What's My Line?

Season 4 Episode 23


Aired Daily 12:00 AM Feb 08, 1953 on CBS



  • Trivia

  • Quotes

    • Hal: There'll be no more conference.

    • Jack Benny: (as he's exiting) Could I ask just one question?
      John: Why, sure.
      Jack Benny: Do I get paid for tonight?

    • Hal: Oh, this kid you can't pin down!
      Steve: If you can, maybe she's a wrestler.
      Hal: That's one way to make both ends meet!

    • John: Miss Francis, would you be good enough to ask that question again to help us to determine whether we could be quite fair in giving you the "no" that we want to give you?

    • John: Small conference please. Would you excuse us for twenty-five... I mean two... minutes? (He begins his conference with the lady minister.)
      Hal: Anyone wanna play bingo?
      Steve: Whatever happened to Old John?
      Arlene and Hal: (simultaneously jumping on an answer) He's become Young John!
      John: (to the panel, making shooing motions) Please, please go away.

  • Notes

    • (1) "WML?" OPENING WATCH: Tonight, announcer Lee Vines has resumed the introduction of "our 'What's My Line?' panel of well-known personalities whose lines you already know." It will be a matter of time before we officially hear the "award-winning" phrase incorporated into the intro.
      (2) THE LOOKS OF THINGS: For the third straight week, Steve Allen is attired in regular "street" clothes, while Hal Block -- about an hour away from being officially fired -- and John Daly are wearing what could pass for formal attire. And for Jack Benny's first mystery guest appearance on the show, his nameplate is set in the same font as those for John, Dorothy, Steve and Arlene.
      (3) "WML?" CREDITS CRUNCH WATCH: The foul, festering and fetid "crunching" of the end credits was once again in clear sight on the April 4, 2008 airing of this episode by GSN.
      (4) GARRY MOORE "IGAS" COUNTDOWN WATCH - 6 MORE SHOWS TO GO: Right after the April 4, 2008 airing of tonight's show, GSN repeated an edition of "I've Got a Secret," hosted by Garry Moore, which was originally transmitted "live from New York" on May 11, 1964. For the second week in a row, Woody Allen is on the panel in place of Bill Cullen, and he is joined by the rest of the "regular" crew of Henry Morgan, Betsy Palmer and Bess Myerson. The celebrity guest was Mr. Moore's long-time variety show regular, and "Candid Camera" co-host, Durward Kirby. - W-B (2008)


      Poor Hal Block gets fired after the show tonight. More details from Gil Fates' 1978 WML book are on the episode guide notes of EPISODE #144 of March 1, 1953. - Suzanne (2004)

      Date: April 10, 1953

      (begin quote)

      Television News and Views by Anton Reminih

      BLOCK vs. ALL: Since Hal Block, a What's My Line? mainstay for longer than this reviewer cares to remember, was fired, the rivalry and dissension on the program has vanished. He "never learned team play" and considered What's My Line? his private show [Hal, whose forte was suggestive questions cloaked in mock innocence, got bounced specifically for pulling a Harpo Marx chase act on an attractive female guest after she had revealed herself to be a Baptist minister.]

      (end quote)

      In the quote directly avove, the 1953 reviewer was discussing EPISODE #141 of February 8, 1953. The mystery guest was Jack Benny and this is the episode that is assumed to have been the night that Hal was told by Gil Fates that he was being let go.

      The first guest was Baptist minister Leila Dell Miller. As she leaves the stage and the camera is on John, a noticeable unexplained roar of laughter comes from the studio audience. It is possible that this was the above reported chasing of the guest by Hal, all off-camera. The next game featured the jazz drummer. This was the famed segment that was incorrectly rumored to have been the game where someone from the audience "cheated," by giving hand signals to Hal Block. However, this rumor, which was started by WML director Franklin Heller in a taped interview decades later in 1987, was proven - by the events on this episode - to be unfounded. Whatever actually led to Hal being fired, he was now officially gone from the show, never to return, after completing a few more episodes. - Shecky & Suzanne (2004)


      Franklin Heller was interviewed on a 1987 video which can be viewed at the "Museum of TV and Radio" in New York and California. This taped interview was never broadcast on television. However, the events Heller described in the tape do not match the actual events which took place on this episode. His memory of this 1953 episode had naturally dimmed after twenty-five years. On the 1987 tape, Heller accuses Hal Block of cheating on the "drummer" game which was determined to be EPISODE #141 of February 8, 1953. Of course, this is the same "early February 1953" when Gil Fates said, in his 1978 WML book, that Hal was fired.

