What's My Line?

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What's My Line?
What's My Line? logo screenshot.jpg
Directed byPaul Alter (1957-61)
Presented byJohn Charles Daly
Wally Bruner
Larry Blyden
StarringArlene Francis
Dorothy Kilgallen
Louis Untermeyer
Hal Block
Bennett Cerf
Steve Allen
Fred Allen
Martin Gabel
Soupy Sales
Narrated byLee Vines
Hal Simms
Ralph Paul
Johnny Olson
Chet Gould
Country of originUnited States
No. of seasons25
No. of episodesCBS: 876
Syndication: 1,320
Total: 2,196
Producer(s)Mark Goodson
Bill Todman
Running time25–29 minutes (CBS)
22–23 minutes (syndication)
Production company(s)Goodson-Todman Productions
DistributorCBS Enterprises
Viacom Enterprises
Original networkCBS (1950–67)
Syndication (1968–75)
Picture formatBlack-and-white (1950–66)
Color (1966–75)
Audio formatMonaural
Original releaseFebruary 2, 1950 –
September 3, 1975
Related showsI've Got a Secret
To Tell The Truth

What's My Line? is a panel game show that originally ran in the United States on the CBS Television Network from 1950 to 1967, in black and white, with subsequent U.S. revivals. The game uses celebrity panelists to question contestants in order to determine their occupation, i.e. "line [of work]", with panelists being called on to question and identify a weekly celebrity "mystery guest" while blindfolded. It is the longest-running U.S. primetime network television game-show. Moderated by John Charles Daly and with regular panelists Dorothy Kilgallen, Arlene Francis, and Bennett Cerf, What's My Line? won three Emmy Awards for "Best Quiz or Audience Participation Show" in 1952, 1953, and 1958 and the Golden Globe for Best TV Show in 1962.[1][2]

Since the program had celebrities in every episode, almost all of its kinescopes (recordings) have been preserved, in the archive of producers Mark Goodson and Bill Todman. All the recordings are available on YouTube.

After its cancellation by CBS in 1967, it returned in syndication as a daily production, moderated originally by Wally Bruner and later by Larry Blyden, which ran from 1968 to 1975. There have been a dozen international versions, radio versions, and a live stage version.

In 2013, TV Guide ranked it #9 in its list of the 60 greatest game shows ever.[3]

Original CBS series, 1950 to 1967[edit]

Produced by Mark Goodson and Bill Todman for CBS Television, the show was initially called Occupation Unknown before deciding on the name What's My Line?[4] The original series, which was usually broadcast live, debuted on Thursday, February 2, 1950, at 8:00 p.m. ET. After airing alternate Wednesdays, then alternate Thursdays, finally on October 1, 1950, it had settled into its weekly Sunday 10:30 p.m. ET slot where it would remain until the end of its network run on September 3, 1967.

Starting in July 1959 and continuing for 8 straight years, until July 1967, when John Daly was due to appear in Moscow, the show would occasionally record episodes onto Quadruplex videotape for playback at a future date. This was then state-of-the-art technology, and Daly praised it upon his return from Moscow.[5] In such instances, there would often be two shows a day; the "taped" one, followed immediately by the "live" one.[6] The cast and crew began taking "Summer breaks" from the show in July 1961, through July 1967.

Hosts and panelists[edit]

Moderator John Charles Daly's 1950 CBS publicity photo for"What's My Line?"
Original panelists from the premiere broadcast, February 2, 1950
The panel in 1952. From left: Dorothy Kilgallen, Bennett Cerf, Arlene Francis and Hal Block with John Daly as the host.
(l–r) Arlene Francis, Bennett Cerf, Dorothy Kilgallen and John Daly on the 15th anniversary show in 1965

The host, then called the moderator, was veteran radio and television newsman John Charles Daly. Clifton Fadiman,[7][8] Eamonn Andrews, and Random House co-founding publisher and panelist Bennett Cerf[9] substituted on the four occasions when Daly was unavailable.

The show featured a panel of four celebrities who questioned the contestants. On the initial program of February 2, 1950, the panel was former New Jersey governor Harold Hoffman, columnist Dorothy Kilgallen, poet Louis Untermeyer, and psychiatrist Richard Hoffmann. The panel varied somewhat in the following weeks, but after the first few broadcasts, during the show's earliest period the panel generally consisted of Kilgallen, actress Arlene Francis, Untermeyer and comedy writer Hal Block. At various times, a regular panelist might take a vacation or be absent from an episode due to outside commitments. On these occasions, a guest panelist would take their spot. The most frequent guest panelist was Arlene Francis's husband Martin Gabel, who appeared 112 times over the years.

Publisher Bennett Cerf replaced Untermeyer as a regular panelist in 1951, and comedian Steve Allen replaced Block in 1953. Allen left in 1954 to launch The Tonight Show, and he was replaced by comedian Fred Allen (no relation), who remained on the panel until his death in 1956. Following Fred Allen's death, he was not replaced on a permanent basis; the fourth panelist was thereafter always a guest. For the majority of the show's network run, between 1956 and 1965, the panel, therefore, consisted of Kilgallen, Cerf, Francis and a fourth guest panelist.

After Kilgallen's death in 1965, she was similarly not replaced with a permanent panelist. For the show's final two years, the panel consisted of Cerf, Francis and two guests.

Regular announcers included Lee Vines, who served from 1950 to 1955, Hal Simms, who served from 1955 to 1961, Ralph Paul, whose tenure was confined to 1961, and Johnny Olson, perhaps the best known of Goodson-Todman's television announcers, whose tenure began in 1961 and ran until 1967.

The game play[edit]

What's My Line? was a guessing game in which the four panelists attempted to determine the occupation (i.e., "line [of work]") of a guest. In the case of the famous mystery guest each week, the panel sought to determine the identity of the celebrity. Panelists were required to probe by asking only yes-no questions. A typical episode featured two standard rounds (sometimes a third, and very rarely a rushed fourth) plus one mystery guest round. On the occasions on which there were two mystery guests, the first would usually appear as the first contestant.

Standard rounds[edit]

For the first few seasons, the contestant would “sign in” by writing their name(s) on a chalkboard, and meet the panel up close for a casual inspection, and the panel was allowed one initial “wild” guess. Beginning in 1955 Daly simply greeted and seated the contestant, who later met the panel at the end of the game. Additionally, starting April 17, 1955, the panel stopped taking initial guesses.[10] The contestant's line was then revealed to the studio and home audiences, and Daly would tell the panel whether the contestant was salaried or self-employed, and from 1960 on, dealt in a product or a service.

A panelist chosen by Daly would begin the game. If their question elicited a yes answer, they continued questioning. When a question was answered no, questioning passed to the next panelist and $5 was added to the prize. The amount of the prize was tallied by Daly who flipped up to ten cards on his desk. A contestant won the top prize of $50 by giving ten no answers, or if time ran out, with Daly flipping all the cards. As Daly occasionally noted, "Ten flips and they (the panel) are a flop!" Daly later explained, after the show had finished its run on CBS, the maximum payout of $50 was to ensure the game was played only for enjoyment, and that there could never be even the appearance of impropriety.[citation needed] Later in the series, Daly would throw all the cards over with increasing frequency and arbitrariness (frequently to give a particularly interesting or worthy panelist the maximum available prize money), evidence the prize was secondary to game play.

Panelists had the option of passing to the next panelist—or even disqualifying themselves entirely if they somehow knew the contestant's occupation or identity, in the case of a mystery challenger, before the round. They could also request a conference, in which they had a short time for open discussion of ideas about occupations or lines of questioning.

Panelists adopted some basic binary search strategies, beginning with broad questions, such as whether the contestant worked for a profit-making or non-profit organization or whether a product was alive, worn, or ingested. To increase the probability of affirmative answers, panelists would often phrase questions in the negative starting with "Is it something other than..." or "Can I rule out..."

