Clifton Fadiman

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Clifton Fadiman
Clifton Paul Fadiman

May 15, 1904
New York City, US
DiedJune 20, 1999(1999-06-20) (aged 95)
Alma materColumbia University
Occupation(s)Intellectual, author, editor, radio and television personality
Years active1927–1998
Employer(s)Simon & Schuster, New Yorker
Known forInformation, Please! (radio)
Notable workLifetime Reading Plan, The Mathematical Magpie, Fantasia Mathematica (books)
TelevisionThis Is Show Business, The Name's the Same
  • Pauline Rush
    (m. 1927; div. 1949)
  • (m. 1950)
Children3, including Anne Fadiman
RelativesBoris Sidis (uncle)
William James Sidis (cousin)
AwardsMedal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters

Clifton Paul "Kip" Fadiman (May 15, 1904 – June 20, 1999) was an American intellectual, author, editor, and radio and television personality. He began his work in radio, and switched to television later in his career.


Born in Brooklyn,[1] New York, Fadiman was a nephew of the emigree Ukrainian psychologist Boris Sidis and a first cousin of the child prodigy William James Sidis.[2]

Fadiman grew up in Brooklyn. His mother worked as a nurse; his father, Isadore, immigrated from Russian empire in 1892 and worked as a druggist.[3]

He attended Columbia College at Columbia University. One of his teachers was lifelong friend Mark Van Doren; his undergraduate contemporaries included Jacques Barzun, Mortimer Adler, Lionel Trilling, Herbert Solow, Arthur F. Burns, Frank S. Hogan, Louis Zukofsky and Whittaker Chambers. Though he entered with the Class of 1924, his graduation was delayed until 1925 because of financial constraints.[3] Chambers clearly includes Fadiman in a group of ernste Menschen ["serious people"], whose ability to attend Columbia he attributes to "a struggle with a warping poverty impossible for those who have not glimpsed it to imagine it."[4] He graduated Phi Beta Kappa.[1] Fadiman had ambitions to become a scholar, but at graduation, the chairman of the English Department told him, "We have room for only one Jew, and we have chosen Mr. Trilling."[5]


After graduation from Columbia, Fadiman taught English at the Ethical Culture High School (now known as the "Fieldston School") in the Bronx from 1925 to 1927.[3]


Fadiman worked ten years[when?] for Simon & Schuster, ending as its chief editor. At his interview with Max Schuster (a fellow alumnus of Columbia), Fadiman pulled out a folder with a hundred ideas for books. Among Fadiman's original one hundred was to turn Robert Ripley's newspaper cartoon, Believe it or Not! into book form. The series has gone on to sell over 30 million copies.[6]

While at Simon & Schuster, he started the translation career of Whittaker Chambers by having him translate Bambi from German:

My college friend, Clifton Fadiman, was then [circa 1927–1928] a reader at Simon and Schuster, the New York book publishers. He offered to let me try my hand at translating a little German book. It was about a deer named Bambi and was written by an Austrian, of whom I had never heard, named Felix Salten ... Bambi was an instant success, and I suddenly found myself an established translator.[7]

In 1932, Fadiman wrote "How I Came to Communism: Symposium" for the New Masses (shortly after Chambers left the magazine to begin his underground career), in which he wrote: "History–mainly in the form of the crisis–became my teacher while I was still young enough to learn."[8]

Fadiman then took charge of The New Yorker's book review section, 1933–1943.

He became emcee for the National Book Award ceremonies in 1938 and 1939, at least, and again when those literary awards by the American book industry were re-inaugurated in 1950.[9][10] (The awards were inaugurated May 1936, conferred annually through 1942 [publication years 1935 to 1941], and re-inaugurated March 1950 [publication year 1949].)

Fadiman became a judge for the Book of the Month Club in 1944.

In the 1970s he was also senior editor of Cricket magazine, where he wrote the book review column for children, "Cricket's Bookshelf".


