Composite by Kenna Milaski/Coffee or Die Magazine.
Jeopardy. The Price Is Right. Family Feud. All three are great game shows that have successfully captured the attention of Americans across the nation. On Feb. 2, 1950, the game show What’s My Line? premiered, airing every other Wednesday or Thursday night at 8 p.m. EST. The half-hour, black-and-white CBS show later moved in the fall to every Sunday night at 10:30 p.m., where it remained for the next 17 years. The show was such a success, it was later revived through syndication and aired in color five days a week between 1968 and 1975.
Hosted by John Daly, What’s My Line? was filmed in front of a live studio audience, and each episode delivered many laughs. The premise involved four celebrity panelists who asked “yes” or “no” questions to guess random contestants’ “line,” or peculiar occupation. And the jobs and hobbies sure were interesting. During one episode, a woman’s profession was lighthouse keeper and another gentleman made leg makeup. If the panel couldn’t guess the player’s line after 10 “no” answers, the contestant won.
The final contestant of every show was a “mystery guest,” who was often among the most well-known celebrities of the era. Since these people could be instantly recognized, the panelists were blindfolded. Sometimes the mystery guests disguised their voices. Willie Mays, the professional baseball player, humorously tried and failed at his attempt to deceive the judges.
On July 3, 1955, Audie Murphy made an appearance on What’s My Line? (his part begins at 17:27). Murphy was one of the most decorated US Army soldiers during World War II. He was awarded every medal for valor, including the Medal of Honor, for single-handedly stopping a German attack from the top of a burning tank that was at risk of exploding at any moment. Although he was wounded in the leg, he killed more than 20 German soldiers with the tank’s .50-caliber machine gun, then led a counterattack that killed or wounded 50 more Germans.
After World War II, he returned home and became a national celebrity, writing popular country music songs and acting in 44 featured films. When his autobiography, To Hell and Back, was made into a film, he starred as himself. Audie Murphy died in a plane crash in 1971 when he was just 45 years old.
Matt Fratus is a history staff writer for Coffee or Die. He prides himself on uncovering the most fascinating tales of history by sharing them through any means of engaging storytelling. He writes for his micro-blog @LateNightHistory on Instagram, where he shares the story behind the image. He is also the host of the Late Night History podcast. When not writing about history, Matt enjoys volunteering for One More Wave and rooting for Boston sports teams.
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