Apparently, Charlotte Whitton wasn't properly cued by the producer or director to be ready to sign in when her turn came. The camera gives us our customary close-up shot of the sign-in board, ready to catch the contestant's signature, whether it be legible or a scrawl. However, this time, we wait. Hmmm, is something wrong? John repeats the cue. Certainly now, our guest will sign in. Oh no, we are still waiting! John's blood pressure must be rising. We're still waiting. What is going on? Don't they know millions of Americans are waiting for a sign in? Then, we cut to a long shot of the sign-in board and see something perhaps never seen before - or since - on What's My Line?: A camera shot absolutely devoid of people! It's as if everybody packed up and went home! We see just the stark set. It's a brief shot, for John enters the picture and looks behind the curtain, calling "You-hoo!" Amidst audience laughter, he then wanders behind his desk, starts to sit, then stands, then is obviously relieved when Charlotte Whitton appears, 17 full seconds late! It might seem like a fleeting moment, but 17 seconds of unscripted silence is a lifetime in live television! - Lee McIntyre (2005)
FLIP REPORT: John flipped the remaining cards for the final contestant at two down because time ran out. This was an extremely brief game and following the normal custom at this point, John dispensed with the opening panel walk-by to save time. - agent_0042 (2008)
(1) "WML?" SPONSOR AND PANEL INTRODUCTION WATCH: The main sponsor for this evening is Stopette. And the very brief "The popular Broadway columnist" intro is used for Dorothy tonight.
(2) HOW BEING "NOT FUNNY" CAN BE VERY FUNNY: During the intros, Dorothy bemoaned that Fred wouldn't give her "any humorous lines to say about him," to which Fred responded, "I haven't any funny lines to say about myself, actually." Fred then introduces Arlene by announcing that she has a new "definition of a psychiatrist," which he then recites. After Mr. Allen was through with his joke, the laughing Miss Francis insisted she never said it, leading Fred to conclude that "Dorothy was right."
(3) OVERLAY SCREEN WATCH: All contestants tonight, both regular and mystery guest, had overlay screens. This included the second mystery guest, Van Heflin, who was the second (after The Dorsey Brothers last week) to have a lower-third overlay shown on the screen for a few seconds after he signed in, and the lack of a nameplate on the panel moderator's desk. The last contestant's overlay of "Wig Designer" was set in the "last-minute" font; all other overlays were set in the then-regular Kabel Heavy typeface.
(4) This was the first of two appearances by novelist Herman Wouk; his next appearance would be as a guest panelist on EPISODE #295 of January 29, 1956, seated alongside (one seat over from) his onetime employer, Fred Allen. As for Van Heflin, he was making the first of a total of three appearances this evening; one of them, on EPISODE #448 of January 18, 1959, was as a guest panelist. It should be noted that Mr. Wouk's book, "Marjorie Morningstar," was also made into a movie, released in 1958, starring Gene Kelly and Natalie Wood -- both of whom, in later years, would be mystery guests on "WML?"
(5) "WML?" CREDITS CRUNCH WATCH: Following the American Airlines plug, the end credits cut off after executive producer Gil Fates' art card. There was still enough time in the end, however, for GSN to engage in its mischievous "crunching" of the screen on its August 15, 2008 airing of this episode.
(6) The August 15, 2008 airing of tonight's show by GSN was followed by the April 7, 1953 episode of "The Name's the Same." Conrad Nagel, whose mystery guest appearance on "WML?" EPISODE #111 of July 13, 1952 was the last of the 100-plus episodes of the 1950-1952 period to be tragically lost to history, guest hosted this week for Robert Q. Lewis, while the panel of Jerry Lester, Joan Alexander and Meredith Willson remained in place. The celebrity guest was Denise Darcel. - W-B (2008)
REVIEW: Not only was this a successful night for the panel, but they really seemed to have fun. It was truly ironic in the first game that Fred would guess Herman Wouk, due to the fact that Wouk had previously been a sketch writer for Fred. The second game was indeed where the fun started. After John called for Miss Whitton to come out on stage, it seemed as if it took her forever to arrive. Also, when he asked her if he should call her Miss, or Mrs., she replied "Miss! I've already made enough mistakes in my life." What a riot she was, and this seemed to really bring the house down. Even in 2005, it's darn funny! After things settled down, Arlene made the correct guess as she figured out that Miss Whitton was the mayor of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. She definitely proved that not all politicians are stuffy. In the mystery guest round, Bennett correctly identified Van Heflin. Heflin was on the show to promote his current play "A View From the Bridge." Unfortunately, the panel ran out of time in the final game, so the wig designer from Brooklyn, by way of Hungary, won by default. - Sargebri (2005)
After the first game, Herman Wouk discussed his latest best seller, "Marjorie Morningstar," as well as his earlier excellent work, the classic novel "The Caine Mutiny." A year before this episode aired, "Mutiny" was made into a now-classic 1954 motion picture starring Humphrey Bogart as the mentally instable "Captain Queeg," Van Johnson, Fred MacMurray and Jose Ferrer. Years later, Wouk would write two classic novels that would be made into successful television mini-series, "The Winds of War" (1971) and "War and Remembrance" (1978). - Sargebri (2005)
Bennett's comment at the end of the show, "Next time, get a Random House author, John," helps perpetuate the myth that the Masters of Ceremony of TV and radio shows controlled the show, and were in the driver's seat. In actuality, they weren't. Their job was simply to facilitate the program and move it along. The guests were lined up by the producers' staffs. John may - only "may" - have had some input, but it's quite likely that he came to the studio each week and learned only that evening who the night's guests would be. (I was a disk jockey and radio station manager for 30+ years, and people always assumed the disk jockeys had autonomy. However, since the days of payola, disk jockeys rarely even pick their own music!) - Lee McIntyre (2005)
Van Heflin promoted his Broadway play, the Arthur Miller work, "A View From the Bridge." Performed at the Coronet Theatre from 9/29/1955 to 2/4/1956, the production ran for 149 total performances. - Suzanne (2005)
Tidbits: Bennett describes John as "The Man With the Red Velvet Whip" in a pun on the 1955 movie title "The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing" which features Ray Milland and Joan Collins. - Suzanne (2005)
Panel: Dorothy Kilgallen, Fred Allen, Arlene Francis, Bennett Cerf.
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