The show popularized the phrase, "Is it bigger than a breadbox?" Steve Allen first posed this on January 18, 1953, and it was then refined over subsequent episodes. Soon, other panelists were asking this question as well.[11][12] On one occasion the guest was a man who made breadboxes. Allen correctly guessed the guest's occupation after Kilgallen asked, "Is it bigger than a breadbox?" Daly could not restrain his laughter in response to the question.[13][14]

The mystery-guest round[edit]

Blindfolds on for a mystery guest

The ultimate or penultimate round of an episode involved blindfolding the panel for a celebrity guest star (originally called "mystery challengers" by Daly) whom the panel had to identify by name, rather than occupation. (In the first episode, the mystery guest was New York Yankees shortstop Phil Rizzuto.)[15] In the early years of the show, the questioning was the same as it was for regular contestants, but starting with the April 17, 1955 edition, panelists were only allowed one question at a time.[10] Mystery guests usually came from the entertainment world, either stage, screen, television or sports. When mystery guests came from other walks of life or non-famous contestants whom the panel but not the studio audience might know, they were usually played as standard rounds. However, the panel might be blindfolded, or the contestant might sign in simply as "X," depending on whether they would be known by name or sight.

Mystery guests would usually attempt to conceal their identities with disguised voices, much to the amusement of the studio audience. According to Cerf, the panel could often determine the identities of the mystery guests early, as they knew which celebrities were in town, or which major movies or plays were about to open. On those occasions, to provide the audience an opportunity to see the guest play the game, the panelists and host would typically allow questioning to pass around at least once before coming up with the correct guess.[16]

Sometimes, two mystery guest rounds were played in an episode, with the additional round usually as the first round of the episode.

