Allen Albert Funt
September 16, 1914
New York, New York, U.S.
|Died||September 5, 1999 (aged 84)|
Pebble Beach, California, U.S.
|Occupation||Producer, director, writer|
|Spouse(s)||Evelyn Michal (m. 1946–64)|
Marilyn Laron (m. 1964–78)
|Children||Peter, Patricia, John, Juliet, William|
Allen Albert Funt (September 16, 1914 – September 5, 1999) was an American television producer, director, writer and television personality best known as the creator and host of Candid Camera from the 1940s to 1980s, as either a regular television show or a television series of specials. Its most notable run was from 1960 to 1967 on CBS.
Early life and education
Allen graduated from high school at age 15. Too young to attend college on his own, he studied at Pratt Institute (also located in Brooklyn). He later earned a bachelor's degree in fine arts from Cornell University, studied business administration at Columbia University, then returned to Pratt for additional art instruction.
Radio and television
Trained in commercial art, Funt worked for an advertising agency in their art department, but he eventually moved to its radio department. Among his first jobs for radio, he wrote for Truth or Consequences and assisted US First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt with her radio commentaries.
Drafted into the military during World War II and stationed in Oklahoma, Funt served in the Army Signal Corps, eventually making radio shows. He began his signature program on ABC Radio as The Candid Microphone on June 28, 1947, and it ran until September 23, 1948. The program was revived on CBS June 6 – August 29, 1950. He soon experimented with a visual version by doing a series of theatrical short films also known as Candid Microphone. These film shorts served as a springboard for his entrance into television on August 10, 1948. The show ran on all three major TV networks and in syndication while hosted by Allen Funt until he was sidelined by a stroke in 1993. The syndicated version of Candid Camera was broadcast from 1974 to 1979; his co-hosts included, at various times, John Bartholomew Tucker, Phyllis George and Jo Ann Pflug.
During the 1970s, Funt made two documentary films based on the hidden camera theme: the X-rated What Do You Say to a Naked Lady? (1970) and Money Talks (1972). In the 1980s, Funt produced a series of adult-oriented videos called Candid Candid Camera.
Funt donated his recordings and films to his alma mater Cornell University and established a fellowship at Syracuse University for postgraduate studies in radio and television "aimed at providing the broadcast industry with qualified black personnel."
He established a foundation which used laughter therapy for seriously ill patients by providing videocassettes of Candid Camera episodes. He also taught psychology at Monterey Peninsula College.
In 1946, Funt married Evelyn Michal (1920–2014) with whom he had three children, Peter, Patricia and John. In 1964 the couple was divorced and the same year Funt married Marilyn Laron, whom he divorced in 1978. The couple had two children, Juliet and William. Funt had seven grandchildren.
On February 3, 1969, Funt, his wife, and his two youngest children boarded Eastern Airlines Flight 7 in Newark, New Jersey, with a destination of Miami, Florida. While en route, two men hijacked the plane and demanded passage to Cuba. However, some of the passengers, having spotted Funt, believed the whole thing to be a Candid Camera stunt. Funt repeatedly attempted to persuade his fellow passengers as to the reality of the hijacking, but to no avail. The plane later landed in Cuba, finally convincing the passengers. Funt and others were later released after 11 hours of being held captive.
He amassed a collection of works by the Victorian painter Lawrence Alma-Tadema and engineered an exhibition of them at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (bypassing the wishes of then director Thomas Hoving). The collection's value skyrocketed as a result, and Funt sold them at a handsome profit.
Funt resided in Croton-on-Hudson, Westchester County, New York. His estate, White Gates, was sold to opera singer Jessye Norman in the early 1990s. Funt in the early 1970s purchased a 1,226 acre ranch located 12 mi (19 km) south of Carmel near Big Sur, California, "where he raised Hereford cattle and quarter horses" Funt later purchased the nearby 11-acre Bixby Ranch where he resided. Both ranches were eventually bought by The Trust for Public Land which expected to turn the land over to the US Forest Service.
- Vallance, Tom (September 8, 1999). "Obituary: Allen Funt". The Independent. Retrieved March 17, 2017.
- "Allen Funt 1914–1999". candidcamera.com. Archived from the original on July 2, 2007. Retrieved July 11, 2007.
- "Candid Microphone". modestoradiomuseum.org. Archived from the original on February 10, 2017. Retrieved March 17, 2017.
- "Smile My Ass". RadioLab.org. WNYC. Retrieved 8 October 2015.
- Dunning, John (1998). On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio (Revised ed.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press. pp. 135-136. ISBN 978-0-19-507678-3. Retrieved 2019-11-11.
- McCabe, Michael (March 25, 2001). "Land Trust Saves Big Sur Ranch / Developer pockets $24 million after one-year ownership". SFGate.com. San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved March 17, 2017.
- Classic TV Archive The New Phil Silvers Show (1963-64)
- "You're NOT on 'Candid Camera': Allen Funt was on hijacked flight, passengers took it for a prank". DangerousMinds.net.
- Alma-Tadema (Catalogue of the Funt Collection) compiled by Russell Ash, Sotheby's Belgravia, 1973