What's My Line?

Season 7 Episode 31


Aired Daily 12:00 AM Apr 01, 1956 on CBS



  • Trivia

  • Quotes

  • Notes

    • FLIP REPORT: John flipped the remaining cards for the second contestant, an octopus fisherman, at seven down because time was running short. The panel never came close to figuring out this contestant's line, due, perhaps in part, to confusion over whether an octopus' tentacles were referred to as "arms" or "legs." - agent_0042 (2008)

      WALK-BY WATCH: In the second game, John dispenses with the opening panel walk-by for the night's only regular contestant. Though it's now been a couple of episodes since the walk-by has been done, the practice is not yet entirely gone, as it shows up again in the very next episode. - agent_0042 (2008)

    • (1) "WML?" SPONSOR, PANEL AND ANNOUNCER WATCH: Tonight, the main sponsor's panel desk billboard is displayed as Remington electric shavers. As appears to be customary in the immediate period following Fred Allen's death, the panel is once again pre-seated this evening. And the opening intro falls this week upon Hal Simms, who soon becomes the regular announcer for the next five years.
      (2) Last week, "I've Got a Secret" host Garry Moore was the guest panelist; this week, the then-current "IGAS" panel lineup appears as a mystery guest team. This was the second of three appearances on "WML?" by Bill Cullen; he had been a guest panelist on the now-lost EPISODE #25 of November 19, 1950, and would make a raucous mystery guest appearance on EPISODE #572 of July 9, 1961, on which future "IGAS" host (from 1964-1967) Steve Allen and his lovely wife, and tonight's fellow co-mystery guest, Jayne Meadows, were on the panel. The ever-irascible Henry Morgan and Dorothy Kilgallen would cross paths one more time after tonight, when she and fellow "WML?" panelists Arlene Francis and Bennett Cerf appeared as guests on the September 25, 1961 edition of "IGAS" which, sadly, has become lost to history. As for future "IGAS" panelists, Betsy Palmer (who succeeded Faye Emerson in 1957) would be a guest panelist on "WML?" twice during the CBS run, and a mystery guest three times within the 1968-1975 syndicated version; however, Bess Myerson (who replaced Miss Meadows on the "IGAS" panel in 1959) made no appearances whatsoever on "WML?" in the CBS years, but did appear once, as a mystery guest, on the syndicated incarnation in 1973, around the time her stint as New York City Consumer Affairs Commissioner was coming to an end.
      (3) IMOGENE COCA: The veteran funny lady makes the first of three "WML?" appearances tonight. Her next appearance, on EPISODE #438 of October 26, 1958, came exactly at the halfway point of total episodes within the show's 17.5-year CBS run; unfortunately, her last appearance, on EPISODE #855 of March 26, 1967, on which she and her old "Your Show of Shows" partner Sid Caesar were co-mystery guests, has since become among the 16 post-1952 episodes that -- along with over 100 episodes of the 1950-1952 period -- no longer exist. At the time of Miss Coca's mystery guest spot this evening, she had just appeared on the same night -- April 1, 1956 -- in an edition of "The United States Steel Hour" on CBS called "The Funny Heart"; her co-stars included Wally Cox, Robert Culp and Jack Klugman.
      (4) "WML?" CREDITS CRUNCH WATCH: Following the American Airlines plug, the end credits only go up to the art card for director Franklin Heller (all too briefly) and no farther. And of course, all this could not have been complete without GSN's "fingernails-on-a-blackboard"-style "crunching" of the screen, on its September 7, 2008 airing of this episode.
      (5) Following GSN's September 7, 2008 airing of tonight's show, the cable and satellite channel repeated the September 22, 1953 edition of "The Name's the Same," hosted by Robert Q. Lewis, with the panel this week consisting of Peter Donald, Joan Alexander and Bill Stern. The celebrity guest was George Jessel, who at this point had commenced a short-lived variety series, "The George Jessel Show," which ran on ABC from September 13, 1953 to April 11, 1954. - W-B (2008)