Appearance as mystery guest[edit]
  • Edie Adams
  • Joey Adams
  • Brian Aherne
  • Edward Albee
  • Anna Maria Alberghetti
  • Eddie Albert
  • Jack Albertson
  • Alan Alda
  • Robert Alda
  • Muhammad Ali
  • Jed Allan
  • Elizabeth Allen
  • Fred Allen
  • Gracie Allen
  • Marty Allen
  • Steve Allen
  • Woody Allen
  • Ghislaine Alexander
  • Fran Allison
  • June Allyson
  • Herb Alpert
  • Don Ameche
  • Ed Ames
  • Nancy Ames
  • Cleveland Amory
  • Morey Amsterdam
  • Barbara Anderson
  • Eddie 'Rochester' Anderson
  • Marian Anderson
  • Bibi Andersson
  • Ursula Andress
  • Dana Andrews
  • Eamonn Andrews
  • Julie Andrews
  • Maxene Andrews
  • The Andrews Sisters
  • Pier Angeli
  • Paul Anka
  • Ann-Margret
  • Eddie Arcaro
  • Eve Arden
  • Alan Arkin
  • Harold Arlen
  • Louis Armstrong
  • Desi Arnaz
  • Lucie Arnaz
  • Eddy Arnold
  • Edward Arnold
  • Cliff Arquette
  • Arthur Ashe
  • Elizabeth Ashley
  • Fred Astaire
  • Jean Pierre Aumont
  • Gene Autry
  • Frankie Avalon
  • Charles Aznavour
  • Lauren Bacall
  • Jim Backus
  • Ed Bailey
  • Pearl Bailey
  • Carroll Baker
  • Lucille Ball
  • Florence Ballard
  • Kaye Ballard
  • Anne Bancroft
  • Tallulah Bankhead
  • Adrienne Barbeau
  • Binnie Barnes
  • Henry Barnes
  • Joanna Barnes
  • Sandy Baron
  • Rona Barrett
  • Ethel Barrymore
  • Count Basie
  • Anne Baxter
  • Keith Baxter
  • Orson Bean
  • Warren Beatty
  • Brian Bedford
  • Ed Begley
  • Robin Russell
  • Harry Belafonte
  • Ralph Bellamy
  • Melvin Belli
  • Richard Benjamin
  • Joan Bennett
  • Tony Bennett
  • William Bendix
  • Jack Benny
  • Gertrude Berg
  • Candice Bergen
  • Edgar Bergen
  • Polly Bergen
  • Busby Berkeley
  • Milton Berle
  • Shelley Berman
  • Herschel Bernardi
  • Yogi Berra
  • Big Bird (Caroll Spinney)
  • Theodore Bikel
  • Sherman Billingsley
  • David Birney
  • Joey Bishop
  • Jacqueline Bisset
  • Vivian Blaine
  • Janet Blair
  • Linda Blair
  • Eubie Blake
  • Joan Blondell
  • Claire Bloom
  • Vida Blue
  • Larry Blyden
  • Ray Bolger
  • Pat Boone
  • Richard Boone
  • Shirley Booth
  • Victor Borge
  • Ernest Borgnine
  • Jim Bouton
  • Stephen Boyd
  • Charles Boyer
  • Clete Boyer
  • Ken Boyer
  • Eddie Bracken
  • Walter Brennan
  • Jimmy Breslin
  • Teresa Brewer
  • James Brolin
  • Geraldine Brooks
  • Mel Brooks
  • Joyce Brothers
  • Helen Gurley Brown
  • James Brown
  • Jim Brown
  • Joe E. Brown
  • Dave Brubeck
  • Natalie Bruner
  • Wally Bruner
  • Yul Brynner
  • Horst Buchholz
  • Art Buchwald
  • Julie Budd
  • Carol Burnett
  • David Burns
  • George Burns
  • Raymond Burr
  • Robert Burr
  • Abe Burrows
  • Red Buttons
  • Spring Byington
  • Irving Caesar
  • Sid Caesar
  • James Cagney
  • Sammy Cahn
  • Michael Caine
  • Charlie Callas
  • Cab Calloway
  • Corinne Calvet
  • Godfrey Cambridge
  • Roy Campanella
  • Cantinflas
  • Eddie Cantor
  • Ida Cantor
  • Lana Cantrell
  • Claudia Cardinale
  • George Carlin
  • Kitty Carlisle
  • Hoagy Carmichael
  • Judy Carne
  • Art Carney
  • Vikki Carr
  • Diahann Carroll
  • Madeleine Carroll
  • Pat Carroll
  • Jack Carson
  • Joanne Carson
  • Johnny Carson
  • Mindy Carson
  • Jack Carter
  • Jimmy Carter
  • Peggy Cass
  • Jack Cassidy
  • Carmen Cavallaro
  • Dick Cavett
  • Bennett Cerf (returning as mystery guest)
  • Phyllis Cerf
  • Richard Chamberlain
  • Wilt Chamberlain
  • Marge Champion
  • Gower Champion
  • Jeff Chandler
  • Carol Channing
  • Schuyler Chapin
  • Geraldine Chaplin
  • Emmett Chapman
  • Cyd Charisse
  • Charo
  • Barrie Chase
  • Ilka Chase
  • Chubby Checker
  • Maurice Chevalier
  • Milbourne Christopher
  • Sarah Churchill
  • Dane Clark
  • Dick Clark
  • Robert Clary
  • Van Cliburn
  • Montgomery Clift
  • Rosemary Clooney
  • Ty Cobb
  • Charles Coburn
  • Imogene Coca
  • James Coco
  • Myron Cohen
  • Claudette Colbert
  • Nat King Cole
  • Charles Collingwood
  • Dorothy Collins
  • Joan Collins
  • Bud Collyer
  • Jerry Colonna
  • Betty Comden
  • Sean Connery
  • Chuck Connors
  • Judy Canova
  • Hans Conreid
  • Michael Constantine
  • Bert Convy
  • Peter Cook
  • Gary Cooper
  • Jackie Cooper
  • Pat Cooper
  • Irwin Corey
  • Ann Corio
  • Howard Cosell
  • Joseph Cotten
  • Margaret Court
  • Tom Courtenay
  • Jacques Cousteau
  • Noel Coward
  • Wally Cox
  • Buster Crabbe
  • Jeanne Crain
  • Bob Crane
  • Broderick Crawford
  • Joan Crawford
  • Richard Crenna
  • Linda Cristal
  • Walter Cronkite
  • Hume Cronyn
  • Bob Crosby
  • Gary Crosby
  • Norm Crosby
  • Xavier Cugat
  • Bill Cullen
  • Bud Collyer
  • Robert Culp
  • Robert Cummings
  • Tony Curtis
  • Dagmar
  • Arlene Dahl
  • Dan Dailey
  • Salvador Dalí
  • John Daly
  • Vic Damone
  • Bill Dana
  • Rodney Dangerfield
  • Billy Daniels
  • Blythe Danner
  • Denise Darcel
  • Bobby Darin
  • Linda Darnell
  • James Darren
  • John Davidson
  • Bette Davis
  • Ossie Davis
  • Sammy Davis Jr.
  • Richard Dawson
  • Dennis Day
  • Doris Day
  • Laraine Day
  • Richard Deacon
  • Dizzy Dean
  • Dave DeBusschere
  • Yvonne DeCarlo
  • Ruby Dee
  • Don DeFore
  • Gloria DeHaven
  • Olivia de Havilland
  • Agnes de Mille
  • Oscar de la Renta
  • Dom DeLuise
  • Cecil B. DeMille
  • Jack Dempsey
  • Sandy Dennis
  • Michael DeSale
  • Andy Devine
  • Brandon DeWilde
  • Billy De Wolfe
  • Colleen Dewhurst
  • Selma Diamond
  • Nancy Dickerson
  • Angie Dickinson
  • Phyllis Diller
  • Joe DiMaggio
  • Everett Dirksen
  • Vittorio De Sica
  • Walt Disney
  • Troy Donahue
  • Howdy Doody
  • Jimmy Dorsey
  • Tommy Dorsey
  • Kirk Douglas
  • Melvyn Douglas
  • Paul Douglas
  • Jack Douglas
  • Hugh Downs
  • Alfred Drake
  • Chuck Dressen
  • Peter Duchin
  • Howard Duff
  • Patty Duke
  • Keir Dullea
  • Sandy Duncan
  • Irene Dunne
  • Mildred Dunnock
  • Jimmy Durante
  • Leo Durocher
  • James Drury
  • Clint Eastwood
  • Billy Eckstine
  • Nelson Eddy
  • Douglas Edwards
  • Vince Edwards
  • Eddie Egan
  • Anita Ekberg
  • Duke Ellington
  • Cass Elliot
  • Bob Elliott
  • Faye Emerson
  • Dale Evans
  • Maurice Evans
  • Tom Ewell
  • Fabian
  • Nanette Fabray
  • Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
  • Peter Falk
  • James Farentino
  • James Farley
  • Eileen Farrell
  • Mia Farrow
  • Gil Fates
  • "Minnesota Fats" (Rudolph Wanderone Jr.)
  • Barbara Feldon
  • Jose Feliciano
  • Bob Feller
  • Jose Ferrer
  • Gracie Fields
  • Peter Finch
  • Eddie Fisher
  • Gail Fisher
  • Barry Fitzgerald
  • Ella Fitzgerald
  • Geraldine Fitzgerald
  • Fannie Flagg
  • Art Fleming
  • Peggy Fleming
  • Rhonda Fleming
  • Errol Flynn
  • Nina Foch
  • Henry Fonda
  • Jane Fonda
  • Peter Fonda
  • Frank Fontaine
  • Joan Fontaine
  • Gerald Ford
  • Mary Ford
  • Paul Ford
  • Phil Ford
  • Ruth Ford
  • Tennessee Ernie Ford
  • John Forsythe
  • Phil Foster
  • Sergio Franchi
  • Anthony Franciosa
  • Connie Francis
  • Francis the Talking Mule
  • Aretha Franklin
  • Joe Frazier
  • Walt Frazier
  • Jonathan Frid
  • Jane Froman