While still at the New Yorker, Fadiman became well known on radio, where he hosted its most popular quiz show, Information, Please! from May 1938 to June 1948. A regular trio of pundits, Franklin P. Adams, John Kieran and Oscar Levant, plus one guest expert, conducted each session with erudite charm and good-natured wordplay under Fadiman's nimble control. (Guest John Gunther's mention of the then-current Iranian potentate prompted Fadiman to ask, "Are you shah of that?", to which Gunther quipped, "Why, sultanly!") Fadiman also made frequent appearances on the Metropolitan Opera radio broadcasts from 1949 to 1960. During the intermission segments he would discuss the opera being broadcast and interview famous opera singers.


In 1952, Information Please! was briefly revived for CBS Television as a 13-week summer replacement for the musical variety program The Fred Waring Show. During that June–September period, devoted fans of the departed radio program could finally not only hear, but also see Fadiman, Adams, and Kieran in action.

His longest-lasting TV program was This Is Show Business, which ran on CBS from July 15, 1949, to March 9, 1954. Called This Is Broadway during the first four months of its run, the show mixed song, dance, and other musical entertainment, with information. Host Fadiman, celebrity guest panelists, and regular raconteurs/intellectuals Kaufman, Abe Burrows, and Sam Levenson commented on the musical performers and chatted with them. In late September 1951, This Is Show Business became the first regular CBS Television series to be broadcast live from coast-to-coast. The continuing need in 1950s TV for summer series to replace live variety shows likewise brought this show back in 1956 for a 12-week period (June 26 – September 11). Fadiman and Burrows returned along with new panelists Walter Slezak and actress Jacqueline Susann, the future author of Valley of the Dolls. Susann's husband, TV executive Irving Mansfield, produced the 1956 revival for NBC television.

Fadiman was also the last master of ceremonies to host the ABC-TV game show The Name's the Same. After the departure of original host Robert Q. Lewis, who had presided for three years, producers Mark Goodson and Bill Todman hired different hosts for the final 39-episode cycle: Dennis James for 18 weeks, then Bob and Ray for 10 weeks, and then Fadiman for the remaining 11 weeks. The series, broadcast live, featured namesakes of celebrities and other "famous names". On August 16, 1955, when a woman contestant was discovered to be "Hope Diamond", Fadiman personally orchestrated an astounding surprise: he arranged for the real 45 carats (9.0 g) Hope Diamond to be displayed to the amazed panelists and the national television audience. A low point for Fadiman was on the same episode, when he insulted Chico Marx and asked "Are you working, or are you still living on Groucho's money?", leaving Chico humiliated.[1]

Fadiman filled in for What's My Line? host John Charles Daly for two weeks in 1958 when Daly was on assignment in Tokyo.


Fadiman's witticisms and sayings were frequently printed in newspapers and magazines. "When you reread a classic, you do not see more in the book than you did before, you see more in you than there was before", was one of the better known. Of Stendhal, Fadiman wrote, "He has no grace, little charm, less humor ... [and] is not really a good storyteller".

With the advent of TV, Fadiman gained in popularity, quickly establishing himself as an all-purpose, highly knowledgeable guest and host. At ease in front of the TV camera and experienced from his years in radio, he frequently appeared on talk shows and hosted a number of upscale quiz programs.

Fadiman became a prime example of the "witty intellectual" type popular on television in the 1950s. John Charles Daly, Bennett Cerf, George S. Kaufman, Alexander King, and a number of other television celebrities personified, along with Fadiman, the highly educated, elegant, patrician raconteurs and pundits regarded by TV executives of that era as appealing to the upper-class owners of expensive early TV sets.


Fadiman received the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters from the National Book Foundation.[11]

Personal life[edit]

Fadiman's first marriage was in 1927 to Pauline Elizabeth Rush, with whom he had a son, Jonathan Rush. They divorced in 1949. His second marriage was in 1950 to Annalee Jacoby, aka Annalee Fadiman, an author, screenwriter for MGM and World War II foreign correspondent for Time and Life. As a widow, she later used the name Annalee Jacoby Fadiman.[12] She co-wrote Thunder Out of China with Theodore H. White (1946). Clifton and Annalee had a son, Kim Fadiman, and a daughter, writer Anne Fadiman. On February 5, 2002, Annalee committed suicide in Captiva, Florida, aged 85, after a long battle with breast cancer and Parkinson's disease.[1][13]

