What's My Line?

Season 9 Episode 39


Aired Daily 12:00 AM May 25, 1958 on CBS
out of 10
User Rating
4 votes

By TV.com Users

Episode Summary

Game 1: Mrs. Rildia Bee O'Bryan Cliburn (10/14/1896 - 8/3/1994) - "Piano Teacher (Van Cliburn's Mother)" (she signed in as "Mrs. X" to avoid name recognition and the panel was not blindfolded; self-employed; she donated her game winnings to the Crippled Children's Treatment Center in her hometown of Kilgore, Texas; see notes below)

Game 2: Mrs. Pearl Spooner - "Makes Bullet-Proof Vests" (self-employed; when her husband died, she took over management of her company, the Spooner Armour Company, which she said is the only company that makes a real bulletproof vest; from New York, NY)

Game 3: Olivia de Havilland (b. 7/1/1916) (as Mystery Guest)

Game 4: Eugene Zeller - "Makes Mink-Trimmed Golf Tees" (self-employed; he owns The Mink Tee which is located in Springfield, Massachusetts; from Longmeadow, MA)

Who was the Episode MVP ?

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    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)

    Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


    • TRIVIA (0)

    • QUOTES (0)

    • NOTES (5)

      • FLIP REPORT: John flipped the remaining cards for the final contestant at six down. The panel never really came close on this one, which was admittedly a difficult product to guess, golf tees trimmed with mink. - agent_0042 (2008)

      • (1) "WML?" SPONSOR AND PANEL WATCH: The main sponsor tonight is Helene Curtis. And in an ironic coincidence, GSN's December 29, 2008 airing of this episode, with guest panelist Eamonn Andrews, came two days after the cable and satellite channel's December 27, 2008 airing of the July 2, 1957 edition of "To Tell the Truth," on which Mr. Andrews and two impostors were the first contestants. (Mr. Andrews' first panel appearance on "TTTT," which was originally telecast on July 30, 1957, is scheduled to be repeated by GSN on December 31, 2008.) Incidentally, Arlene was technically correct when she mentioned in her intro that Eamonn was the "chairman" (the British TV term for "host") of the British "WML?" "for the past seven years," as the BBC first premiered their version of "WML?" in 1951.
        (2) OLIVIA DE HAVILLAND: This was the veteran screen actress' first of four mystery guest appearances on "WML?" within its CBS run. All of her appearances survive today on kinescope -- in contrast with her sister Joan Fontaine, whose only surviving CBS "WML?" appearance is EPISODE #190 of January 17, 1954. (Miss Fontaine's second appearance, on EPISODE #800 of January 23, 1966, is tragically lost to history today.) For Olivia's maiden mystery guest shot, her lower-third overlay -- set, as always, in Futura Demi Bold -- is laid out as "OLIVIA DeHAVILLAND," with a small "e" and no space between the two parts of her surname. Coincidentally, this was also how her lower-third overlay was laid out on her final CBS "WML?" appearance on EPISODE #776 of August 8, 1965.
        (3) "WML?" CREDITS CRUNCH WATCH (OR, GIVE HIM A HAND): Tonight's end credit sequence consisted solely of the infamous brief shot of the end title card, and its being chaotically removed by a stagehand, revealing it to have been placed on an easel/board with a camera pointed at it. This had the effect of thwarting GSN from its quest to handily "crunch" the screen on its December 29, 2008 airing of this episode -- and to boot, the original audio was heard, too.
        (4) The December 29, 2008 airing of tonight's show was followed by the July 16, 1957 edition of "To Tell the Truth," hosted by Bud Collyer, with the panel of Polly Bergen, Ralph Bellamy, Kitty Carlisle and Hy Gardner. The first game featured Bobby Morrow (the only American to win three gold medals in the track and field games of the 1956 Olympics) and two impostors; the second game featured Emma Gordon (who, with her husband, comprised the oldest professional ballroom dance team in the country) and two impostors (after the game, Mrs. Gordon and her husband gave a little demonstration of their ballroom dancing -- somewhat of a forerunner of what would be common on the syndicated 1969-1978 version of "TTTT"); and the third game featured famed pilot Douglas "Wrong Way" Corrigan and two impostors (who were, respectively, a sales manager for Avnet Electronics, which acquired the Liberty Records label in 1963; and a sales manager for Columbia Pictures' Screen Gems division, which sold Mr. Bellamy's old movies to television). - W-B (2008)

