What's My Line?

Season 7 Episode 28

EPISODE #301

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Aired Daily 12:00 AM Mar 11, 1956 on CBS
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EPISODE #301
AIRED:
FRED ALLEN'S FINAL WHAT'S MY LINE? EPISODE

Game 1: Emmett Kelly (12/9/1898 - 3/28/1979) - "Clown" (as Mystery Guest #1 and the panel is blindfolded, but the regular contestant questioning format is used; salaried; he appears in his full tattered "sad clown" costume; there is no post-game conversation since he is not allowed to speak in costume, as Arlene explains)

Game 2: Mrs. Helen Moore - "Mud Bath Attendant" (salaried; she works at the Moore Mud Bath Hotel where she tends to the needs of female customers; from Waukesha, WI)

Game 3: Dinah Shore (2/29/1916 - 2/24/1994) (as Mystery Guest #2) Her segment is missing from the kinescope and is lost to history. See additional notes below.

Game 4: Mrs. Selma Gitelman - "Truant Officer" (salaried; from Merrick, Long Island, NY)
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SUBMIT REVIEW
    John Daly

    John Daly

    Moderator (1950-1967)

    Arlene Francis

    Arlene Francis

    Regular Panelist (1950-1967)

    Bennett Cerf

    Bennett Cerf

    Regular Panelist (1951-1967)

    Dorothy Kilgallen

    Dorothy Kilgallen

    Regular Panelist (1950-1965)

    Fred Allen

    Fred Allen

    Regular Panelist (1955-1956)

    Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions

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    • TRIVIA (0)

    • QUOTES (1)

    • NOTES (5)

      • FLIP REPORT: John flipped all of the cards for the first contestant, famous clown Emmett Kelly, at Arlene's urging. Blindfolded, she had managed to guess both his line and his exact name without a single "no" answer. In the second game, John flipped the remaining cards for the second contestant at seven down because time was running short. In this case, the panel came nowhere near the mark on guessing the contestant's line. If any flipping happened during the mystery challenger segment, it was unfortunately lost to history. We do know, however, that John flipped the remaining cards for the final contestant at four down because time ran out. The panel never really had much of a chance to figure out the contestant's line. - agent_0042 (2008)

        WALK-BY WATCH: On the previous episode, Arlene Francis asked viewers to write in if they would like to see the panel walk-bys eliminated. They were still present on this episode, but for the short final game, John dispensed with the opening panel walk-by segment to save time. We know that this feature of the game will eventually be eliminated. - agent_0042 (2008)

        (1) "POOF! THERE GOES FRED ALLEN": For Fred Allen's last appearance on "WML?" before his death on St. Patrick's Day 1956, the main sponsor was Stopette. It was also the next-to-last "WML?" episode to be sponsored under the auspices of Jules Montenier, Inc., before the company's namesake sold his firm to Helene Curtis Industries, Inc.
        (2) Because Dinah Shore's mystery guest spot is missing, it is not known if the usual Kabel Heavy font was used for her lower-third overlay, or Futura Medium, or the "last-minute" typeface used from time to time. What is known is that the overlays for the regular contestants and first mystery guest Emmett Kelly -- here making his only "WML?" appearance -- are set in Kabel Heavy.
        (3) "WML?" CREDITS CRUNCH WATCH: This time, after the American Airlines plug, the end credits for this, Fred Allen's "WML?" swan song, only go up to the art card for regular director Franklin Heller before cutting off. Regardless, GSN carried on with its "crunching" of the screen on its September 4, 2008 airing of this episode, just the same -- in spite of the fact that GSN had several minutes of extra commercial time due to the absence of the mystery guest spot from the kinescope!
        (4) Right after the September 4, 2008 airing of tonight's show, GSN reran the September 1, 1953 edition of "The Name's the Same," with host Robert Q. Lewis, the panel of Carl Reiner, Joan Alexander and Bill Stern, and celebrity guest Ann Sothern -- whose appearance on this "TNTS" episode, like with some celebrity guests on that series, came two days after appearing as a "WML?" mystery guest -- in her case, on EPISODE #170 of August 30, 1953. - W-B (2008)

      • DINAH SHORE'S GAME MISSING FROM KINESCOPE: Dinah Shore's appearance as the second mystery guest is missing from the kinescope. It is unfortunately forever lost to history. The missing segment occurs between commercials, so it is not evident that the kinescope is damaged, except for the missing "main" mystery guest round. When GSN airs this episode, it is only 21 minutes in length, including the opening and closing credits. GSN simply fills up the extra time with additional commercials. From Gil Fates' logs, we know Dinah Shore made an appearance on this episode. - Suzanne (2005)