  • David Frost
  • Eileen Fulton
  • Allen Funt
  • Betty Furness
  • Martin Gabel
  • Peter Gabel
  • Eva Gabor
  • Zsa Zsa Gabor
  • Helen Gallagher
  • Rita Gam
  • Joe Garagiola
  • Vincent Gardenia
  • Ava Gardner
  • Judy Garland
  • Erroll Garner
  • James Garner
  • Dave Garroway
  • Greer Garson
  • Kathy Garver
  • John Gavin
  • Ben Gazzara
  • Genevieve
  • Nicole Germain
  • Althea Gibson
  • Henry Gibson
  • Frank Gifford
  • Jack Gilford
  • Dizzy Gillespie
  • Anita Gillette
  • Hermione Gingold
  • Lillian Gish
  • Jackie Gleason
  • George Gobel
  • Arthur Godfrey
  • Samuel Goldwyn
  • Benny Goodman
  • Dody Goodman
  • Mark Goodson
  • Lesley Gore
  • Eydie Gorme
  • Frank Gorshin
  • Lou Gossett Jr.
  • Chester Gould
  • Ray Goulding
  • Robert Goulet
  • Betty Grable
  • Billy Graham
  • Sheilah Graham
  • Virginia Graham
  • Kathryn Grant
  • Kathryn Grayson
  • Rocky Graziano
  • Jose Greco
  • Buddy Greco
  • Adolph Green
  • Joel Grey
  • Rosey Grier
  • Andy Griffith
  • Tammy Grimes
  • George Grizzard
  • Jerry Grote
  • Morty Gunty
  • Fred Gwynne
  • Buddy Hackett
  • Gene Hackman
  • Monty Hall
  • William Halsey
  • George Hamilton
  • Margaret Hamilton
  • Oscar Hammerstein II
  • Lionel Hampton
  • Stanley Myron Handelman
  • Cedric Hardwicke
  • Laurence Harvey
  • Julie Harris
  • Richard Harris
  • Noel Harrison
  • June Haver
  • June Havoc
  • Gabby Hayes
  • Helen Hayes
  • Peter Lind Hayes
  • Dick Haymes
  • Mary Healy
  • Joey Heatherton
  • Eileen Heckart
  • Tippi Hedren
  • Van Heflin
  • Hugh Hefner
  • David Hemmings
  • Florence Henderson
  • Skitch Henderson
  • Sonja Henie
  • Linda Kaye Henning
  • Jim Henson, with Kermit the Frog
  • Woody Herman
  • Jean Hersholt
  • Charlton Heston
  • Hildegarde
  • Edmund Hillary
  • Conrad Hilton
  • Mimi Hines
  • Pat Hingle
  • Alfred Hitchcock
  • Eddie Hodges
  • John Hodiak
  • Portland Hoffa
  • Dustin Hoffman
  • Hal Holbrook
  • William Holden
  • Geoffrey Holder
  • Judy Holliday
  • Celeste Holm
  • Robert Hooks
  • Bob Hope
  • Linda Hope
  • Hedda Hopper
  • Lena Horne
  • Marilyn Horne
  • Robert Horton
  • Trevor Horton
  • Gordie Howe
  • Sally Ann Howes
  • Kim Hunter
  • Ross Hunter
  • Tab Hunter
  • Sol Hurok
  • Betty Hutton
  • Wilfrid Hyde-White
  • Burl Ives
  • Marty Ingels
  • Anne Jackson
  • Mahalia Jackson
  • Lou Jacobi
  • Rona Jaffe
  • Harry James
  • Ricky Jay
  • Anne Jeffreys
  • George Jessel
  • Ingemar Johansson
  • Glynis Johns
  • Arte Johnson
  • Ron Johnson [disambiguation needed]
  • Van Johnson
  • Anissa Jones
  • Carolyn Jones
  • Cleon Jones
  • Jack Jones
  • James Earl Jones
  • Shirley Jones
  • Spike Jones
  • Louis Jourdan
  • Elaine Joyce
  • Henry J. Kaiser
  • H. V. Kaltenborn
  • Milt Kamen
  • Jackie Kannon
  • Boris Karloff
  • Aliza Kashi
  • Danny Kaye
  • Stubby Kaye
  • Lainie Kazan
  • Kurt Kasznar
  • Jane Kean
  • Buster Keaton
  • Ruby Keeler
  • Bob Keeshan
  • Estes Kefauver
  • Sally Kellerman
  • Emmett Kelly
  • Gene Kelly
  • Patsy Kelly
  • Sister Kenny
  • Kermit the Frog, with Jim Henson
  • Deborah Kerr
  • Larry Kert
  • Evelyn Keyes
  • Richard Kiley
  • Dorothy Kilgallen (returning as mystery guest)
  • Alan King
  • B.B. King
  • Billie Jean King
  • Peggy King
  • The Kingston Trio
  • Durward Kirby
  • Lisa Kirk
  • Eartha Kitt
  • Robert Klein
  • Werner Klemperer
  • Suzy Knickerbocker
  • Ted Knight
  • Gladys Knight & the Pips
  • Jill & Richard Kollmar (two of Dorothy Kilgallen's children- they appeared as special mystery guests on the first episode following the birth of Dorothy Kilgallen's third child)
  • Andre Kostelanetz
  • Ernie Kovacs
  • Stanley Kramer
  • The Amazing Kreskin
  • Gene Krupa
  • Nancy Kwan
  • Bert Lahr
  • Frankie Laine
  • Veronica Lake
  • Hedy Lamarr
  • Fernando Lamas
  • Jake LaMotta
  • Dorothy Lamour
  • Abbe Lane
  • Sue Ane Langdon
  • Hope Lange
  • Lester Lanin
  • Angela Lansbury
  • Robert Lansing
  • Julius LaRosa
  • Lassie
  • Charles Laughton
  • Piper Laurie
  • Rod Laver
  • Peter Lawford
  • Carol Lawrence
  • Steve Lawrence
  • Brenda Lee
  • Gypsy Rose Lee
  • London Lee
  • Michele Lee
  • Peggy Lee
  • Janet Leigh
  • Jack Lemmon
  • Lotte Lenya
  • Jack E. Leonard
  • Tommy Leonetti
  • Alan Jay Lerner
  • Mervyn LeRoy
  • Jerry Lester
  • Oscar Levant
  • Raoul Levy
  • Sam Levene
  • Sam Levenson
  • Jerry Lewis
  • Robert Q. Lewis
  • Shari Lewis
  • Ted Lewis
  • Liberace
  • Beatrice Lillie
  • Hal Linden
  • Art Linkletter
  • Virna Lisi
  • Rich Little
  • Harold Lloyd
  • June Lockhart
  • Henry Cabot Lodge Jr.
  • Joshua Logan
  • Gina Lollobrigida
  • Vince Lombardi
  • Guy Lombardo
  • Julie London
  • Anita Loos
  • Trini Lopez
  • Sophia Loren
  • Peter Lorre
  • Joe Louis
  • Tina Louise
  • Myrna Loy
  • Allen Ludden
  • Lorna Luft
  • Paul Lynde
  • Diana Lynn
  • Janet Lynn
  • Jeffrey Lynn
  • Harold Lloyd
  • Sue Lyon
  • Leonard Lyons
  • Peter Maas
  • Moms Mabley
  • James MacArthur
  • Ted Mack
  • Gisele MacKenzie
  • Fred MacMurray
  • Patrick Macnee
  • Gordon MacRae
  • Heather MacRae
  • Meredith MacRae
  • Sheila MacRae
  • Guy Madison
  • Sal Maglie
  • Anna Magnani
  • Dorothy McGuire
  • George Maharis
  • Karl Malden
  • Henry Mancini
  • Silvana Mangano
  • Charley Manner
  • Jayne Mansfield
  • Mickey Mantle
  • Marcel Marceau
  • Fredric March
  • Hal March
  • Rose Marie
  • Pigmeat Markham
  • John Marley
  • E.G. Marshall
  • Herbert Marshall
  • Peter Marshall
  • Dean Martin
  • Tony Martin
  • Chico Marx
  • Groucho Marx
  • Jackie Mason
  • James Mason
  • Pamela Mason
  • Raymond Massey
  • Johnny Mathis
  • Elsa Maxwell
  • Marilyn Maxwell
  • Elaine May
  • Willie Mays
  • David McCallum
  • Chuck McCann
  • Kevin McCarthy
  • John McClellan
  • Alec McCowen
  • Jeanette MacDonald
  • Roddy McDowall
  • Bernarr McFadden
  • Darren McGavin
  • John McGiver
  • The McGuire Sisters
  • Denny McLain
  • Ed McMahon
  • Horace McMahon
  • Barbara McNair
  • Claudia McNeil
  • Marian McPartland
  • Butterfly McQueen
  • Steve McQueen
  • Julia Meade
  • Vaughn Meader
  • Audrey Meadows
  • Jayne Meadows
  • Anne Meara
  • Kay Medford
  • Patricia Medina
  • Ralph Meeker
  • Ailene Mehle
  • Lauritz Melchior
  • Adolphe Menjou
  • Yehudi Menuhin
  • Johnny Mercer
  • Melina Mercouri
  • Burgess Meredith
  • Don Meredith
  • Ethel Merman
  • David Merrick
  • Dina Merrill
  • Robert Merrill
  • Perle Mesta
  • Sylvia Miles
  • Ray Milland
  • Ann Miller
  • Mitch Miller
  • Mrs. Miller
  • The Mills Brothers
  • Hayley Mills
  • Juliet Mills
  • Sal Mineo
  • Liza Minnelli
  • Mike Minor
  • Carmen Miranda
  • Robert Mitchum
  • The Modern Jazz Quartet
  • Anna Moffo
  • Corbett Monica
  • Ricardo Montalban
  • Yves Montand
  • George Montgomery
  • Robert Montgomery
  • Carlos Montoya
  • Archie Moore
  • Clayton Moore
  • Dudley Moore
  • Garry Moore
  • Melba Moore
  • Roger Moore
  • Terry Moore
  • Agnes Moorehead
