Wednesday, April 8, 2009

It was a simpler time

I've gotten quite addicted to YouTube clips of the CBS game show What's My Line?, which ran through the fifties into the sixties. MCed by John Charles Daly, who was also a reporter and anchor on ABC, this game show featured a panel of four who had to guess the occupations of regular joes as well as blindfold themselves and identify a mystery guest, based on yes or no questions. The panel itself changed over the years, but mostly featured Random House editor Bennet Cerf, Broadway actress Arlene Francis, reporter and gossip columnist Dorothy Kilgallen, and a fourth spot filled over the years by Steve Allen, Fred Allen, and famous guest panelists.

I stumbled on it looking for specific people; they had a wide range of celebrity guests, mostly Hollywood and sports types but also politicians and artists. I was absolutely staggered to see that Salvador Dali appeared on it:

I have to say that I also found it rather awkward to watch appearances of lauded African American guests at a time before civil rights, particular this one of Jesse Owens, when Daly lauds him for ramming his medals "down the throat of Adolf Hitler." Still wouldn't have been able to sit at the front of the bus everywhere in his own country, though.

Once you watch a few of these, you start to get the humor of the time period and the personalities of the panel. I admit that Arlene is my favorite. This is the point at which the regular guests are good to watch, particularly because things were just funnier back then. The hysteria over the scandalous occupation of this gentleman, a girdle designer, is a real insight into that era for me.

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