        THE CASE OF THE MISSING MYSTERY GUEST: This was the first of three appearances by singing legend Dinah Shore on "WML?" Tragically, two of them, including tonight, are missing, but at least the rest of this episode is still around to be enjoyed by viewers decades later. Not so with Dinah's final appearance on EPISODE #800 of January 23, 1966, on which she was also the second mystery guest (with baseball legend Maury Wills as the first mystery guest); in the case of her final appearance, the entire episode is unfortunately lost to history. Only one of Miss Shore's mystery guest appearances survives today, and that was her joint appearance with her then-husband, George Montgomery, on EPISODE #484 of October 4, 1959. It was a few months after her now-lost appearance tonight that Dinah began her now-famous musical-variety series, "The Dinah Shore Chevy Show," which ran on NBC from October 5, 1956 to May 12, 1963, and Chevrolet sponsoring the program through 1961. In those first five years, the theme song "See the U.S.A. in your Chevrolet" became one of Miss Shore's trademarks. - W-B (2008)

        FRED'S COMMENT: As Fred Allen began the questioning of the mud bath attendant in game two, he made wry reference to Arlene's impressive performance in game one as she had made quick work of identifying Emmett Kelly. Said Fred, "Oh, I won't be as fatal as Arlene." Yet only six days later, Fred lay dead. Arlene would live to see the next century. - obbor (2005)

        REVIEW: Due to the fact that the Dinah Shore mystery guest segment is missing, it is impossible to gauge how the panel did. However, Arlene was spectacular in figuring out that the first guest was legendary clown Emmett Kelly. Emmett was definitely in character as he didn't really vocalize his answers. He instead replied "uh-huh" or "uh-uh" for his answers. But, once Arlene managed to get a positive answer about his performing in a circus, the rest was a piece of cake. Unfortunately, the panel wasn't as good when the mud bath attendant from Wisconsin hit the stage. They did figure out that she had something to do with improving a person, but other than that, they were all over the board and John eventually threw over all the cards. In the final game, the panel also had problems and due to time running out, the truant officer won the full prize by default. - Sargebri (2005)

        As was pointed out, this was Fred Allen's final appearance. He would die six days later from a massive heart attack. Ironically, Bennett made one of his infamous puns about Fred during the good nights. - Sargebri (2005)

      • EMMETT KELLY: As has already been noted, Emmett Kelly did not speak at all during his Mystery Guest appearance. He merely grunted sounds to signify yes or no. This is one of the rare times that a person appearing on the show uttered not a single word. We wouldn't expect utterances from the occasional horse, ventriloquist's dummy or chimpanzee, but to hear nothing from a human was, at the least, highly unusual. - Lee McIntyre (2005)

        WALK-BY THOUGHTS: Last week's comments by Arlene Francis, asking viewers to please write and comment on the contestant "walk-bys" seemed contrived, perhaps a set-up to prepare viewers for the elimination of the walk-by. However, this week, John Daly comments in an off-handed way that he and Arlene have differences of opinion on the value of the walk-bys, so perhaps last week's comments weren't planned after all. John says the walk-bys don't take much time, but later in the same show, he skips the walk-by for a contestant, commenting that we will thus "save a little time." - Lee McIntyre (2005)

        TIME IN THE FIFTIES: Dinah Shore's mystery guest segment missing? To understand how such a thing could happen - and realize that it wasn't always sloppiness or carelessness, go back with me fifty years. A couple of characteristics of "Time in the 50's" contribute to the fact that certain episodes, and portions of episodes, are lost to posterity.

        First, this was an era where there were at best a dozen channels on anyone's television set. This is significant because no one dreamed of the proliferation of cable and satellite channels, with their specialized programming niches. Every channel in the 50's tried to serve a broad area of interests, with a wide mix of programming. There were no weather channels, no C-SPAN, no travel channels, no cooking channels, no history or biography channels, and most important, there was no game show channel. This means there was no "niche" programming. Hence, there was no great value seen in what were admittedly poor quality off-the-tube recordings (kinescopes) of old shows. Nobody ever conceived the notion that this entertainment - which was concocted to provide a vehicle for advertisers' messages, and not the other way around - would be of any future interest to anyone, once the sponsor had paid for his one-time airing.

