Fenneman in Your Funny, Funny Films, 1963
George Watt Fenneman|
November 10, 1919
May 29, 1997 (aged 77)|
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Occupation||Game show host, announcer|
|Spouse(s)||Peggy Clifford (m. 1943; his death 1997)|
George Watt Fenneman (November 10, 1919 – May 29, 1997) was an American radio and television announcer.
Fenneman was born in Peking (now Beijing), China, the only child of American parents in the import-export business. He was nine months old when his parents moved to San Francisco, California, where he grew up. In 1942 he graduated from San Francisco State College with a degree in speech and drama, and took a job as an announcer with a local radio station. During the Second World War he worked as a broadcast correspondent for the U.S. Office of War Information. In 1946 he moved to Los Angeles and resumed his radio career.
He is most remembered as the announcer and good-natured sidekick for Groucho Marx's comedy/quiz show vehicle You Bet Your Life, which began in 1947 on radio and moved to television in 1950, where it remained on NBC for 11 years. Fenneman's mellifluous voice, clean-cut good looks, and gentlemanly manner provided the ideal foil for Marx's zany antics and bawdy ad libs.
Fenneman was a resilient target of Marx's frequent mispronunciations of his name ("Feminine") and other light-hearted teasing. "Groucho called [Fenneman] the male Margaret Dumont", according to Frank Ferrante, who portrayed Marx onstage in Groucho: A Life in Revue. "George took it as the highest praise. Groucho called him the perfect straight man." He was also selected because of his intelligence and ability to calculate the scores of the contestants, whom Groucho frequently encouraged to bet odd amounts, making the arithmetic difficult to keep straight on the fly during a live show. Fenneman remained friends with Marx until the latter's death in 1977.
Fenneman was one of a pair of announcers on Dragnet; he shared narration duties with Hal Gibney on radio and the original 1951 Dragnet television series, and then with John Stephenson when Dragnet returned to TV in 1967. It was Fenneman's voice which announced, "The story you are about to see is true. The names have been changed to protect the innocent." while Stephenson would be heard at the end of the episode describing the court trials and verdicts.
He was the principal commercial announcer for the radio version of Gunsmoke, and frequently introduced "Matt Dillon" (William Conrad) after the episode to extoll the virtues of L&M or Chesterfield cigarettes.
He appeared on screen in the 1951 film The Thing from Another World and the 1967 film adaptation of the Broadway show How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying in substantial but uncredited roles. He and his wife were neighbors of The Thing from Another World's director, Christian Nyby. A spontaneous on-set script revision convinced Fenneman his future was not in movie acting. Producer Howard Hawks took a long scientific speech away from Robert O. Cornthwaite's character Dr. Carrington, preferring to give exposition to a minor character (Fenneman). As a radio performer accustomed to reading from a script and not used to quick memorization, Fenneman stumbled over the technical gobbledegook ("We have the time of arrival on the seismograph..."), resulting in 27 takes of the scene. In the final film, viewers can see the other actors trying not to smile as Fenneman spouts the lines. He also appeared in an obscure film, Mystery Lake. He avoided on-screen performances thereafter, except as himself, mostly in documentaries. In 1966 he appeared in episode 48 of Batman as a newsman.
Fenneman also hosted two game shows: Anybody Can Play in 1958, and Your Surprise Package in 1961. In 1966 he hosted two pilots for Crossword, a game show that would be renamed The Cross-Wits in 1975 and aired with Jack Clark as host. He was the commercial spokesman for Lipton Tea during much of the 1960s, and in that role appeared live on The Ed Sullivan Show when the Beatles made their second U.S. TV appearance on February 16, 1964. He was also the voiceover artist for Home Savings & Loan commercials from the late 1960s to the end of his life. In 1963, he hosted an ABC Television program called Your Funny, Funny Films, a precursor to America's Funniest Home Videos. He hosted Talk About Pictures on PBS from 1978-1982. His last credit was as narrator of The Naked Monster, released posthumously in 2005.
Oft-repeated statements that Fenneman is the voice of the US Naval Observatory Master Clock or the National Institute of Standards and Technology's radio station WWV are untrue. Those announcements were, in fact, performed by Fred Covington (1928–1993).
|1951||The Thing from Another World||Dr. Redding||Uncredited|
|1953||Mystery Lake||Bill Richards|
|1954||Stormy, the Thoroughbred||Narrator|
|1960||Ocean's 11||On Phone Talking to Sheriff Wimmer||Voice, Uncredited|
|1967||How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying||Himself / TV Announcer|
|1969||Once You Kiss a Stranger||Announcer|
|1971||Big Jake||Narrator||Voice, Uncredited|
|2005||The Naked Monster||Narrator||Voice, (final film role)|
- Vosburgh, Dick (June 30, 1997). "Obituary: George Fenneman". The Independent.
- "George Fenneman, Sidekick To Groucho Marx, Dies at 77". The New York Times. Associated Press. June 5, 1997.
- Van Gelder, Lawrence (June 6, 1997). "George Fenneman, 77, Dies; Courtly Foil for Groucho". The New York Times.
- Oliver, Myrna (June 5, 1997). "George Fenneman; 'You Bet Your Life' Announcer". Los Angeles Times.
- Mystery Lake on IMDb
- Schmidt, Richard (December 2004). "Reflections on Ten Years of Network Time Service". Proceedings of the 36th Annual Precise Time and Time Interval (PTTI) Meeting: 123. Retrieved 30 April 2015.
- Fenneman, George. "I Remember Groucho, Part I". Retrieved 9 November 2017.