What's My Line?

Season 5 Episode 3


Aired Daily 12:00 AM Sep 20, 1953 on CBS



  • Trivia

  • Quotes

    • Dorothy: Do you ever wear glasses?
      Wally Cox: (quickly removing his glasses) Yeah. Just to see with.

    • Arlene: Are you a low comic? I don't mean that in a bad way!
      (Wally Cox stands up, comically waving his fists, to humorously deny being called a lowbrow comic.)

    • Dorothy: (now assuming he's a highbrow comic) May we assume to your answer to Miss Francis' question, you're more an intellectual comic?
      Wally Cox: (in a "dumb guy" voice) Yeah.

  • Notes

    • MYSTERY GUEST WALLY COX: Part of the merriment during Wally Cox's appearance was due to the fact that he adopted a gruff, semi-literate persona while answering the panel's questions. In reality, he was a soft-spoken, self-effacing utterly-lacking-in-self-confidence intellectual, who reminds us somewhat of Bob Newhart's early style. Not mentioned during this "WML?" episode was that fact that at the time of his appearance on "WML?," Wally was appearing in the highly popular weekly comedy show on "another network," "Mr. Peepers." (I remember watching the program in the very early 1950s when I was a youngster, and although some of the humor was over my head, I certainly remember the character played by Wally Cox, school teacher "Robinson Peepers.") The series also featured another actor familiar to "What's My Line?" fans, Tony Randall. Tony's character was "Mr. Peeper's" best friend.

      From Wikipedia: (begin quote) Mr. Peepers was an early TV sitcom that aired on NBC from July 3, 1952 to June 12, 1955. It starred Wally Cox as junior high school science teacher Robinson J. Peepers. Others in the cast included Tony Randall as history teacher Harvey Weskit; Georgann Johnson as Harvey's wife, Marge; Patricia Benoit as school nurse Nancy Remington, later married to Peepers; Marion Lorne as often confused English teacher Mrs. Gurney, and Ernest Truex and Sylvia Field as Nancy's parents. The humor in the series tended to be realistic and unforced. The acting style of Patricia Benoit, in particular, was so incredibly transparent that it was, at times, hard for viewers to believe that they were watching actors performing, rather than a hidden-camera view of real life. Running jokes tended to involve Peepers coping with misbehaving inanimate objects and with acutely embarrassing moments. Typical: Peepers sees a hopscotch grid chalked on a sidewalk and, thinking himself alone, plays the game with abandon, only to discover that his girlfriend Nancy has been silently watching the entire time. The episode in which Peepers married Nancy was, for 1954, a blockbuster ratings event, but it also marked the beginning of the series' slide in popularity. Mr. Peepers was aired live, and thus was not preserved except in the form of kinescopes on 16mm film. It was performed on stage before a large audience at the Century Theater, 932 7th Avenue, New York, NY. (end quote)

      "Mr. Peepers" might be seen in reruns today, except that the program's producer, Fred Coe, apparently wasn't as vigilant as "WML?'s" Gil Fates, and many of the "Mr. Peepers" kinescopes have been lost to history. To learn more about "Mr. Peepers," and to follow a link to the DVD set of extant episodes, visit the link below. - Lee McIntyre (2008)


    • FLIP REPORT: The first contestant's game ended when the cards were at five down, but the panel had not fully identified the guest's line. Normally, under these circumstances, John will flip all the cards, but in this instance, he didn't. He may have been distracted by the panel's continued attempts to guess the contestant's exact product. Surprisingly, before the mystery guest game, John then made an announcement that the first guest was going to receive the full prize. For the final contestant, John reverted to the now normal practice of flipping the remaining cards when the game ran out of time at five down. Bennett had guessed her line, but his correct identification came too late, just as the cards were being flipped. - agent_0042 (2008)

      "PROPS" TO THE PANEL: During Dorothy's questioning of the sculptor of wooden Indian statues, one can hear the rumble of a propeller airplane passing nearby. This is not the first (or last) time that such a sound is evident during the show; one can also hear a propeller plane on EPISODE #141 and on EPISODE #435. It's surprising that airplane noise is not heard more often, as four commercial airports operated within a five-mile radius of the various studios used by "WML?" during its network run: LaGuardia, Newark, Idlewild (now known as JFK) and Floyd Bennett Field (which closed in 1971). - BuzzDawg (2008)

      VARIOUS STUDIOS: For a 1950 to 1967 timeline of the CBS studios used by "What's My Line?," see the notes to EPISODE #1. You'll need to click "All EPISODE #1 Notes" since the notes are now on the second page of that guide. - Suzanne (2008)

