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CBS (ended 1967)

Cerf Talks About Hal Block

  • Avatar of KommissarX

    KommissarX

    [1]Mar 8, 2008
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    Just an observation. Something to consider while watching the current run of early episodes of What's My Line on GSN.

    Bennett Cerf, best known for his puns and jokes on WML, seems to have stolen the idea from Hal Block. I, like many of you, have been enjoying Block and the life he brought to the show, often the highlight of the program. The other night you may have seen Hal ask John if he could remove his mask to see the mystery guest. After John told him not to do it, Hal ripped off his mask to see Arthur Godfrey because he couldn't stand it anymore. It was hilarious.

    But Cerf, who seems to have stolen Block's act, couldn't stand him. In an online interview, Cerf said, "Block I thought was a clod. He wasn't in the same class as the others. He was a very vulgar fellow, and he continuously said things that he shouldn't have said. Ours was a class program even though it was just a little game. Also, we spoke English..."

    Of course that sounds a bit elitist and probably is. But Block certainly added some of best highlights to those early shows, something that Cerf seemed to try and imitate later, even in his "Block like" introductions to Daly.

    Cerf went on to say this about Block: "He was a very vulgar fellow, and he continuously said things that he shouldn't have said. He had a habit of asking a pretty girl, "What's your telephone number?" and leering at her. He even got up once and chased a pretty girl across the stage like Harpo Marx used to do. He thought this was funny. It was because of his desire to shine and be essential."

    This is a strange comment since Cerf also has admitted being a ham and loving the attention he got on the show and it was Cerf who ended up being the one that was always commenting on the pretty girls, sometimes dragging it on so long, he would get a look from Arlene or Dorothy to move on. It appears that Cerf didn't like Block, maybe because Hal was often the funniest part of the show at that time. When he was gone, it was Cerf who was making the bad jokes and commenting on the girls.

    More of Cerf's words on Hal Block:

    "He sat at the end seat, next to Daly, and he was the one who made the jokes. He also became more and more risqué. In fact, John Daly invented the trick of pulling the ear, which meant, stop this line of questioning, because somebody--usually Block--would be venturing on thin ice. When we got rid of Hal Block....They fired him. He had ignored one warning too many."

    I'm a Cerf fan, but I'm also a Block fan but I think the observation is an interesting topic of discussion for WML viewers.

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  • Avatar of marciasimonson

    marciasimonson

    [2]Mar 8, 2008
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    I've never been a Bennet Cerf fan. He always seems like a fuddy duddy fusspot to me, and I didn't find his silly puns at all amusing. As annoying as Hal Block could be, he was much more entertaning to me than Bennett Cerf.
    Edited on 03/08/2008 11:31pm
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  • Avatar of BradHarris

    BradHarris

    [3]Mar 8, 2008
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    Benette was not liked by everyone. Fred Allen had nothing for him and neither did Henry Morgan as you can see on a You Tube video.

    HENRY MORGAN: "And how do you feel about Bennett Cerf?"

    FRED ALLEN: "Bennett? Oh he was just a tweed wastebasket."

    HENRY MORGAN: I wish I had some way of telling you how how accurate that was.

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  • Avatar of ymike673

    ymike673

    [4]Mar 9, 2008
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    I agree with all the responces about Bennett. He come off as sort of the "spoiled" rich kid that has to get his own way. As for Block, its a shame that most of his episodes have been lost. What got him fired was that Fates wanted to tone down the comedy on WML and Block's style of humor just did not fit the way Gil wanted. The comedians who replaced Hal, Steve Allen & Fred Allen were of the comedic style that Gil wanted for the show.
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  • Avatar of stopettearoma

    stopettearoma

    [5]Mar 10, 2008
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    ymike673 wrote:
    I agree with all the responces about Bennett. He come off as sort of the "spoiled" rich kid that has to get his own way. As for Block, its a shame that most of his episodes have been lost. What got him fired was that Fates wanted to tone down the comedy on WML and Block's style of humor just did not fit the way Gil wanted. The comedians who replaced Hal, Steve Allen & Fred Allen were of the comedic style that Gil wanted for the show.

