Wheel of Fortune (1952)
|Wheel of Fortune|
|Created by||Peter Arnell|
|Presented by||Todd Russell|
|Narrated by||Hal Simms|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Running time||30 Minutes|
|Production company(s)||Peter Arnell Productions|
|Original run||October 3, 1952 – November 6, 1953|
The series involved rewarding everyday people who had done good deeds in their life by having their stories told on national TV, then allowing them to spin a carnival-style prize wheel onstage and being awarded that prize. Occasionally, the lucky spin gave the good Samaritan a chance to win up to $1,000 by answering trivia questions.
The show's theme was Kay Starr's version of the song "Wheel of Fortune", which was released in the first two months of 1952 and beginning on February 8 ran 22 weeks on Billboard's best-seller chart, with a nine-week stretch (March 14 to May 9) at #1.
Interestingly, her version shared the charts with two other renditions during the same period (Bobby Wayne with Joe Reisman's orchestra; Eddie Wilcox & Sunny Gale), however the latter two were not as popular. The Wayne/Reisman version appeared from February 15 to April 18 (peaking at #13), while the Wilcox/Gale rendition appeared from February 1 to March 7 (peaking at #14).
Wheel debuted on October 3, 1952 at 10:00 AM Eastern (9:00 Central), facing Breakfast Party on NBC and local programming on ABC. In an odd move, the show debuted on a Friday, where the series aired for a full hour until 11:00 AM (10:00 Central) each week; the second half-hour competed against local shows.
On November 24, Breakfast was replaced by the children's program Ding Dong School. On July 6, the Peacock debuted the Henry Babbitt-hosted game Glamour Girl at 10:30, which only competed with the hour-long game on Fridays.
The show's popularity spawned a nighttime version on July 7, 1953 at 8:30 PM, but quickly folded on September 15 against Break the Bank on NBC and local programs elsewhere.
The daytime version fared little better, having been worn down by Glamour and Ding Dong despite the former changing hosts on October 8 from Babbitt to Jack McCoy. Wheel bowed on November 6, 1953, with Glamour following suit on January 8, 1954; Ding Dong remained until the end of 1956.
Despite its brevity in America, the show found success in Australia on radio and the Nine Network from 1959-1962. Originally hosted by series producer Reg Grundy, he was replaced by Walter Elliott in 1962.
Relationship to Merv Griffin
Despite the shared title, the 1950s Wheel of Fortune does not have any direct connections to the subsequent Merv Griffin production. That said, it should be noted that both offered cash and prizes, both were popular during their respective runs, and both used their respective logo in the center of the wheel (although the 1950s show had it as a permanent fixture).
More notably, a similar carnival-style wheel was used in the original 1973 Wheel pilot (Shopper's Bazaar), although that wheel was operated by a motor. A further (and far more explicit) connection arrived in 1981, when Grundy debuted his adaptation of Griffin's Wheel.
The American series is believed to be destroyed as per network practices of the era. A photo of Russell and the wheel was used in the A&E Biography TV Game Shows.
The Australian version likely suffered the same fate, although clips of an episode were used in the 2006 special 50 Years: 50 Stars. An episode (missing the opening and closing titles) is held by National Film and Sound Archive as a kinescope recording.  The survival rate of Australian game shows of the 1950s and 1960s is highly erratic: although around 13 episodes exist of the short-lived 1957 series Give it a Go,  no recordings exist of the popular Melbourne version of Tell the Truth.
- Information on the Australian "Wheel Of Fortune"
- Clip of Grundy's Wheel of Fortune