Art Fleming

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Art Fleming
Art Fleming in 1970.png
Art Fleming in August 1970.
Born Arthur Fleming Fazzin
(1924-05-01)May 1, 1924
New York, New York
Died April 25, 1995(1995-04-25) (aged 70)
Crystal River, Florida
Cause of death Pancreatic cancer
Occupation TV presenter, game show host
Years active 1949–1995
Known for Original host of Jeopardy!
Spouse(s) Rebecca Lynn (1977-1995, his death)

Arthur Fleming Fazzin (May 1, 1924 – April 25, 1995), better known as Art Fleming, was an American actor and television host. He is most notable for being the original host of the television game show Jeopardy!,[1] which aired on NBC from 1964 until 1975.

Early life[edit]

Fleming was born in New York City.[citation needed] His parents, William and Marie Fazzin, had immigrated to the United States from Austria. They were a popular dance team in Europe, who had brought their show to America. Their son Art was a varsity letterman football player at James Monroe High School in New York City,[2] standing 6 foot, 4 inches (1.93 m), weighing 220 pounds (100 kg). He later attended Colgate and Cornell universities,[3] starring on the football team, as well as water polo teams at both colleges. Fleming was a World War II veteran who served in the U.S. Navy for three and a half years as the pilot of a patrol bomber in the Atlantic.[3]

Career[edit]

After leaving the Navy, Fleming became an announcer at a radio station in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. Here, he first shortened his name to "Art Fleming". His radio career later took him to Akron, Ohio, and back home to New York. He was the first announcer to deliver the slogan "Winston tastes good, like a cigarette should" for Winston cigarettes.

A 1970 NBC publicity photo featuring Art James, Bob Clayton, Jack Kelly, and Art Fleming

Fleming's acting career began at age four, when he starred in a Broadway play. His first television role was as a stunt double for Ralph Bellamy in the detective series Man Against Crime. In 1959 he starred as detective Ken Franklin in the ABC TV series International Detective, credited as Arthur Fleming. He also played attorney Jeremy Pitt in The Californians, an NBC Western set in San Francisco during the gold rush of the 1850s. Fleming also appeared in many television commercials. He was first spotted by Merv Griffin on a commercial for Trans World Airlines. Griffin thought Fleming was "authoritative, yet warm and interesting", and Fleming was invited to audition for the role of host for a quiz show Griffin was developing. Fleming (an actor with no prior TV quiz show experience) was initially skeptical, but his agent encouraged him to "act like a game show host" at his audition, and Fleming ultimately won the job.[1] The show was Jeopardy!, which Fleming hosted from March 30, 1964, to January 3, 1975,[4] and again from October 2, 1978, to March 2, 1979. Although often described as the "host" of the program, announcer Don Pardo's introduction of him announced, "and here's the star of Jeopardy!, Art Fleming." As "the world's greatest quiz show's" first host, Fleming earned two Emmy Award nominations. While he was host of Jeopardy!, Fleming never missed a taping.

Because he hosted a quiz show, Fleming earned a reputation as being a storehouse of trivia. While appearing as a guest star on Hollywood Squares (another NBC game show in the 1960s and 1970s), Fleming was once selected as the "secret square". His question was, "In 1938, who won the Wimbledon women's tennis championship?" Fleming picked Helen Wills Moody, one of the three choices read to him. The female contestant (who had selected Fleming) turned to Hollywood Squares MC Peter Marshall, saying, "Art Fleming would never lie! I agree!" He was right, and the contestant won $11,000. Fleming later said he did not know a thing about tennis and had guessed the answer. He hoped the contestant would disagree, thinking he was wrong.

Throughout his career, Fleming starred in about 5,000 episodes of television programs and 48 motion pictures. After Jeopardy!'s first cancellation in 1975, Fleming returned to acting. In 1977 he played the role of W. Averell Harriman in the movie MacArthur starring Gregory Peck, and appeared in the comedy film American Raspberry, and also appeared in episodes of Starsky and Hutch, Kingston: Confidential, and the 1976 TV miniseries The Moneychangers.

Fleming also hosted a radio version of College Bowl for CBS Radio from 1979 to 1982. He hosted the NBC radio weekend magazine Monitor during 1972. Fleming reprised his role as host of Jeopardy! in the 1982 movie Airplane II: The Sequel and in "Weird Al" Yankovic's music video "I Lost on Jeopardy". Fleming was also often called upon to host mock versions of Jeopardy! at trade shows and conventions.

It was reported that Fleming was asked to reprise his role as Jeopardy! host when Merv Griffin began developing a revival of the show in 1983. He declined, later stating in 1989 that he did not like the direction the show had gone in moving the show to Hollywood (being partial to his native New York, he felt that the Hollywood setting made the show dumber and less realistic).[5] As a result, Alex Trebek took the position instead and has hosted the program ever since.

From 1980 to 1992, Fleming hosted a daily radio talk show on KMOX in St. Louis, which continued until his retirement. On Sunday evenings, he occasionally co-hosted Trivia Spectacular with David Strauss, a St. Louis schoolteacher. He also hosted the syndicated radio program When Radio Was.

Personal life[edit]

Mr. Fleming was first married to actress Peggy Ann Ellis, who worked on The Merv Griffin Show.[citation needed] They had a daughter, Jan Marie Hanna[6] and were divorced after five years. Fleming then married Rebecca "Becky" Lynn in a private ceremony at Norman Vincent Peale's home. Becky brought two children into the marriage. He also had four grandchildren. In 1992, Fleming retired and the family moved to Crystal River, Florida. He remained active in charity work: he hosted fundraising videos for the Citrus County United Way and became involved with the Citrus County Abuse Shelter Association, Inc. (where Becky served as director). He also hosted a syndicated television program, called Senior America, which showcased seniors and senior activities.

Death and legacy[edit]

Fleming died of pancreatic cancer at his home on April 25, 1995, six days before his 71st birthday. His ashes were scattered at sea.[7]

Studio 25 of The Burbank Studios is named in his honor.

Partial filmography[edit]

Sources[edit]

  1. ^ a b Harris, Bob (2006). Prisoner of Trebekistan: A Decade in Jeopardy!. Random House Digital. p. 13. ISBN 978-0-307-33956-0. 
  2. ^ http://jeopardy.edogo.com/index.php/cast-biography/art-fleming/
  3. ^ a b Jeopardy tribute website
  4. ^ David Schwartz, Steve Ryan & Fred Wostbrock, The Encyclopedia of TV Game $hows, Checkmark Books, 1999, pp. 112–115.
  5. ^ "What is Jeopardy!?, 05.01.89 – Sports Illustrated
  6. ^ https://www.nytimes.com/1995/04/27/obituaries/art-fleming-70-television-host-who-gave-polish-to-jeopardy.html
  7. ^ "Art Fleming". Find a Grave. Retrieved March 30, 2014. 

External links[edit]

Media offices
Preceded by
None
Host of Jeopardy!
1964–1975, 1978–1979
Succeeded by
Alex Trebek