  • Rita Moreno
  • Henry Morgan
  • Jane Morgan
  • Jaye P. Morgan
  • Robbi Morgan
  • Chester Morris
  • Barry Morse
  • Robert Morse
  • Stirling Moss
  • Edward Mulhare
  • Greg Mullavey
  • Gerry Mulligan
  • Carl Mundt
  • Paul Muni
  • Patrice Munsel
  • Bobby Murcer
  • Audie Murphy
  • Arthur Murray
  • Don Murray
  • Kathryn Murray
  • Ken Murray
  • Edward R. Murrow
  • Stan Musial
  • Conrad Nagel
  • Jack Narz
  • Patricia Neal
  • Barry Nelson
  • Ed Nelson
  • Ozzie Nelson
  • Harriet Hilliard Nelson
  • Ricky Nelson
  • Peter Nero
  • Bob Newhart
  • Anthony Newley
  • Paul Newman
  • Phyllis Newman
  • Julie Newmar
  • Denise Nicholas
  • Mike Nichols
  • Leonard Nimoy
  • Ray Nitschke
  • David Niven
  • Lloyd Nolan
  • Sheree North
  • Kim Novak
  • Louis Nye
  • Merle Oberon
  • Hugh O'Brian
  • Margaret O'Brien
  • Pat O'Brien
  • Humberto Bonfante O'Byrne
  • Helen O'Connell
  • William O'Dwyer
  • Jenny O'Hara
  • Maureen O'Hara
  • Olsen and Johnson
  • Johnny Olson
  • Patrick O'Neal
  • Tessie O'Shea
  • Maureen O'Sullivan
  • Jesse Owens
  • Jerry Orbach
  • Jack Paar
  • Geraldine Page
  • Patti Page
  • Janis Paige
  • Satchel Paige
  • Jack Palance
  • Arnold Palmer
  • Betsy Palmer
  • Lilli Palmer
  • Suzy Parker
  • Bert Parks
  • Estelle Parsons
  • Louella Parsons
  • Patachou
  • Floyd Patterson
  • Pat Paulsen
  • Marisa Pavan
  • Freda Payne
  • John Payne
  • Norman Vincent Peale
  • Jan Peerce
  • Anthony Perkins
  • Peter, Paul & Mary
  • Bernadette Peters
  • Brock Peters
  • Roberta Peters
  • Philippe Petit
  • Jo Ann Pflug
  • Marguerite Piazza
  • Molly Picon
  • Walter Pidgeon
  • Jim Piersall
  • Ezio Pinza
  • ZaSu Pitts
  • Alice Playten
  • Donald Pleasence
  • Suzanne Pleshette
  • George Plimpton
  • Christopher Plummer
  • The Pointer Sisters
  • Lily Pons
  • Tom Poston
  • Dick Powell
  • Jane Powell
  • Tyrone Power
  • Otto Preminger
  • Paula Prentiss
  • Harve Presnell
  • Robert Preston
  • Andre Previn
  • Leontyne Price
  • Vincent Price
  • Louis Prima
  • William Proxmire
  • Emilio Pucci
  • Anthony Quayle
  • Anthony Quinn
  • Carmel Quinn
  • George Raft
  • John Raitt
  • Sally Rand
  • Tony Randall
  • Basil Rathbone
  • Johnnie Ray
  • Gene Rayburn
  • Helen Rayburn
  • Martha Raye
  • Ronald Reagan
  • Lynn Redgrave
  • Michael Redgrave
  • Oliver Reed
  • Rex Reed
  • Della Reese
  • Charles Nelson Reilly
  • Carl Reiner
  • Lee Remick
  • Alejandro Rey
  • Burt Reynolds
  • Debbie Reynolds
  • Abe Ribicoff
  • Buddy Rich
  • Branch Rickey
  • Rodney Allen Rippy
  • Cyril Ritchard
  • The Ritz Brothers
  • Chita Rivera
  • Joan Rivers
  • Phil Rizzuto
  • Harold Robbins
  • Anthony Roberts
  • Rachel Roberts
  • Cliff Robertson
  • Brooks Robinson
  • Edward G. Robinson
  • Jackie Robinson
  • Sugar Ray Robinson
  • Norman Rockwell
  • Marcia Rodd
  • Richard Rodgers
  • Ginger Rogers
  • Roy Rogers
  • Wayne Rogers
  • Esther Rolle
  • Cesar Romero
  • Mickey Rooney
  • Eleanor Roosevelt
  • Elliot Roosevelt
  • Billy Rose
  • George Rose
  • Jimmy Roselli
  • Maxie Rosenbloom
  • Ken Rosewall
  • Kyle Rote
  • Lillian Roth
  • Steve Rossi
  • Jane Russell
  • Nipsey Russell
  • Rosalind Russell
  • Robert Ryan
  • Mort Sahl
  • Eva Marie Saint
  • Jill St. John
  • Buffy Sainte-Marie
  • Soupy Sales
  • Carl Sandburg
  • George Sanders
  • Col. Harlan Sanders
  • Sandler & Young
  • Diana Sands
  • Tommy Sands
  • Santa Claus
  • Vincent Sardi
  • Vidal Sassoon
  • John Saxon
  • Dore Schary
  • Maria Schell
  • Elsa Schiaparelli
  • Budd Schulberg
  • Barbara Ann Scott
  • Hazel Scott
  • George Segal
  • Ricky Segall
  • Eric Sevareid
  • Doc Severinsen
  • Gene Shalit
  • William Shatner
  • Artie Shaw
  • Robert Shaw
  • Dick Shawn
  • George Shearing
  • Bishop Fulton J. Sheen
  • Ann Sheridan
  • Allan Sherman
  • Toots Shor
  • Dinah Shore
  • Bobby Short
  • Jean Shrimpton
  • Herb Shriner
  • Simone Signoret
  • Beverly Sills
  • Phil Silvers
  • Jean Simmons
  • Nina Simone
  • Frank Sinatra
  • Frank Sinatra, Jr.
  • Nancy Sinatra
  • Red Skelton
  • Cornelia Otis Skinner
  • Walter Slezak
  • Alexis Smith
  • Bob Smith
  • Kate Smith
  • Keely Smith
  • Margaret C. Smith
  • Roger Smith
  • Stan Smith
  • The Smothers Brothers
  • Duke Snider
  • Jimmy Snyder
  • Ann Sothern
  • Sam Spiegel
  • Mickey Spillane
  • Caroll Spinney (as Big Bird)
  • Jo Stafford
  • Arnold Stang
  • Maureen Stapleton
  • Harold Stassen
  • David Steinberg
  • Casey Stengel
  • Jan Sterling
  • Robert Sterling
  • Craig Stevens
  • Kaye Stevens
  • Risë Stevens
  • Stella Stevens
  • McLean Stevenson
  • Don Stewart
  • James Stewart
  • Jerry Stiller
  • Carl Stokes
  • Larry Storch
  • Gale Storm
  • Barbra Streisand
  • Elaine Stritch
  • Woody Strode
  • Shawn Strode
  • Mary Stuart
  • Enzo Stuarti
  • Jule Styne
  • Alan Sues
  • Margaret Sullavan
  • Ed Sullivan
  • The Supremes
  • Jacqueline Susann
  • David Susskind
  • Pat Suzuki
  • Gloria Swanson
  • Gladys Swarthout
  • Loretta Swit
  • Bill Talbert
  • Jessica Tandy
  • Billy Taylor
  • Elizabeth Taylor
  • Robert Taylor
  • Danny Thomas
  • Lowell Thomas
  • Marlo Thomas
  • Terry-Thomas
  • Gene Tierney
  • Pamela Tiffin
  • Tiny Tim
  • Charles Tobey
  • Bill Todman
  • Lily Tomlin
  • Mel Tormé
  • Rip Torn
  • Constance Towers
  • Helen Traubel
  • Claire Trevor
  • Robert Trout
  • Margaret Truman
  • Forrest Tucker
  • Sophie Tucker
  • Richard Tucker
  • Lana Turner
  • Cicely Tyson
  • Leslie Uggams
  • Liv Ullmann
  • Miyoshi Umeki
  • Mary Ure
  • Peter Ustinov
  • Brenda Vaccaro
  • Jerry Vale
  • Jack Valenti
  • Dana Valery
  • Rudy Vallee
  • Bobby Van
  • Vivian Vance
  • Mamie Van Doren
  • James Van Fleet
  • Harriet Van Horne
  • Nina Van Pallandt
  • Monique Van Vooren
  • Gwen Verdon
  • Ben Vereen
  • Jackie Vernon
  • Robert Vaughn
  • Peter Viertel
  • Edward Villella
  • Betsy von Furstenberg
  • Robert Wagner
  • Robert F. Wagner
  • Nancy Walker
  • Eli Wallach
  • Barbara Walters
  • Fred Waring
  • Earl Warren
  • Ethel Waters
  • David Wayne
  • John Wayne
  • Jerome Weidman
  • Raquel Welch
  • Tuesday Weld
  • Lawrence Welk
  • Orson Welles
  • Senor Wences
  • Betty White
  • Slappy White
  • Margaret Whiting
  • Richard Widmark
  • Cornel Wilde
  • Andy Williams
  • Emlyn Williams
  • Esther Williams
  • Joe Williams
  • Mason Williams
  • Roger Williams
  • Ted Williams
  • Nicol Williamson
  • Chill Wills
  • Maury Wills
  • Earl Wilson
  • Julie Wilson
  • Nancy Wilson
  • Teddy Wilson
  • Paul Winchell
  • Walter Winchell
  • Kathleen Winsor
  • Jonathan Winters
  • Shelley Winters
  • Jane Withers
  • Stevie Wonder
  • Natalie Wood
  • Joanne Woodward
  • Jo Anne Worley
  • Herman Wouk
  • Frank Lloyd Wright
  • Jane Wyatt
  • Gretchen Wyler
  • Jane Wyman
  • Ed Wynn
  • Michael York
  • Susannah York
  • Donna Jean Young
  • Gig Young
  • Robert Young
  • Henny Youngman
  • Blanche Yurka
  • Darryl F. Zanuck
  • Frank Zappa