      (1) "WML?" NAMEPLATE AND FONT WATCH: It is now two months and counting since the pre-1952 nameplates for Dorothy and Arlene have been displayed on the panel desk. For mystery guest Wally Cox's appearance, his nameplate as displayed on the panel moderator's desk is set in the customary nameplate typeface of Title Gothic Condensed No. 11.
      (2) "HAVE NO FEAR, WALLY COX IS HERE!" - Besides his two guest panelist appearances on "WML?" and occasional appearances on "I've Got a Secret," tonight's mystery guest Wally Cox was also an occasional panelist on yet another Goodson-Todman game show, "The Match Game," in 1964-1965. He also made a 1965 appearance on the CBS "Password." All this was before he became one of the original "squares" in "The Hollywood Squares," starting with its premiere in 1966 and continuing to his February 15, 1973 premature death. Alas, Mr. Cox passed away only a few months before the more "wild and crazy" incarnation of "Match Game" premiered in 1973.
      (3) "WML?" CONTESTANT PREVIEW WATCH: After two straight episodes where GSN cut out the part towards the end of the show where a preview photo of one of the coming week's contestants was briefly shown, the cable and satellite channel ran tonight's preview in full on May 4, 2008.
      (4) "WML?" CREDITS CRUNCH WATCH: GSN's blatantly boorish and grievously galling "crunching" of the end credits continued unabated and undeterred on the May 4, 2008 airing of this episode.
      (5) Following GSN's May 4, 2008 airing of tonight's show, the cable and satellite channel reran the March 22, 1965 edition of "I've Got a Secret," with host Steve Allen. The panel this time out consisted of Carol Channing (filling in for Betsy Palmer), Bill Cullen, Bess Myerson and Henry Morgan, and the celebrity guest was "The Lucy Show" co-star Vivian Vance. - W-B (2008)

    • GAME ONE PRIZE WINNINGS: In a very unusual move, just before the mystery guest segment of the show, John announced that the Wooden Indian maker from the first game would receive the full $50 prize, due to the fact that they didn't guess he made wooden Indians, they only guessed he was a sculptor. During the actual game, they had stopped at $25 when Dorothy guessed that he was a sculptor. The panel made several wild guesses, but was never able to guess the medium he worked with, and John finally gave up and told the panel he sculpted wooden Indians. - Garrison Skunk (2004)

      A LITTLE SPECULATION ON THE "PRIZE PACKAGE" - Did each contestant receive, or did each contestant not receive, the full $50 prize for his appearance, regardless of what was actually acknowledged on the flip cards during the show? I'm going to speculate that they did receive the full $50, for several reasons:

      (1) It was openly acknowledged on another Goodson-Todman quiz show of the same era, "The Name's the Same," that the contestants were paid their winnings from the talent fees of the celebrity panel. We see a similar arrangement on a current quiz show, "Win Ben Stein's Money." Read - if you can - the fine print at the end of each episode of that show. Ben is paid to appear as host - a substantial payment, to be sure - and winners' earnings are deducted from that amount. Thus, the WML panel was possibly given an incentive to really work, because their income could have been directly affected by their effectiveness.

      (2) Remember the context of these quiz shows. Television was in its infancy, and to be fortunate enough to appear on television was a H-U-G-E claim to fame in itself. Hometown newspapers would often publicize the fact that a local resident appeared on such-and-such a show. Contestants, for the most part, would gladly have appeared at no charge. (Witness the sign-wavers outside the "Today Show" studio.) The winnings, though talked up on the show, were possibly incidental. In subsequent years, the WML winnings were showcased less and less. - Lee McIntyre (2004)

      WML PRIZE WINNINGS: I doubt that the prize winnings were paid from the panelists' salaries on WML. If they had been, Gil Fates probably would have discussed it in his 1978 WML book when he wrote about their salary earnings. In addition, we know that gambits existed. The star who performed the gambit would have been intentionally sacrificing the panel's chance to win in order to carry out the gambit, which "wastes time" for the payoff of laughs. - Suzanne (2004)

    • REVIEW: The panel did well this particular evening, especially one Dorothy Mae Kilgallen. Even though Dorothy didn't figure out that the first contestant carved wooden Indians, the panel did initially get credit for a correct guess, due to the fact that they figured out he was a sculptor. Later, immediately before the mystery guest round, John took this "win" away from the panel and awarded the full game winnings to the contestant. Dorothy also figured out that the second contestant repaired zippers. She completed the hat trick when she figured out that the mystery guest was Wally Cox. Wally didn't really promote anything, but he had just started the second season of his classic 1952-1955 sitcom "Mr. Peepers." Unfortunately, Dorothy couldn't make it four in a row. The final contestant, a justice of the peace, wound up winning by default when John said they were out of time. - Sargebri (2004)

