What's My Line?

Season 7 Episode 29


Aired Sunday 10:30 PM Mar 18, 1956 on CBS



  • Trivia

    • GOOF: At the very end, John Daly accidently said "Steve" instead of "Fred" Allen, but quickly corrected himself. - Suzanne (2005)

  • Quotes

  • Notes

    • FLIP REPORT: John flipped the remaining cards for the first contestant at one down. Bennett had quickly figured out his line, prompting Arlene to comically quip, "I hope he makes more money as a goalie than he did tonight on What's My Line?," so John flipped the cards to be nice. In the second game, John flipped them at five down for the second contestant as well. The panel had guessed her line, but John flipped the cards because the winnings were being donated to the Heart Fund in memory of Fred Allen. Finally, John flipped the remaining cards for the final contestant at seven down because time ran out. The panel came close on this one, but they were unable to identify the exact line of jazz pianist. - agent_0042 (2008)

      WALK-BY WATCH: It has now been a couple episodes since Arlene Francis suggested that viewers write in if they'd like to see the panel walk-bys eliminated. At this point, they are still present, though John does dispense with it for the final game to save time. - agent_0042 (2008)

      REVIEW: This definitely was a very sad occasion as the panel mourned the loss of Fred Allen. As John mentioned, there were thoughts about not airing a regular show at all. Instead, John explained, the producers discussed showing various film clips of Fred's finest moments. However, John said that at the urging of Fred's widow, Portland Hoffa, they decided to perform a regular show in Fred's honor. Indeed, the panel honored their fallen friend by going a remarkable 3 for 4 on the evening. In the first game, Bennett correctly guessed that Jacques Plante was the goalkeeper for the Montreal Canadiens. In fact, "Les Habs" had just defeated the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. In the second game, Bennett, with a huge assist from Dolly Mae, correctly guessed that Mrs. Jules Lederer (aka Ann Landers) was an advice columnist. Of course, this was before Ann Landers and her identical twin sister, Abigail Van Buren (aka Dear Abby), would become household names. In the mystery guest round, Bennett again was successful as he identified Cyd Charisse, who was on the show to promote the film "Meet Me in Las Vegas." Bennett's run ended in the fourth game as Dorothy correctly guessed that the cute girl from Japan was a jazz musician. However, because Dorothy didn't guess that the young lady was a jazz pianist, she was not given credit for the win, and the contestant won the full prize by default of time. To sum up this episode, despite the sad occasion of having to mourn their friend Fred Allen, the panel had a successful night and, somewhere up there, Fred was smiling down on his friends. - Sargebri (2008)

      THE POST FRED ALLEN ERA BEGINS: Tonight decidedly was a sad evening as the panel mourned the death of their friend and colleague, Fred Allen. His death marked the end of an era for WML; however, it also marked the beginning of what could be considered a golden era for the show. Following Fred's passing, the producers never did find another permanent panelist to fill Fred's shoes. As it turned out, they began to have a rotating door of guest panelists sit in. Many of the gentlemen who would sit in would become so popular that they would become almost permanent members of the family. Among the men who would sit in with the panel were such entertainers as Joey Bishop, Buddy Hackett, Steve Lawrence and Ernie Kovacs. However, two gentlemen would more or less come to symbolize this era; Martin Gabel and Tony Randall. Arlene's beloved husband, Martin, made his first appearance on the panel a few months after Fred's passing and would go on to hold the record for appearances among all guest panelists, both male and female, at an incredible 112. In fact, Martin would often sub for Bennett in the anchor position whenever Bennett would go on his annual vacations. Martin's distinguished voice, as well as his good humor, made him an automatic favorite. As for Tony, he would go on to become the beloved "loveable loser" of the panel. He rarely, if ever, made a correct guess of any of the regular contestants and when he did, it was a special occasion. However, his good humor and clever wit made him a very beloved fixture of the WML panel. - Sargebri (2008)