What's My Line? is known for its attention to manners and class.[17][18] In its early years, business suits and street dresses were worn by the host and panelists, but by 1953, the men normally wore black suits with bow ties (a few guests in fact wore tuxedos) while female panelists donned formal gowns and often gloves. Exceptions to this dress code were on the broadcasts immediately following the deaths of Fred Allen[19] and Dorothy Kilgallen,[20] in which the male cast members wore straight neckties and the women wore simpler dresses.

The game followed a line of formality and adherence to rules. Although using first names at other points, Daly usually addressed using surnames when passing the questioning to a particular panelist. He would also amiably chide the panel[21] if they began a conference without first asking him.

However, even with such formality, Daly was not above trading bon mots with the panelists during the game, and Cerf would often attempt to make a pun of his name. Occasionally Daly would amiably one-up Cerf if he felt the pun was of lesser quality. Cerf also played a myriad of games with Daly's full name, John Charles Patrick Croghan Daly, reciting it correctly only a handful of times over the course of the series.[22]

Often Daly would need to clarify a potentially confusing question, but he had a penchant for amusingly wordy, long-winded replies that often left panelists more confused than before, which Danny Kaye once parodied as a panelist.[23] On more than one occasion, Daly "led the panel down the garden path" – a favorite phrase used when an answer had proven misleading to the panelists.

Broadcast format[edit]

From 1950 to 1966, the game show was broadcast in black-and-white, as was typical of most game shows at the time. But by 1966, all three networks were broadcasting their prime-time schedules entirely in color, including What's My Line? After the show ended in 1967, CBS replaced the color videotapes with the kinescope versions instead for syndication. As a result of this change, the 1966–1967 episodes of What's My Line? were only shown in black-and-white after the show ended.[24]


In addition to the television version, What's My Line was also broadcast on network radio for a short time. From May 20, 1952 to August 27, an NBC Radio version was produced on Tuesday nights with the same cast as the TV version. After August 27, the program was then broadcast live on CBS Radio on Wednesday nights at 8:00 PM for 10 months concluding July 1, 1953.[25][26] The radio version is notable for the only appearances of Marlene Dietrich, Constance Bennett, and Marlon Brando.

1953 Community Chest Special[edit]

A Community Chest Special, completely separate from the regular production of episodes, was broadcast live on all the major networks (CBS, ABC, NBC, and DuMont) on the afternoon of Sunday September 27, 1953.[27]

Production practices[edit]


The program began with Daly and panel entering from off-stage as they were introduced. Prior to 1954, both panelists and host began the program in their seats, but this was changed, responding to letters asking what panelists looked like away from their seats.[citation needed] The first panelist would be introduced by the announcer following the show's introduction, and each panelist would introduce the next in turn, with the last introducing Daly. During his tenure, Hal Block sat in the final seat and began the practice of introducing Daly with a pun. Upon his departure, Bennett Cerf took over this position. Cerf's introductions of Daly were generally straightforward in his earliest years on the show, but as time went by Cerf expanded these introductions, often telling long jokes which he tied to Daly in some way.[28]

To begin a round, Daly would invite the contestant to "come in and sign in, please," which, by 1960, had evolved to the more familiar "enter and sign in, please." The contestant entered by writing his or her name on a small sign-in board. (For the first few telecasts, the contestants signed their names on an artist's sketch pad; but when the brightness of the studio lights made it difficult for the signatures to be seen clearly by the viewers, the white sketchpad was replaced by a black chalkboard.) Daly would then usually ask where the guest lived and, with a woman, if she should be addressed as "Miss" or "Mrs." Early in the show's run, the panel was allowed to inspect contestants, studying their hands, or label on their suit or asking them to make a muscle.

While ostensibly a game show, if there was time, it also was an opportunity to conduct interviews. Line's sister show, I've Got a Secret, and later, the syndicated version of WML engaged in the practice of contestants demonstrating their talents. However, despite frequent requests by the panel, particularly Arlene Francis, such demonstrations rarely occurred as according to executive producer Gil Fates, Daly was not fond of this practice.[28]


After the first four episodes, the show gained its initial sponsor when Dr. Jules Montenier paid to have his product, Stopette spray deodorant, featured in advertising on the program. This involved featuring the product in the show's opening, on the front of the panel's desk, above the sign-in board, and on Daly's scorecards. In his last years, Cerf explained to interviewer Robbin Hawkins that Dr. Montenier was ultimately ruined by his refusal to abandon or share sponsorship as the show entered new markets and became too expensive.[29][30] After Dr. Montenier sold Stopette to Helene Curtis,[31] the series was sponsored by a variety of companies which were either regular or rotating. Sponsors were accorded the same exposure on the set as Stopette. One of the first rotating sponsors, which actually came before Montenier's sale of Stopette to Helene Curtis (who continued to sponsor the program after the purchase and still promoted Stopette in their advertising), was the Remington Rand Corporation, who used their time to promote their line of electric shavers and business machines such as the UNIVAC.

Near the end of its run, sponsors would be introduced in the opening title and given commercials during the show, but would not be displayed on the set. Frequent sponsors in the 1960s were Kellogg's cereals, Allstate Insurance, and Geritol.

Behind the scenes[edit]

Unknown to the public, mystery guests were paid $500 (equal to $5,207 in 2018[32]) as an appearance fee, whether they won or lost the game. This was in addition to the maximum $50 (equal to $521 in 2018[32]) game winnings, which guests sometimes donated to charity. Guest panelists were paid $750 (equal to $7,810 in 2018[32]) as an appearance fee. The regular panelists were under contract and were paid "much more," according to Fates.[33] Bennett Cerf explained that when he became a permanent member of the program, he was paid $300 (equal to $3,124 in 2018[32]) per week, and he told Robbin Hawkins in their interview that by the end of the series, the panelists were being paid "scandalous amounts of money."[34][35]

Studio locations[edit]

The first four episodes (#001 – #004; February – March 16, 1950) were broadcast live from a converted loft at the former CBS Studio 41 Grand Central Studios at Grand Central Terminal (15 Vanderbilt Ave., NY).[36]

Beginning with the first Wednesday episode (#005; April 12, 1950, and continuing until around 1951), the show was broadcast from the now demolished CBS Studio 51 (Maxine Elliott's Theatre, aka Maxine Elliott Theatre, 109 W. 39th St., NY).[36]

At least by episode #034 (January 21, 1951),[37] the show moved to CBS Studio 59 (Mansfield Theatre, later renamed the Brooks Atkinson Theatre in 1960, 256 W. 47th St., NY), and stayed there until Episode #516, June 5, 1960.[36][38] Meanwhile, the concurrent 1952–1953 Radio edition, at least during the CBS run, was heard live from CBS Studio Building 22 (49 E. 52nd St., NY).[39]

Episode #225 (September 19, 1954) was a color edition of the show, broadcast live from CBS Studio 72 (on Manhattan's Upper West Side, Broadway at 81st St., NY). This predated the shows's eventual move to color by 12 years.[36][40]

Episode #323 (August 12, 1956), in conjunction with the 1956 Democratic Party Convention, was a special Chicago episode broadcast from the studios of CBS owned-and-operated WBBM-TV (630 N. McClurg Ct., Chicago, IL).[36]

Episode #397 (January 12, 1958) was a special Hollywood episode broadcast from CBS Television City (7800 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles, CA). The moderator and panel's desks were not brought over, as they had been for the Chicago special.[41]

Beginning with episode #517 through episode #829 (June 12, 1960 – September 4, 1966), the show used CBS Studio 52 (254 W. 54th St., NY; the future Studio 54).[36] The last episode aired in black & white was taped on July 17, 1966, and the last episode to be produced there in black & white aired live on July 24.