    • REVIEW: This was a pretty decent night for the panel. Guest panelist Victor Borge was his usual zany self and may have been the medicine the panel needed after the previous two weeks. In the first game, Arlene correctly guessed that the first guests comprised the panel of Goodson-Todman's other successful panel show, "I've Got a Secret." What really tipped her off was when Jayne Meadows did her best Katharine Hepburn imitation. The panel was then stumped by the octopus fisherman in game two. The thing that really got them confused was over the question of legs. This caused them to think of creatures like crabs and lobsters. They also felt that octopi had arms, not legs. In the mystery guest round, Bennett correctly guessed that it was Sid Caesar's ex-sidekick Imogene Coca, who requested that her winnings were to be donated to the Red Cross. - Sargebri (2005)

      A VISIT FROM THE SISTER SHOW - IGAS: This was a very historic occasion. This probably marked the first time that a whole panel from another show appeared on "What's My Line?" Of course, Faye Emerson and Jayne Meadows had appeared on WML previously as guest panelists. Henry Morgan appeared as a guest panelist several years later in a very infamous appearance. Bill Cullen made one guest panelist appearance on a early lost episode from 1950. However, future IGAS panelist Bess Myerson never appeared on the WML panel. - Sargebri (2005)

      A FUTURE VISIT FROM THE SISTER SHOW - TTTT: This wouldn't be the last time that the panel from another show appeared on "What's My Line?" as mystery guests. In 1966, the panel from "To Tell the Truth" (Tom Poston, Peggy Cass, Orson Bean and Kitty Carlisle) made a special appearance on WML. Ironically, on the WML panel that night was former TTTT panelist Phyllis Newman. Also, history was made a couple of years before that appearance when the then current panel from IGAS (Bill Cullen, Betsy Palmer, Henry Morgan and Bess Myerson) traded places with Tom, Peggy, Orson and Kitty in a night called the "Night of the Big Switch." Interestingly enough, the WML panel never pulled this kind of stunt with any of the other shows. However, Arlene and Dorothy did make solo guest appearances on other panel shows. - Sargebri (2005)

    • Imogene Coca promoted her dramatic role on CBS television which we were told will air on April 11, 1956. The name of the production was not given. Most likely, they were referring to her upcoming role on "The United States Steel Hour" production of "The Funny Heart." After her game, Imogene donated her game winnings to the Red Cross. The mention of Imogene's former partner referred to Sid Caesar. - Suzanne (2005)

      Bennett Cerf also made occasional guest appearances on other game shows, such as PASSWORD and MATCH GAME. - stopette (2005)


      This is Henry Morgan's first appearance on WML. He won't be back again until EPISODE #806 on March 6, 1966, which is after Dorothy Kilgallen's death. There was no love lost between Henry Morgan and Dorothy Kilgallen. Here is an excerpt from Henry Morgan's autobiography, published in 1994, titled "Here's Morgan!" and subtitled "The Original Bad Boy of Broadcasting." He does not mention the date that this conversation took place.

      (begin quote)

      On "Secret" I played, ha, ha, the heavy. I was the Dorothy Kilgallen, but with laughs. One night I wore a striped seersucker suit to a party where Miss Kilgallen said, en passant, "Where'd you get the mattress ticking, Henry?" "Gee, Dorothy," I said, "you know a lot more about mattresses than I do." She never spoke to me again, and that was a very nice thing to happen to a young man. (end quote)

      - Suzanne (2005)

    • THE LOOK OF THINGS: Tonight's sponsor is Remington Rand Electric Shavers. - Suzanne (2005)

      Tidbits: There is no curtain entrance for the panelists. Victor Borge will spend the next two weeks entertaining in Hershey, PA. - Suzanne (2005)

      Panel: Arlene Francis, Victor Borge, Dorothy Kilgallen, Bennett Cerf.

  • Allusions

    • This article had just appeared in TV Guide magazine. - Suzanne (2005)

      From TV GUIDE March 31, 1956:

      "Sign In, Please! - Wild adventures of six hectic years on "What's My Line?"