      • THE BIG HAND: Watch the end credits, and you'll see a big male human hand pop up out of nowhere and remove the card, leaving the empty metal card stand on the television screen for a few seconds. The hand is attired in a wedding ring with an accompanying watch on the wrist! How this mistake ever happened is a bigger mystery than all the mystery guests put together. - Suzanne (2005)


        THE STRAY HAND: There would be at least one other occasion when a stray hand would appear on "What's My Line?," albeit on the syndicated version of the show. I saw that version in the summer of 1972, and except for the few episodes that GSN aired during "A Breakfast With The Stars" in August 2002, I have not seen most of the syndicated shows in over 33 years.

        On the syndicated "WML?," the panel would do their walk-ons at the beginning of the show with the sign-in board behind them in the center of the stage. The sign-in board was contained in a three-sided booth-like structure that was perhaps 6 feet high. During the panelist walk-ons, there was a yellow card with the show's name in a cartoon-like typeface that filled the space where the blackboard would normally be.

        When Wally Bruner asked the first challenger to "enter and sign in, please," the contestant walked in and raised his arm with chalk in hand, only to stop quickly as he and the rest of the onlookers realized that the yellow title card was still there. Then the yellow card tilted back at its top, and a hand could be seen pulling the card upwards and back. As this yellow card was removed back into the booth, you could see the "blackboard card" underneath. The blackboard card was then pushed forward from its tilted position until it was flush with the booth.

        After this happened, Wally Runner ad-libbed something like, "That hand is going to cost the show extra," a joking reference to television union rules that required crew members to be paid scale if they appeared before the cameras.

        Although the syndicated show was pre-recorded, this flub was left in. It provided a little behind-the-scenes secret in that it revealed that a stagehand stood behind the sign-in booth to change the title card to the chalkboard card (when he remembered to!) - ClassicTV (2005)


        CONGRATULATIONS, DR. BENNETT CERF! At the end of the episode, John announced that Bennett Cerf would be awarded an honorary degree this weekend. The University of Puget Sound in the state of Washington is going to award him a Doctor of Literature degree. - Suzanne (2005)

      • HAPPY BIRTHDAY BENNETT!!! Tonight was a very special night as Bennett celebrated his 60th birthday. This gave John a good opportunity for him to rib his good friend and sparring partner by saying that he was celebrating his 38th birthday. He also kidded Bennett by saying that the reason it wasn't his 39th was the fact that Jack Benny cornered the market on that age a long time ago. As far as the games went, the panel had a fairly decent night this particular evening, as they once again batted .500. The first contestant signed in as Mrs. X to conceal the fact that she was not only a piano teacher, but also the mother of classical piano superstar Van Cliburn. However, once the panel figured out that she was a music instructor, it was only a matter of time before they figured out who she really was. Also, Mrs. Cliburn requested that her winnings be donated to the Crippled Children's Treatment Center in her hometown of Kilgore, Texas. Unfortunately, the panel's good fortune didn't carry over into the second round, as they were utterly stumped by the lady who owned a company that made bullet proof vests. In the mystery guest round, the panel wasted no time in identifying screen legend Olivia de Havilland. Miss de Havilland was on the show to promote her latest film "The Proud Rebel," which also starred Alan Ladd. In addition, she promoted her upcoming appearance on Edward R. Murrow's "Person to Person." In the final game, the panel ran out of time, so the gentleman who made mink-trimmed golf tees won the full prize by default. However, even if they did have enough time, it would have been very doubtful that they would have figured out his extremely unusual line. - Sargebri (2005)

        VAN CLIBURN: In the post game chat with Mrs. Cliburn, John mentioned the fact that her son Van won the prestigious Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow that year. It was that competition that propelled Van Cliburn to international superstardom. In fact, during the late 1950's and early 1960's, as a result of his performance in the competition, Cliburn had several hit recordings that frequently made the top 10 - not only on the classical charts, but the pop charts as well. - Sargebri (2005)