    • (1) A DOUBLE TRIBUTE: Not only was tonight's show a tribute to just-deceased panelist Fred Allen, but GSN's September 5, 2008 "regular rotation" airing of this episode also served as an unofficial tribute to second mystery guest Cyd Charisse, who died on June 17, 2008 at age 87.
      (2) MANY IRONIES: Being as Fred Allen had died of a heart attack, and first mystery guest Ann Landers had her winnings donated to the Heart Fund, three of the participants of tonight's show subsequently met their ends in similar ways: Steve Allen died of a heart attack on October 30, 2000 at age 78 following a car accident; second mystery guest Cyd Charisse died of complications from a heart attack on June 17, 2008; and panel moderator John Charles Daly died of cardiac arrest on February 24, 1991 at age 77. As it related to Steve, this also made John's flub (heard towards the end of the program) of accidentally referring to Fred as "Steve" likewise ironic, in a somewhat macabre way.
      (3) "WML?" SPONSOR WATCH: For this tribute to a fallen panelist, the main sponsor was Remington Rand, with the panel desk billboard displayed as Remington Rand typewriters.
      (4) THE "OLD GANG" - TOGETHER AGAIN FOR THE FIRST TIME: With Steve back on the panel for this episode, the "classic" lineup as constituted between 1953 and 1954 is assembled for the first time since the now-lost experimental color EPISODE #225 of September 19, 1954. However, it was the first time that such a panel was assembled with Arlene on the far end of the panel desk, and Dorothy seated between Steve and Bennett. It was also the first time in "WML?'s" history that there was a dissolve, rather than a cold cut, from the opening titles to the shot of the panel in an episode where they were pre-seated. This "classic" lineup, with variations of the seating arrangement for the ladies, will be in evidence on nine more shows after tonight, the last being EPISODE #788 of October 31, 1965 which was Dorothy's next-to-last episode before her own tragic death.
      (5) This was to be the only appearances of both of the mystery guests who appeared tonight. In the case of Cyd Charisse, while the famed actress/dancer never made another "WML?" appearance, her husband, singer Tony Martin, to whom she was married from 1948 until her death, would appear as a mystery guest twice, on EPISODE #565 of May 21, 1961 and EPISODE #636 of October 28, 1962. As for Ann Landers, her twin sister, fellow advice columnist Abigail Van Buren (as in "Dear Abby"; real name Pauline Friedman Phillips), made no appearances on either the CBS or syndicated versions of "WML?"
      (6) "WML?" CREDITS CRUNCH WATCH: As with the Dorothy Kilgallen tribute episode, originally seen nine years, seven months and 27 days from tonight, only the "WML?" title card is shown after the good nights. The amount of time this title card was on the screen was so short in this case, however, that when GSN aired this episode on September 5, 2008, they were essentially thwarted in their efforts to do their usual "crunching" of the screen, so the viewing audience got to see the end in full screen, with original audio.
      (7) GSN's September 5, 2008 airing of tonight's show was followed by the September 8, 1953 edition of "The Name's the Same," hosted by Robert Q. Lewis, with the panel of Carl Reiner, Joan Alexander and Bill Stern, and celebrity guest David Wayne. This "TNTS" episode (which came five months prior to Mr. Wayne's lone "WML?" appearance as a guest panelist on EPISODE #193 of February 7, 1954) was the last on which the celebrity guest's segment had him or her playing "I'd Like to Be..." (on this show, Mr. Wayne would like to have been General William Dean, who was listed on graphic artist Hy Bley's card as "Gen. Wm. Dean, Hero of Korea"). - W-B (2008)

    • JACK BENNY'S TRIBUTE TO FRED ALLEN: Earlier the same day that this emotional episode originally aired in 1956, Fred Allen's dear friend, Jack Benny, made a radio broadcast and eulogy for Fred. It was the most emotional recorded moment Benny ever made and it was a testament to his friendship with the man who was one-half of the most famous radio "fake feud" in broadcasting history. Benny's recording still exists and was released on a record as part of a history of Jack Benny on radio. - Stan16mm (2006)

      HAL BLOCK: This is from Herb Lyon's 3/22/56 column in the Chicago Tribune, the week of Fred's passing: "Hal Block denies that he has been approached to replace Fred Allen on WML. Hal is the Veep (vice-president) of a company that distributes "little Magna" Battery lighters, and he loves his line." - Shecky (2005)

      A little more on Fred's health: According to TV GUIDE (New York) 16 January 1953, Fred was actually slated by Goodson-Todman to be the host of TWO FOR THE MONEY, but his doctors wouldn't let him. Instead, they hired Herb Shriner. Fred's heart attack in 1952 couldn't have come at a worse time. His attempts on the COLGATE COMEDY HOUR and CHESTERFIELD SOUND OFF TIME failed, and the format of TWO FOR THE MONEY - which was very close to YOU BET YOUR LIFE - would have been perfect for him. Ol' hayshaker Herb was so folksy and easygoing, he could put Perry Como to sleep. - stopette (2005)