        Why were the kinescopes made in the first place? For at least three reasons: First, to give the sponsor a "proof of performance." A kinescope was sort of like a newspaper "tear sheet." You could file it away as proof that the message you paid to have broadcast was, in fact, broadcast. Second, to send to U.S. servicemen overseas. Third, back in those simpler times, most television stations were not interconnected so as to be able to share programs electronically. Nowadays with our satellites, ISDN, Internet and cable programming, it's difficult to imagine a TV station whose options for programming were only about three: Live in the studio (or on location, via a short cable), film the news team shot, or, three, whatever arrived by U.S. Mail or United Parcel Service. Back then, connecting to a network meant a very expensive month-to-month contract with the AT&T Long Lines Division, because every station's network connection could actually be traced through a labyrinth of copper wire from the local station, back through various hubs, to the originating studio in New York. And that was a lot of copper wire! In a few smaller markets, TV stations subscribed to the network's syndication service, which meant that the network would make a duplicate copy of the film and mail it to the station. To avoid the expense of making many, many copies, stations would "bicycle" their films from one station to the next. The program director of a station in Albuquerque, might look for his "What's My Line?" film to arrive in a big tin canister from a station in San Francisco. He would be expected to show it on air and then promptly mail it to the next station in the chain, which might be in Pierre, South Dakota. Yes, it was a fragile system, but it worked at least 80-90% of the time. Of course, the copies of the kinescopes were of even poorer quality than the already-poor originals, but it sure beat anything the local station could cobble together for programming on Sunday night.

        This brings us to the second characteristic of "Time in the 50's," which was the crudeness of technology, although everyone then was properly proud of the advances that had been made to that point. Every copy of an original was of worse quality than the original. Folks today take for granted that digital copies of CDs and DVDs mirror the originals. To get a rough idea of the kind of degradation that took place "back in olden times," imagine a fifth generation fax. By the time the document has been faxed down the line five times, the text has been degraded so much that you can't read it. This is the difference between digital (the CD example) and analog (the fax example) media.

        When TV programmers wanted to compile great retrospectives such as "What's My Line? at 25," they wanted clips of the original shows, of course. Naturally, they wanted the highest quality possible. Rather than using a copy of the original kinescope, they would take a razor blade and actually cut out the part of the original that they wanted, then splice the remaining pieces together, with a sort of "film Band-Aid." (After all, the kinescope had already served its main purposes: copies had been made for the sponsors and service personnel, and copies had been made to be syndicated - "bicycled" - around the country.) The kinescope was considered expendable. Remember, nobody had conceived of niche programming such as the Game Show Network (now GSN). Everyone just assumed that the relatively few stations in any market would continue generating new programming every week, and that the networks would generate additional programming for the lucky few stations that were prestigious enough to belong to a network. (And there were only three choices: ABC, CBS, NBC. The next choice, Fox, wouldn't come along for decades. When it did, the debate was fierce, "Is Fox REALLY a network?")

        Two questions remain. First, why didn't engineers put the original footage back in the original kinescopes after the retrospectives were made? Sometimes they did. But other times they didn't, perhaps because to do so would have then destroyed the retrospective program they had just created! The retrospective was considered "The Best of the Best," so why save the rest?

        The last question is this: If kinescopes weren't considered to have value, then why do we have any at all today? Why do the vintage kinescopes remain? The answer to that goes to the heart of human nature. Why do you have junk in your garage? The answer is - because it's easier to leave it than to toss it. Besides, you tell yourself that someday you might want it for something. Fortunately for us today, some in the entertainment world were aghast that the old shows weren't saved forever. Gil Fates was one of those. Was he a visionary, who knew that someday their intrinsic value would be recognized? Or was he just a pack rat? Let's go back to the example of your garage: You know you're a visionary. Your spouse thinks you're a pack rat! Time, perspective and hindsight tell us the difference. Fates was indeed a visionary, no matter what his wife Faye may have thought! - Lee McIntyre (2005)

      • FRED ALLEN'S LAST SHOW: This is regular panelist Fred Allen's final show. He died of a heart attack unexpectedly on March 17, 1956, one day before next week's episode. This episode was aired on GSN on March 8, 2003 and again on April 21, 2005. - Suzanne (2003 & 2005)

        After the 2003 and 2005 showings, GSN aired this episode on September 4, 2008. - W-B (2008)

      • Tidbits: John mentions that he received a telegram from Betty Hutton, sending thanks for the City of Hope donations she has received. He also explains that Betty wants to clear up some confusion. It turns out that the public had simply thrown loose change into mailboxes, taking her plea to "send loose change" far too literally. John explained that all donations need to be enclosed in addressed envelopes, or the money will become the property of the U.S. Treasury. He then said his name was U.S. Treasury, but his joke fell flat. - Suzanne (2003)

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

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