        1) Happy Birthday to Mr. Cerf! The final contestant was Mr. Zeller, who "makes mink-trimmed golf tees." First question goes to BC, who quips, "We're very happy to have you here tonight, although we need buyers more than Zellers." (HUGE groan) JD winces and says, "It's his birthday, please, no violence, no violence, it's his birthday! Go ahead, Bennett." (be sure to watch JD's expression, it's too funny!) Later, DK questions, "Could I carry it?" (contestant says yes) "Is it, um, smaller than a telephone..." (she cuts herself off and rolls her eyes, realizing the absurdity at what she was thinking) "well, yes, it would have to be wouldn't it? Uh, smaller than a telephone BOOTH I was going to say." JD laughs and jumps in with, "Dorothy carries telephone booths around all the time, all the time!" (BIG laugh from everyone, including DK, who has a very cute and funny habit of asking if an object is "smaller than a phone booth" immediately after she's learned that it's something she could carry!) The panel is literally dumbfounded when JD explains Mr. Zeller's product. DK's face was worth 1000 words! I seriously thought something which would end up being censored later was going to emerge from her lips. It was hilarious!
        2) EXTREMELY warm and loving reception from audience when Mme. Olivia de Havilland-Galante appeared! She was promoting her new film "Proud Rebel" (great movie, by the way). Bennett mentioned that she would be making her first trip back to Atlanta, Georgia, since working on 1939's "Gone With The Wind." Mme. de Havilland had moved to Paris in late 1953 (having just made final her divorce to Marcus Goodrich) and married Pierre Galante (editor of "Paris Match" magazine) in 1955. They remained married until 1979. When he became ill later in life, she took him in and nursed him until his death in 1998. They have one daughter together (Gisele) and Mme. de Havilland still resides in Paris. She published a delightful book in 1961 entitled "Every Frenchman Has One." I highly recommend it! Olivia Mary de Havilland is a lovely, lovely woman and her appearance on this episode was over much too quickly.
        3) There's a scary moment during the end credits when you suddenly see a huge male hand (complete with wedding ring) appear and remove the WML logo card! Agh! - fiveninegal (2003)

      • VAN CLIBURN: The first contestant was Van Cliburn's mother, Rildia Bee O'Bryan Cliburn. Her son, the internationally famous pianist Van Cliburn, will be the mystery guest on EPISODE #426 on August 3, 1958. Van Cliburn had recently won the first International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow in the Soviet Union. Per the Van Cliburn Foundation: "The name Van Cliburn has probably been familiar to more people than the name of any other classical musician since Cliburn won the First International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow in 1958, at the height of the Cold War. For an American to be so warmly received in Russia and to win the top prize in the prestigious Russian music competition was a stunning accomplishment, especially given the political atmosphere at the time. Returning home from Moscow, Cliburn received a ticker-tape parade in New York City, the only time a classical musician was ever honored with the highest tribute possible by the City of New York." Per Azerbaijan International: "Rildia Bee O'Bryan Cliburn had been her son's only piano teacher and mentor from the time he was three until he entered Juilliard School at 17. An extraordinary pianist with unimpeachable musical credentials, she had grown up in a period of time when it was "not proper for a young lady from a good family to concertize." Fortunately, for many young people, she channeled her energies into teaching. She had studied in New York with the famous Arthur Freidheim, who had been born in St. Petersburg, Russia, and who, in turn, had studied with great pianists like Anton Rubinstein and later Franz Liszt." - Suzanne (2003)

        HAPPY BIRTHDAY BENNETT! John gave Bennett a special happy birthday greeting! He joked that Bennett was "only 38," not even "Jack Benny's age" of "39." In reality, it was Bennett's 60th birthday! He looked great! - Suzanne (2003)

        Panel: Arlene Francis, Eamonn Andrews, Dorothy Kilgallen, Bennett Cerf.

    • ALLUSIONS (0)

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