      Farewell to a friend - Fred Allen: Just as it would be 9 1/2 years later when Dorothy passes away, this was a very sad day in the history of the panel. To show respect, John, Steve and Bennett all wore suits instead of their tuxedoes, and Dorothy and Arlene wore rather ordinary black dresses. However, unlike that very distant night in the future, the panel had a very good night regarding their game-playing ability. In the first game, Bennett correctly identified future Hockey Hall of Famer Jacques Plante. In fact, it seemed as if he pretty much had it nailed as soon as Plante mentioned that he was from Montreal. Bennett also remembered the fact that the "Les Canadiens de Montréal" (aka the "Habs" which is short for "Les Habitants" - a nickname they acquired in 1924) were in town, so as soon as he put two and two together, he zeroed in on Plante's line. Bennett, with a big assist from Dolly Mae, also guessed that Mrs. Lederer (aka legendary advice columnist Ann Landers) wrote an advice column. Ann later did a very classy thing and asked that all of her winnings be donated to the Heart Fund in memory of Fred, to which John flipped over the remaining cards. Ironically, after the game had ended, John didn't call her Ann. In fact, he kept on calling her Mrs. Lederer. In the mystery guest round, Bennett completed his personal hat trick (another hockey reference) when he correctly guessed that the mystery guest was the lovely Cyd Charisse, who was appearing on the show to promote the 1956 film, "Meet Me in Las Vegas." Ironically, Dorothy essentially had Miss Akiyoshi's line as a jazz musician nailed, but never was able to identify the instrument she played and on the basis of time she won the full amount. Of course, what made it so ironic that Dorothy would make the final guess was that a few years later, she would be the one being eulogized. At the end of the show, the entire panel, except for Dorothy who may have been too distraught, each said some very touching words for a very touching man, the sorely-missed Fred Allen. And so ended this very emotional episode. - Sargebri (2005)

      It was very fitting that Steve would be the one to fill in for Fred - due to the fact that Fred replaced Steve when Steve went on to host the "Tonight!" show. Nine years later, Steve would also appear on Dorothy's memorial episode. However, by that time he had become host of another Goodson-Todman show, "I've Got a Secret." Also on the panel on that 1965 night was Kitty Carlisle, who was called to fill Dorothy's now-vacant seat. What made it fitting was the fact that Kitty was the grande dame of another Goodson-Todman show, "To Tell the Truth." And so, with Steve representing IGAS and Kitty representing TTTT, all of the Goodson-Todman panel shows were represented on that very tragic 1965 night. - Sargebri (2005)

    • From Rick S (2005)

      Here is information paraphrased from the final chapter of the 1989 biography, "Fred Allen: His Life and Wit" by Robert Taylor:

      Fred went to his doctor the morning of his passing and was told that his heart was in okay, but not great, shape. That night, he dashed off a note to columnist Earl Wilson and left a note that he had received from Groucho Marx in the typewriter to remind himself to reply to it. At about 11:45 PM, he felt well enough to take his evening walk. Because of the bad weather, Portland, who usually accompanied him, stayed behind. He left his New York City apartment building on 58th and 7th Avenue (which is still standing in 2005 and is very ornate) and walked towards 57th Street. He stopped and talked to the newsstand owner on the corner. He walked about 50 yards east on 57th Street and collapsed. According to Taylor, there was no way to save him. He was brought into an apartment building lobby at 171 W. 57th Street. Columnist Leonard Lyons was exiting the elevator in the building and seeing that the stricken man was Fred, called Portland to the hotel lobby. Lyons reported that Fred had been walking a dog (in error). All of these events happened in less than thirty minutes. He was declared dead at 12:05 AM. Twenty very eventful minutes had passed. In Fred's pocket were all the dollar bills that he passed out to the folks who held out their hands for help as he took his nightly walk.

      Taylor writes, "Portland entered the lobby, knelt beside Fred, and took his hand. 'How old was your husband?' a policeman asked. 'Not was,' she said, 'IS.'"

