What's My Line? Forums

CBS (ended 1967)

How did they pick the contestants?

  • Avatar of vivian2222


    [1]Sep 21, 2007
    • member since: 06/19/05
    • level: 1
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    • posts: 12

    Did they take them out of the audience, or off the street or did people write in?

    I love What's My Line--it's like a little window into yesteryear.

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  • Avatar of stopettearoma


    [2]Sep 22, 2007
    • member since: 11/23/06
    • level: 3
    • rank: Soup Nazi
    • posts: 203

    Never off the street. They were New Yorkers. Usually they made offers to strangers as in "Make me an offer" -- a popular expression in New York in the 1950s and 1960s.

    The Goodson Todman company, which produced the show for 25 years, was bombarded with postal mail from all over North America. This gave them only a minority of the contestants who got on the air. In most cases, female employees of Goodson Todman scanned small-town newspapers from around North America. The company subscribed to them so that the female employees could scan them for references to a man who made nail polish for dogs or a woman who shoed horses. Then the women made long-distance phone calls to the person.

    Contestants with more powerful jobs in New York City, DC and Los Angeles, such as the security guard for the Mona Lisa during its 1963 stay at a DC art gallery and NYC traffic commissioner Henry Barnes (whom you can see very soon when his 1966 episode gets repeated), came from conferences that the male employees of Goodson Todman had. They brainstormed as in, "Let's find the traffic commissioner and invite him to appear" or "There must be someone who designs manhole covers" or "Let's find the person who introduced the Davy Crockett hat to the retail market after Disney broadcast the Crockett original movie (in late 1954)." They would agree on a prospect and then instruct the women to contact his office.

    Although the "What's My Line?" style of quiz show is long gone, one thing remains the same in the television business. Men make the important decisions behind the scenes of news and talk shows while women offer encouragement to shy people who are afraid to be themselves in front of a national audience (as contrasted with actors who recite lines from a script).

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