      WALLY COX: This wouldn't be Wally Cox's final appearance on a game show. We'll see him two more times on WML as a guest panelist, and he would later make several appearances on another Goodson-Todman show, "I've Got a Secret." In addition, he became a regular panelist sitting in the upper left square on the original version of "Hollywood Squares" and would stay on that show until his untimely death on February 15, 1973. However, his most famous role, other than "Robinson Peepers," was as the voice of the animated superhero "Underdog" on the 1964-1973 series of the same name. Another interesting fact about Wally is that one of his closest friends was Marlon Brando. The two of them grew up together and attended acting school together, studying under Stella Adler. However, the most interesting fact about their friendship is that after Cox's passing, Brando was given his ashes which he kept above his fireplace for several months until Brando took them and scattered them. - Sargebri (2004)

      BREADBOX WATCH!!! Steve asked his famous breadbox question in the first game when he asked if the product was bigger than one. Also, Dorothy got into the act when she asked if it were bigger than a phone booth. - Sargebri (2004)

    • ABOUT GAMBITS: In Gil Fates' 1978 What's My Line? book, he discusses the practice of supplying suggested lines of questioning (which he termed "gambits") for a panelist to ask. This affected the early comedian panelists, such as Hal Block, Steve Allen and Fred Allen. After the quiz show scandals broke in the late 1950s, Gil said they abandoned the use of this gimmick. In Fates' hardback book, "gambiting" is discussed on pages 24-25. This was a contrived method Goodson-Todman (and maybe others, too) used to insure laughs from the audience. Gil said the line of questioning itself became "a gambit." The producers purposely had one panelist ask "wrong" questions to generate laughs and lead them up the wrong path, which they called the "garden path" on WML. For instance, if a contestant's occupation was "sells mattresses" they may tell the panelist to ask questions about sporting events, which would be sure to generate laughs. Gil said it wasn't technically cheating, since they were not telling the panelist what the guest's actual line was. They were actually giving the panelist misinformation. Gil said they only used it on one occupation per episode and never on the mystery guest spot. Gil said John Daly was not a part of the gambiting and didn't know if John ever knew of its existence. Gil said the use of gambits "was very tricky and required a sophisticated technique" so the audience would not be aware of what was going on. He said it could be used only with very bright comedians, "whose ego inclined them toward laughs rather than solutions." Gil wrote in his book, "Just before air time, we would suggest to the gambiteer a line of questioning. We never told him the occupation. He never asked. All he knew was that if he followed the suggested line of questioning he would get his laughs and a 'no' answer at the end." For example, can you imagine Dorothy doing this? No, because winning was far too personally important to her. Gil said that Steve Allen created his own gambits, and didn't need to be told the "wrong" questions to ask, although history has shown that it happened on occasion. Gil said if Steve got a laugh from the audience, he knew he was on a track that was wrong, and then carefully followed this wrong track on purpose to generate yet more laughs. When Steve felt it became too obvious, he'd pass to Arlene or ask a blockbuster funny question that was sure to get a "no." - Suzanne (2004)

      "Gambit" really is a good term for this technique. From the dictionary: noun: a chess move early in the game in which the player sacrifices minor pieces in order to obtain an advantageous position; an opening remark intended to secure an advantage for the speaker; a maneuver in a game or conversation. - Suzanne (2004)

      DUPLICATED GAMBITS: Thanks to the high volume of B/W shows GSN has aired in the past, I discovered that the exact same comedy questions could end up being reused on different shows. For instance on this episode, there was a contestant with the occupation "Repairs Zippers." Steve Allen proceeded to ask questions that sent him on the wrong track to howls of laughter from the audience. He asked questions such as, "Would a well-equipped office have this?" and "Would a secretary know how to operate this?" Several months later on "The Name's The Same," there was a contestant named "A. Zipper." Gene Rayburn's questions were word-for-word identical to those Steve Allen had asked on WML several months before. - Eric Paddon, Usenet 2001

      Tidbits: Arlene's new play, "Late Love," opens Thursday in Hartford, CT. Bennett's book, "Good For A Laugh," has now sold over 100,000 copies. It first went on sale on October 6, 1952. - Suzanne (2004)

      Panel: Dorothy Kilgallen, Steve Allen, Arlene Francis, Bennett Cerf.

  • Allusions