      Written by Frank DeBlois

      A couple of months ago, "What's My line?" observed it's sixth anniversary on TV. During this span, more than 300 "mystery guests," ranging from United States senators to talking mules have sought to baffle its panel.

      Only once in 312 performances, executive producer Gil Fates recalls, did the mystery guest fail to appear. The culprit was Denise Darcel, who, through no fault of her own, became involved in a blizzard in Connecticut. Three minutes before show time, Fates learned that Denise couldn't make it.

      "That night," he says, "I was almost a dead man. I even remember that I looked longingly out the window at the sidewalk 20 floors below. How tempting it seemed! Then, suddenly, I began to hear sweet music - and it didn't come from heavenly harps."

      It came, indeed, from a network orchestra bleating out the finale to a CBS-TV show called "Celebrity Time," which was just going off the air in the studio next door. Wild-eyed, Fates dashed into the hall, collared Celebrity's host, Conrad Nagel, and rushed him into "What's My Line?" just as emcee John Daly had begun to grope around for Denise.

      One of the worst crises, Fates recalls, took place the night Arthur Godfrey completely forgot he was supposed to appear.

      On the vital Sunday, Arthur went home, took off his clothes, took a warm shower, then stretched out on the couch to look at his TV set.

      "Stay around," he heard the announcer say at the conclusion of a program, "for What's My Line?"

      "Heavens!" hollered Arthur, "I'm supposed to be on that show now!"

      He jumped up, pulled on his pants and took off. He arrived just as Fates was about to go into his 20-floor dive.

      During the Neanderthal years of TV it was almost impossible to get "name" personalities to appear on Line. Hollywood stars took a bleak view of television, and Broadway personalities considered TV a cut above Sammy's Bowery Follies.

      Today it is different. With "What's My Line?," one of the top panel shows on the air, neither Fates nor his employers, Mark Goodson and Bill Todman, need worry about cajoling guests.

      The rules for a guest's eligibility are rudimentary. He must be familiar enough for viewers to recognize him by face or name. Therefore, Fates leans heavily toward the entertainment world. He has found, to his chagrin, that poets, statesmen, industrial tycoons and mahjong champions are often less well-known than TV stars, baseball players and talking mules.

      Mystery guests who baffled the panel included Rosalind Russell (she had laryngitis and everyone thought she was a man), Eddie Fisher (Dorothy Kilgallen insisted he was Vic Damone) and Jules Montenier (the program's sponsor).

      But, despite occasional strike-outs, the panel's batting average is high (about .900 according to Fates). Dorothy Kilgallen (who is the only original panelist left) is the champion mystery-guest guesser, with Bennett Cerf a close runner-up. Arlene Francis finishes a good-natured third, and Fred Allen, a relative newcomer, is ensconced in the cellar.

      Guests get few instructions from Fates. They are advised to disguise their voices by grunting, groaning, simpering or affecting an accent. Edward G. Robinson used an Irish brogue and was identified almost immediately. Fredric March employed seven separate accents, hoodwinking the panel completely. Jayne Mansfield disguised everything but her plunging neckline and Kim Novak tried merely smiling.

      Although mystery guests are protected from the panel by elaborate security measures, there have been some classic slip-ups. One week Samuel Goldwyn was scheduled as a guest. He was met at LaGuardia Field by Dorothy Kilgallen and innocently confessed that he was appearing on Line. That night he dined with Bennett Cerf.

      "Bennett," he confided, "what a dope I am! Today I told Dorothy I was going to be on your show."

      Result - both Dorothy and Bennett disqualified themselves as panelists.

      Ginger Rogers played it cute. Scheduled as a mystery guest, she dined with Cerf the night of the show. After dinner she yawned, stretched, and said she was sleepy. After Bennett dropped her off at her hotel, Ginger hopped a cab, passed his car and was hiding backstage when he arrived.

      One guest who will never be asked to repeat is Francis the Talking Mule.

      Francis made his now celebrated appearance as a mystery guest last year. In order to baffle the panel, the happy hybrid's hoofs were swathed in burlap. It was a brilliant stratagem - and a miserable failure.

      "The wind shifted," says Fates, "and gave him away."

      The End.

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