For the final season, from episode #830 to episode #876 (September 11, 1966 – September 3, 1967), in conjunction with the program's permanent move to color, the show used CBS Studio 50 (later renamed the Ed Sullivan Theater, 1697 Broadway at 53rd St., NY).[36]

The final CBS network show[edit]

CBS announced in early 1967 that a number of game shows, including What's My Line?, were to be canceled at the end of the season. Bennett Cerf wrote that the network had decided that game shows were no longer suitable for prime time, and that the news was broken by The New York Times on February 14[42] before anyone involved with the show was notified.[43] The primary reason for the cancellation, along with the other panel shows CBS aired in prime time at the time, was that the programs' low overall viewership—the key metric of success during Michael Dann's time with the network—could no longer justify their presence even as the shows continued to turn a profit with their low production costs.[44]

The 876th and final CBS telecast of What's My Line? aired on September 3, 1967; it was highlighted by clips from past telecasts, a visit by the show's first contestants, a challenger from the New York unemployment office, and the final mystery guest, who was John Daly himself. Daly had always been the emergency mystery guest in case the scheduled guest was unable to appear on the live broadcast, but this had never occurred. Mark Goodson, Bill Todman and Johnny Olson appeared on-camera as well.[45][46][47]

Broadcast history and Nielsen ratings[edit]

Season Time slot Rank Rating
1 1950–1951 Sunday nights at 10:30 PM Not in the Top 30
2 1951–1952
3 1952–1953 #20 35.3 (tie)
4 1953–1954 #28 29.6
5 1954–1955 Not in the Top 30
6 1955–1956
7 1956–1957 #26 28.9 (tie)
8 1957–1958 Not in the Top 30
9 1958–1959
10 1959–1960 #27 23.9
11 1960–1961 #22 23.1
12 1961–1962 Not in the Top 30
13 1962–1963 #13 25.6
14 1963–1964 #24 22.6
15 1964–1965 Not in the Top 30
16 1965–1966
17 1966–1967

Syndicated revival (1968–1975)[edit]


Once the original What's My Line? had ended, Goodson-Todman struck a deal with CBS's syndication arm, which in time became the present-day Viacom, to syndicate a new weekday videotaped edition. This version became a staple of local stations' afternoon and early evening schedules, especially from the 1971-72 season onward, when the FCC forced networks to cede one half-hour to their affiliates. The Prime Time Access Rule was intended to permit local stations to produce news and public affairs programming, but instead many of them turned to programs like WML, as practically all stations outside the largest markets found it unprofitable to produce their own shows locally. The first three seasons (1968–1971) originated from Studio 50, the home of the original series.[48] In 1971, production of What's My Line? moved from the Broadway studio to Studio 6-A at NBC in Rockefeller Center,[49] and the series remained there for the rest of its run. As it had with the original series, Goodson-Todman went to ABC News to seek out a host, whose title had ceased to be that of "moderator," and hired Wally Bruner to take over for John Charles Daly. Bruner left the series at the conclusion of its fourth season, the 1971-1972 season, and actor Larry Blyden stepped in at the beginning of the 1972-1973 season to host the remaining three seasons.


The syndicated edition had two regular panelists for its entire run, with comedian Soupy Sales joining the returning Arlene Francis. Bennett Cerf appeared as a guest on an irregular basis until he died during production of the fourth season in 1971. Other panelists included Alan Alda, his father Robert Alda, Joanna Barnes, Joyce Brothers, Jack Cassidy, Bert Convy, Joel Grey, Elaine Joyce, Ruta Lee, Sam Levene, Meredith MacRae, Henry Morgan, Jerry Orbach, Gene Rayburn, Nipsey Russell, Gene Shalit and Dana Valery.

Look and style[edit]

Unlike its predecessor, the syndicated What's My Line? did not emphasize formality as the panelists did not dress in formalwear. In addition, the panelists were simply referred to by name and only their first names were displayed in front of them. The show did manage to keep some elements of the original series intact, as the cartoon introduction used during the final two seasons on CBS was reused with new music added.[50] The panelists also entered in the same manner as they had before with Soupy Sales (or the panelist occupying the seat farthest left when he was absent) coming out first and introducing the person sitting next to them, and continuing down the line to Arlene Francis (or whoever occupied her seat while she was absent), who would then introduce the host.

Who's Who? segment[edit]

In the 1960s and 1970s syndicated run, whenever there was extra time, a special game was instituted called "Who's Who". Four members of the studio audience were lined up on stage, and their occupations were printed on cards. Each panelist had 20 seconds to take those occupation cards to the appropriate contestant (the ones who they thought had that occupation). Each time one panelist failed, the audience team won $25 and another panelist took a turn. If all four panelists failed, each member of the team won an additional bonus prize. The game ended when the panel was stumped or if a panelist placed the occupations with the right contestants. If the panelists got it correct on the first try, the audience members received $5 and a year's supply of Turtle Wax.

The producers considered the revival a merger of What's My Line? and its 1950s spinoff, I've Got a Secret, which resulted in noticeable changes from the original. As with Secret, contestants frequently demonstrated their skill or product after the game. Bruner, and later Blyden, would preface the demonstrations by asking Lloyd Gross, who directed most of the editions, "Lloyd, would you open the curtains, please?" Dollar signs for "no" answers were replaced by sequential numbers. Mystery guest rounds were no longer scored and simply ended with a correct guess or when time ran out.

The set, designed by veteran Goodson-Todman art director Theodore Cooper, was predominantly blue and featured walls behind the panel and host areas tiled with illustrations representing various occupations. This set debuted when the show premiered, made the move from Broadway to Rockefeller Center in 1972, and was used until the end of the 1972-73 season.

Later introductions[edit]

For the 1973-74 season, the show's set was changed. The tiles were done away with in favor of having blue walls with question marks painted on them, and the rest of the set adopted a red and yellow color palette.

For the 1974-75 season, the animated intro was done away with in favor of the show's announcer offering a preview of one of the contestants's games, and the panelists simply entered the stage one at a time as they were introduced. The panel was still introduced from left to right, as they had been before, and Blyden was introduced last.

A bright, contemporary music package was composed by Charles Fox. According to Fox's book, Killing Me Softly: My Life in Music, Robert Israel of Score Productions paid him a buyout fee of $1,000 (equal to $5,080 today[citation needed]) for the work. The music was performed and recorded at CTS Studios in Wembley, England, with Fox, Israel and producer Mark Goodson in attendance.[citation needed]


Johnny Olson continued as announcer until a short time into the 1972-73 season, when he departed for California. Following Olson's departure, a succession of guest announcers were used, including Wayne Howell, Dennis Wholey, Bob Williams, Jack Haskell and Chet Gould,[51] with Gould eventually taking over full-time in early 1973.

After the death of Bennett Cerf[edit]

After Bennett Cerf's death, stations continued to air shows where he was a panelist resulting in confusion among some fans, who were seeing "new" episodes with Cerf long after hearing about his death. At the time, syndication involved tape-sharing among stations that aired a series, a practice referred to as "bicycling." As such, while What's My Line? aired daily on weekdays, each station airing the show did not air the same episode on a particular day. This prompted producer Gil Fates, who recalled the situation in his book, What's My Line?: TV's Most Famous Panel Show, to send a form letter response to fans who had written complaining about the late Bennett Cerf's failure to disappear, some saying the television stations were using poor taste.

Fates explained that Cerf indeed had died, but television was practicing a time-honored tradition of celebrating one's work long after their death. As he wrote in his book, Fates knew, but did not tell viewers, about the production costs that would have gone to waste had his company acceded to the demands, some coming from station managers, to scrap the Cerf videotapes.[52]

Revival's end and Blyden's death[edit]

The syndicated series ran for 1,320 episodes over seven seasons. An attempt at an eighth season did not get off the ground as not enough stations were willing to pick up the series for an additional year. With this in mind, Goodson-Todman offered host Blyden the hosting position on Showoffs, a charades-based game show that the company was developing for ABC's daytime lineup. He accepted and shot a pilot shortly after What's My Line? ended production. However, Blyden never got to host the series as he was killed in an automobile accident while traveling in Morocco just before taping was to begin. At the time of Blyden's death, a handful of new episodes of What's My Line? had yet to air in certain markets; by the fall of 1975, the last of these episodes had aired across the United States. Comedian Bobby Van ended up hosting Showoffs.

Later revival attempts[edit]

New versions of WML were planned as early as 1981, then in 1996, the show was going to be revived by a joint venture between All-American Television and Miramax Films (which also would have been Miramax's first foray into television game shows) as it was being described as "a new model" that would have blended the original features such as having a celebrity panel question contestants in an effort to guess their occupation and also having the panel blindfolded to guess the identity of a famous person, with contemporary "special effects" and "interactive twists." CBS reportedly committed to air six episodes for its fall 1999 schedule. However, according to Miramax TV president Billy Campbell, the deal crumbled because the network decided the show was too costly and ambitious.

In 2000, a pilot was shot with host Harry Anderson for CBS, but was later turned down in favor of the reality show Survivor. In 2008, another revival of the show with David Hasselhoff was planned in cooperation with FremantleMedia, which had taken over ownership of all Goodson-Todman and Mark Goodson Productions programming, that never got off the ground. In 2014, another pilot for a revival was shot to offer to stations in 2015, but it also failed to sell.