Fadiman lost his eyesight when he was in his early 90s but continued to review manuscripts for the Book of the Month Club by listening to tapes of books recorded by his son Kim, after which Fadiman would dictate his impressions to his secretary.[1]


Fadiman died at the age of 95 of pancreatic cancer[1] on June 20, 1999, in Sanibel, Florida; he lived on nearby Captiva Island. In the year of his death, a fourth edition of Fadiman's Lifetime Reading Plan was published as The New Lifetime Reading Plan.[14]

In its obituary, The New York Times called Fadiman an "essayist, critic, editor and indefatigable anthologist whose encyclopedic knowledge made him a mainstay of Information Please and other popular radio programs in the late 1930s, 40s and 50s" and noted that he "also helped establish the Book-of-the-Month Club and served on its editorial board for more than 50 years."[15]


The catalog of the Library of Congress has more than 90 works associated with Fadiman's name.[16]

Translations from German[edit]


Children's collections and stories[edit]

Prefaces, introductions and/or editions or readers[edit]


The Library of Congress has many recordings of Fadiman, which include:



  1. ^ a b c d e "Clifton Fadiman papers, 1966–1970". Columbia University. Archived from the original on June 26, 2010. Retrieved October 13, 2012.
  2. ^ "My perspective of Amy Wallace's The Prodigy (1986)". Doug Renselle. September 1–16, 1998.
  3. ^ a b c One of "Kip's" older brothers, Edwin, taught him how to read. Edwin later married Celeste Frankel and became the brother-in-law to Margaret Lefranc (Frankel), who was a future recipient of the Governor's Award for Painting. Cross, Timothy P. (September 1999). "Clifton Fadiman '25: An Erudite Guide to the Wisdom of Others". Columbia University. Retrieved October 13, 2012.
  4. ^ Chambers, Whittaker (1964). Duncan Norton-Taylor (ed.). Cold Friday. New York: Random House. p. 125. ISBN 978-0-394-41969-5. LCCN 64020025.
  5. ^ Carolyn Heilbrun. When Men were the Only Models we Had. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002, p. 29.
  6. ^ Silverman, Al (2008). The Time of Their Lives: The Golden Age of Great American Publishers, Their Editors and Authors. Truman Talley. ISBN 9780312350031.
  7. ^ Chambers, Whittaker (1952). Witness. New York: Random House. pp. 56, 239. ISBN 978-0-89526-789-4. LCCN 52005149.
  8. ^ Fadiman, Clifton (September 1932). "How I Came to Marxism: Symposium" (PDF). New Masses: 7–8. Retrieved July 28, 2020.
  9. ^ "Programs on the Air (Radio)". New York Times. March 16, 1950. p. 46.
  10. ^ "Book Publishers Make 3 Awards: ... Gold Plaques". New York Times. March 17, 1950. p. 21.
  11. ^ "Distinguished Contribution to American Letters". National Book Foundation. Retrieved 2012-03-12. (With acceptance speech by Fadiman and introduction by Al Silverman.)
  12. ^ "Clifton Fadiman to Wed; Gets License With Mrs. Jacoby, Widow of War Correspondent". New York Times. February 8, 1950. Retrieved October 13, 2012.
  13. ^ "Milestones". Time. February 18, 2002. Archived from the original on March 12, 2007.
  14. ^ Heitman, Danny (Summer 2017). "Clifton Fadiman Didn't Mind Being Called Schoolmasterish". Humanities. Vol. 38, no. 3. National Endowment for the Humanities. Retrieved March 16, 2022.
  15. ^ Severo, Richard (June 21, 1999). "Clifton Fadiman, a Wordsmith Known for His Encyclopedic Knowledge, Is Dead at 95". New York Times. Retrieved October 13, 2012.
  16. ^ "Online Catalog". Library of Congress. Retrieved October 13, 2012.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Preceded by Host of The Name's the Same
June 28 - October 7, 1955
Succeeded by
series cancelled