suzanne (2004)