      A 2001 usenet post claims that Franklin Heller related that Gil Fates saw Hal Block getting pantomime clues from his sister who was sitting in the front row. However, when this episode is actually viewed, what Heller claims is not fully accurate. Hal Block wasn't the first one who thought of music. Plus, it is highly doubtful that Hal could see an audience member sitting in the front row, what with the bright stage lights shining on him. - Suzanne (2004)


      There are some inaccuracies to Heller's videotaped comments. Hal Block only determined that the contestant was a jazz drummer with an assist from Dorothy Kilgallen. It was Dorothy, not Hal, who opened the musical door. Moreover, the questioning began with Hal, as I recall, and he had two, possibly three, periods of questioning before Dorothy called for a conference. At least $35 was accumulated on the flip cards before Hal guessed the contestant's line. Thus, if Hal had seen his sister in the front row drumming, why wouldn't he run with this idea right from the beginning, to nab it, as Heller said? Also, how could anyone be sure that Hal could see his sister from his spot on the far-end of the panel desk, considering the barrage of bulky equipment and bright lights that were surely stationed immediately off-stage?

      The other problem is that this episode wasn't Hal Block's final appearance - he did three more. This night was merely the one on which Gil Fates fired him. If he had been fired merely for cheating - a major offense even in the pre-scandal game show days, unless of course it was planned in advance - why wasn't Steve Allen brought in immediately to replace him?

      There was more to this firing than we may ever know. Fates and Heller have, I would guess, added their own accumulated personal feelings into their accounts of Hal's WML period, which is inevitable, but it makes their reports not entirely beyond dispute. It's the winners who write history, not the losers, and the fact that some 20, 25, 30, or more years passed before their separate reports were made means that they have had more than enough time to reconsider and possibly revise what really happened. These men would not be the first ones to rewrite history. - Dan Albertson (2004)

    • JACK BENNY GETS A LAUGH: Judging from the laugh from the audience and the reaction of the panel and John, Jack Benny does some kind of "take" after greeting the panel. However, since the camera doesn't catch it and it's not referred to afterward, whatever funny gesture Jack Benny made is lost to history. - Garrison Skunk (2004)

      A REASON FOR THE LAUGH: Jack asks if he is going to get paid just before greeting the panel. When he gets to Dorothy, she is digging in her purse and hands him something, presumably a coin. The audience laugh was probably in response to Jack's reaction to getting the coin. - Hank Gillette (2008)

      DOROTHY GUESSES JACK: This is Jack's first appearance on "What's My Line?" The panel took a while to guess it was Jack, even though they knew he was a comedian, played a musical instrument (with laughs from the audience), was on radio, TV, the New York stage, appeared with a cast of others, and that his wife worked with him. The panel just couldn't grasp who it might be. Dorothy Kilgallen guessed it was Jack. As Jack was leaving, he asked if he was going to be paid. - Ken Dickson (2004)

    • REVIEW: This was a great night for the panel, due in no small part to Dolly Mae Kilgallen. In fact, for the first time in a long while, the panel was perfect. Dorothy got things rolling when she correctly guessed that the very attractive first contestant was a minister. Dorothy also provided a huge assist to Hal during a conference, by suggesting that he ask the contestant if she was a drummer, which was indeed her occupation. Dorothy then capped off the night by figuring out that the mystery guest was none other than Jack Benny. She also created the funniest moment of the evening when she reached into her purse and pretended to, or actually did, give Jack some money after he asked if he was going to be paid for appearing on the show. Coincidentally, one of Jack's supporting players, Eddie "Rochester" Anderson, appeared on What's My Line? two months prior to this episode. This was truly a special night, especially for Dorothy. - Sargebri (2004)

    • Tidbits: During the introductions, Arlene mentions that Hal writes for veteran comedian Ken Murray, whose new show started tonight. She was referring to "The Ken Murray Show" which Ken hosted between 1950 and 1953. In addition to being a comic, he was also a song-and-dance entertainer and a producer. Ken lived from 1903 to 1988. - Suzanne (2004)

      Panel: Dorothy Kilgallen, Steve Allen, Arlene Francis, Hal Block. Bennett Cerf had the night off.

  • Allusions