    We don't know for sure why Hal Block got fired. Because Fates told his story in a book, the book does not require a trip to New York or Beverly Hills so it's easy to get his side of the story. Franklin Heller's story requires a trip to New York or Beverly Hills. If you can visit either place, hearing him talk is free. The Paley Center for Media asks for a donation, but you don't have to give it.

    If Bennett was a spoiled rich kid, that had no effect on him publishing William Faulkner's stories of dire southern poverty. Bennett did a lot of work besides the job he did for 90 minutes a week including a make - up session.

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  • Avatar of Stan16mm

    Stan16mm

    [6]Mar 10, 2008
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    Can you provide a link to this video?

    Thanks

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  • Avatar of loeb123

    loeb123

    [7]Mar 11, 2008
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    I have been watching and Block gets more and more annoying - constantly picking at himself and scratching, he sticks out like a sore thumb. He is also incredibly rude, interrupting anyone just to get a cheap laugh. And he is about as funny as a back ache. He doesn't fit into the classy atmosphere of the show at all - can't wait till he is gone on the reruns. Jay
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  • Avatar of agent_0042

    agent_0042

    [8]Mar 11, 2008
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    Is it unreasonable of me to like them both for what they are? I understand why Block was removed from the show -- he definitely fit the style. But I still like some of his humor. And I enjoy seeing Cerf on the show as well.
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  • Avatar of Twowaditty

    Twowaditty

    [9]Mar 15, 2008
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    BradHarris wrote:

    Benette was not liked by everyone. Fred Allen had nothing for him and neither did Henry Morgan as you can see on a You Tube video.

    HENRY MORGAN: "And how do you feel about Bennett Cerf?"

    FRED ALLEN: "Bennett? Oh he was just a tweed wastebasket."

    HENRY MORGAN: I wish I had some way of telling you how how accurate that was.

    Where can I find this interview about Bennett Cerf?

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  • Avatar of KC_in_Seattle

    KC_in_Seattle

    [10]Apr 29, 2008
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    Cerf was a pompous ass with an unsophisticated sense of humor. His puns were never clever, never funny, and always a waste of time. It didn't help that John Daly laughed like Ed McMahon every time Cerf opened his mouth.

    But at least Cerf could play the game. He and Dorothy were responsible for 80% of the wins during that run. Hal Block provided no entertainment value at all. Zero. None. If they'd replaced Block with someone who was good a spontaneous comedy, say Don Rickles or Jonathan Winters, the show would have been immeasurably better. But both Rickles and Winters were far too edgy for that period, and wouldn't have fit in with the highbrow Francis and Kilgallen. Also, Daly wouldn't have been able to control them.
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  • Avatar of stopettearoma

    stopettearoma

    [11]Apr 29, 2008
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    Stan16mm wrote:

    Can you provide a link to this video?

    Thanks

    You were referring to the video of Franklin Heller talking for two hours with Loring Mandel in 1987, at which time Mandel was an official of the Museum of TV and Radio. To say I cannot provide a URL link for it would be an understatement. It's impossible for anyone to postal - mail you a DVD or VHS cassette of the conversation. You must visit either New York or Beverly Hills. The place that was called the Museum of TV and Radio in 1987 has been renamed the Paley Center for Media. Whether Mandel still works there I don't know. He would be getting on in years now. He directed live TV dramas in the 1950s, which is why Heller agreed to talk with him on camera. Heller directed James Dean in Dean's first gig on TV. Dean fans would love to watch the interview, but they must travel. After they've driven to his gravesite in the Indiana countryside they have many more hours of travel in order to hear Heller talk.

    Edited on 04/29/2008 2:34pm
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  • Avatar of astorino

    astorino

    [12]Apr 30, 2008
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    Stan was probably referring to the video mentioned in Post #3, a YouTube video.
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  • Avatar of Stan16mm

    Stan16mm

    [13]Apr 30, 2008
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    Yes Suzanne, that's what I was asking for - the You Tube link.
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