You Bet Your Life was actually two programs in one. First, Groucho Marx would "interview" two contestants by asking them questions about their lives. Groucho was truly a master at finding a joke somewhere in just about every answer they gave. After the "joking around" portion of the program, the quiz show would begin. The contestants could win money by correctly answering trivia questions. This process would continue with more pairs of contestants and the pair that won the most money would get a bonus round.
You Bet Your Life CastGroucho Marx ........ Host
George Fenneman ..... Announcer
Marilyn Burtis ...... Secret Word Girl
You Bet Your LifeTrivia
The original idea for You Bet Your Life came from some appearances Groucho Marx made on the radio with Bob Hope. Then came the You Bet Your Life radio show that aired from October 5, 1949 through April 28, 1954, coinciding with the TV series for its final 4 years!
Author William Peter Blatty won $10,000 on the show and said he would use the money to take time off of work to write a novel. The novel he wrote turned out to be "The Exorcist".
After his death, Groucho's children found a letter where he (jokingly) stated that he wanted to be buried on top of Marilyn Monroe! His death got very little attention because he died only three days after the death of Elvis Presley.
In the final season, the series' title was changed from "You Bet Your Life" to "The Groucho Show". The only other change was that the Duck was not always used to bring down the secret word. It might be a pretty girl and one time it was even Groucho's brother Harpo.
There were two rather unsuccessful attempts to revive the show. Buddy Hackett hosted a syndicated version in 1980 and Bill Cosby tried in in the early 1990s.
During the summer months, reruns of You Bet Your Life aired but they were called "The Best of Groucho".
Some well-known contestants on the TV show included: Ray Bradbury (Ray Bradbury Theater), Phyllis Diller (Pruitts of South Hampton), Liberace, Edith Head (Costume designer for nearly 500 movies), William Peter Blatty (Writer of "The Exorcist" and others), Dimitri Tiomkin (Hollywood composer with more than 240 credits), Francis X. Bushman (Silent film megastar), Harry Ruby (Composer), Fay Spain (1950s-1970s actress), and Daws Butler (Did voices including: Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear, Quick Draw McGraw, Snagglepuss, Wally Gator, and Elroy Jetson).
You Bet Your Life was nominated for 5 Emmys but didn't win any.
Groucho started his career in vaudeville with his brothers Gummo, Zeppo, Chico and Harpo Marx. Gummo left the act before the remaining Marx brothers went on to making movies and is seldom mentioned.
The musical conductor for the program (Jerry Fielding) was called before the infamous "House Committee on Unamerican Activities" and refused to testify. The DeSoto-Plymouth Dealers of America (You Bet Your Life's sponsor) demanded that he be immediately fired! Fielding later stated that the committee wanted him to name Groucho Marx as a communist! Groucho said that giving in to the sponsor's demand to fire Fielding was one of the greatest regrets of his life!
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