      Taylor mentions that Bennett and John Daly attended the funeral, but since he spends almost no time referring to Fred's time on WML, he might not have thought to mention if Arlene and Dorothy had also been there. They most likely were. He mentions that the funeral was delayed until Wednesday because of a new snowstorm. 1,200 mourners were in attendance and 300 shivered outside.

      Death was due to coronary occlusion, which is the blockage of one or more of the coronary arteries which supply blood to the heart. In these modern days of treatment for heart disease and bypass surgery, Fred would probably had lived a much longer and healthier, happier life.

    • "Montreal Canadiens" is the correct spelling of the ice hockey team, not "Montreal Canadians" as an American might expect. - Suzanne (2005)

      Jacques Plante played in the NHL for the Montreal Canadians from 1952-1963 and then played for the New York Rangers from 1963-1965. He then returned to hockey, and from 1968-1970 played with the St. Louis Blues. Next, he played three years from 1970-1972 with the Toronto Maple Leafs. In his last year, 1972-1973, he played 32 games for the Toronto Maple Leafs. He played the last 8 games of that season with the Boston Bruins. He then retired after playing 837 games in his career! He won the George Vezina Trophy, which is the trophy for the best goaltender in the National Hockey League, 7 times during 1956-1960 and then again in 1962 and 1969. He won the Hart Memorial Trophy in 1962, which is the trophy for the most valuable player in the NHL. He was involved in 5 Stanley Cup Championships which happened all in a row with the Montreal Canadians during 1956-1960. He was known as "Jake The Snake" and was born in Shawinigan Falls, Quebec, Canada. He was the first goalie to wear a mask. He passed away in 1986. - TV Shows (2005)

      Toshiko Akiyoshi (born 1929) continues her career as a jazz pianist today in 2005. In 1972, she and husband, Lew Tabackin, founded a big band featuring music with Akiyoshi's arrangements. - davemackey (2005)

      FRED ALLEN TRIBUTE SHOW: WML's beloved regular panelist Fred Allen died of a heart attack suddenly and unexpectedly the night before this episode, on March 17, 1956. His heart attack did not occur while Fred was "walking his dog," as Gil Fates states in his 1978 WML book. Fred did, however, die on the "icy New York sidewalk" as printed in an April 2, 1956 Life magazine obituary. He had had a previous heart attack in 1952. Prior to the normal opening credits, host John Daly began the show with a somber message indicating that in accordance with the wishes of Mr. Allen's widow, Portland Hoffa, the show would play out normally, and it did. After the opening credits were shown, the panel was shown pre-seated. The show was not devoid of laughs or jokes, but the entire tone was naturally subdued. John, Bennett and Steve wore straight ties instead of bow ties, and the women panelists were not in evening gowns, but in street dresses. The panelists' closing comments were all heartfelt tributes to Fred, especially the kind comments of Arlene, Steve and Bennett. If you admired Fred, this is the point where your eyes get teary. Dorothy did not eulogize Fred, but instead thanked Steve for appearing. It is possible that she felt too distraught to speak, and was trying to maintain her composure. We know she greatly admired Fred from all the nice things she has said about him in the past. Both Ann Landers and Cyd Charisse requested that their show winnings be donated to The American Heart Association's "Heart Fund" in honor of Fred. As would be expected, there was little joy in this sad episode which was aired on GSN on 3/9/2003 and again on 4/22/2005. - Suzanne (2003 & 2005)

      Advice columnist "Ann Landers" is the pen name for Esther Pauline Friedman Lederer. She was also known as Mrs. Jules Lederer, and her nickname was "Eppie." She wrote her enormously popular syndicated newspaper column from 1955 to her death in 2002. She had a twin sister, Pauline Esther Phillips, also known as Abigail Van Buren, who was also an advice columnist under the pen name "Dear Abby." The "Dear Abby" column is now written by Pauline's daughter, Jeanne Phillips. - Suzanne (2003)

      Jacques Plante was the first NHL goalie to wear a mask full-time, but that accomplishment/achievement/bit of self-preservation was still a few years down the road. The first time Plante wore a goaltender mask in a game was November 1959. Prior to 1959, he wore a mask in practice games only, starting in 1956. - John M. (2003)

      Tidbits: The end credits are shown under silence, with no music. This was also done for Dorothy Kilgallen's 1965 tribute show. As another sign of respect, there are no name plates tonight, for either the panel or John Daly. - Suzanne (2003)

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

  • Allusions