Woody Allen parody[edit]

It was during the run of the syndicated version that Woody Allen parodied What's My Line? in his 1972 film Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex, with the segment "What Are Sex Perverts?" featuring a game show called What's My Perversion? Appearing as panelists were Robert Q. Lewis, who had been a panelist on the original What's My Line?, and Pamela Mason, who had been a mystery guest. Jack Barry, partner of Dan Enright, both of whom had taken falls in the quiz-show scandals of the 1950s, hosted the What's My Perversion? game show, years before both would finally return to television in triumph with The Joker's Wild.

After What's My Line?[edit]

25th anniversary special[edit]

In early 1975, with production on break, it became clear to staff that the seventh season of the syndicated What's My Line? would be the last. This was the time of year that production companies and syndicators would try to sell new and continuing series to local stations, and Viacom and Goodson-Todman found themselves unable to secure contracts with enough stations to justify continuing producing the program beyond the current campaign.[53] Just days after disbanding their technical crew, Goodson and Todman pitched the idea of a retrospective network special to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the program's CBS debut, called What's My Line at 25. The programming department at CBS turned down the idea[54] but ABC bought it. The special was broadcast by ABC on May 28, 1975 as a late-night Wide World Special, and is currently available for viewing at The Paley Center for Media. It made a return twice on television as a one-time rerun on GSN (Game Show Network) on December 25, 2014 at 1:00 A.M. EST and as part of Buzzr's "Lost & Found" week on September 29, 2018 at 6:30 P.M. EST.

In producing the special, the only existing master 16mm prints of the original series kinescope films were removed from storage and brought to a Manhattan editing facility that Goodson-Todman Productions rented. There, company employees Gil Fates, Bob Bach, Pamela Usdan and Bill Egan[54] worked round-the-clock for three days to compile the 90-minute special under deadline pressure from ABC network official Bob Shanks.[55] In the process of viewing and editing the films for the special, they accidentally damaged or destroyed several kinescope films which spanned the entire run of the original series, including a few that did not make the final cut of the retrospective.[28] In addition, some unspooled film remained on the floor after the group's rented time at the facility ran out.[28] An April 1967 episode featuring Candice Bergen as the mystery guest was lost in its entirety, as was a June 1967 episode featuring both Betty Grable and F. Lee Bailey. Other episodes sustained only partial damage, such as a 1965 episode that is mainly damaged during the mystery guest appearance of Marian Anderson.[citation needed]

Mark Goodson, Arlene Francis and John Charles Daly appeared on-camera in 1975 having a conversation that introduced the old kinescope clips. Hosts of the syndicated version, Wally Bruner and Larry Blyden, were alive at the time but did not participate. With the exception of Bruner's 1969 appearance with mystery guest Gerald Ford, the 25th anniversary special consisted entirely of highlights from the CBS Sunday night version of the series.

That's My Line[edit]

In 1980, Mark Goodson-Bill Todman Productions, creators of What's My Line?, produced That's My Line which also highlighted the unusual occupations of ordinary people. However, the show was developed as a reality show and had no panel or game elements. What's My Line? announcer Johnny Olson was the announcer, and Bob Barker was the host for the show which ran for two seasons on CBS.

Live stage version (2004–present)[edit]

From November 2004 to July 2006, Jim Newman and J. Keith van Straaten produced one-hour live stage versions of the show at the ACME Comedy Theatre in Los Angeles, California, titled What's My Line? — Live On Stage. The Los Angeles version of the live show went on hiatus when van Straaten relocated to New York, then resumed in June 2007.

The production debuted in New York at the Barrow Street Theatre on March 24, 2008 for an announced run of six shows. The show is now an authorized production as it is licensed by FremantleMedia, the owners of What's My Line?. As of April 12, 2008 the New York mystery guests have been George Wendt, Moby, Natalia Paruz and Tony Roberts. Panelists have included Jonathan Ames, Dr. Joy Browne, Stephanie D'Abruzzo, Frank DeCaro, Michael Riedel, and original TV version veterans Betsy Palmer and Julia Meade. The first guest on the New York show (#75 in the production overall) was Pat Finch, who was the first guest on the first CBS episode.

In Los Angeles, panelists have included Carlos Alazraqui, Alison Arngrim, E.G. Daily, Andy Dick, Paul Goebel, Danny Goldman, Annabelle Gurwitch, Mariette Hartley, Elaine Hendrix, Marty Ingels, Cathy Ladman, David L. Lander, Kate Linder, Ann Magnuson, Jayne Meadows, Lee Meriwether, Patt Morrison, Rick Overton, Jimmy Pardo, Lisa Jane Persky, Nancy Pimental, Greg Proops, Mink Stole, Nicole Sullivan, Marcia Wallace, Matt Walsh, Len Wein, Wil Wheaton, Gary Anthony Williams, Debra Wilson, April Winchell, and Andy Zax.

Mystery guests have included Ed Begley, Jr., Stephen Bishop, Mr. Blackwell, LeVar Burton, Brett Butler, José Canseco, Drew Carey, Andy Dick, Michael and Kitty Dukakis, Hector Elizondo, Nanette Fabray, Peter Falk, Bruce Jenner, Larry King, Kathy Kinney, Bruno Kirby, Tara Lipinski, Lisa Loeb, Shelley Long, Leonard Maltin, Rose Marie, Wink Martindale, Sally Struthers, Rip Taylor, Judy Tenuta, Alan Thicke, Dick Van Patten, Lindsay Wagner, Wil Wheaton, Noah Wyle, and Sean Young.[56]

Panelists and guests who appeared on the original TV versions and on the stage version include Shelley Berman, Lee Meriwether, radio commentator Michael Jackson, Jayne Meadows, Nanette Fabray, Joanna Barnes, Julie Newmar, Margaret O'Brien, and Marty Ingels. Usually when such a veteran appears, there is a pristine-quality DVD screening of the original kinescope on a plasma screen.[citation needed] Non-celebrities include the lifelong Los Angeles-area resident who challenged the panel with her line, afterward reminiscing how 43 years earlier she had traveled to New York, where Arlene Francis identified her as a meter maid. A clip from the kinescope was played.

In addition, the show has featured relatives of the original cast: Jill Kollmar (daughter of Dorothy Kilgallen and Richard Kollmar), Nina Daly (daughter of John Charles Daly), and Vinton Cerf (co-inventor of the Internet and distant cousin of Bennett Cerf). It also included a segment in which Vint Cerf's son Bennett (named after the panelist) appeared as a guest.

Episode availability[edit]

Some are off-the-air home recordings of rebroadcasts.

All original series shows were recorded via kinescope onto film, but networks in the early 1950s sometimes destroyed such recordings to recover the silver content from the film.[58] CBS regularly recycled What's My Line? kinescopes until July 1952, when Mark Goodson and Bill Todman, having realized it was occurring, offered to pay the network for a film of every broadcast.[citation needed] As a result, only about ten episodes exist from the first two years of the series, including the first three broadcasts.

The following broadcasts from this period are available on YouTube: February 2, February 16, March 2, April 12, October 1 (restored “lost” episode), October 15, and December 31, 1950; March 4, March 18, April 29 (described as "lost episode"), December 2, 1951; and March 30, 1952. Starting with July 20, 1952, the archive is complete.

Episode #048 from April 29, 1951 exists at the University of Wisconsin Center For Film and Theater Research.

Episode #013 (August 2, 1950), episode #084 (January 6, 1952), and episode #855 (March 26, 1967) exist at The Paley Center for Media.

An audio-only portion of episode #079 from December 2, 1951 (only has part of Game 1 with Mrs. Virginia Hendershot as the Steam Shovel Operator from Bound Brook, NJ) exists.

A portion of episode #097 (April 6, 1952), the full episode #533 (October 2, 1960), and the full milestone 800th episode (January 23, 1966) exist at the UCLA Film and Television Archive.

Only a portion of episode #191 (January 24, 1954) w/Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis as mystery guests exists, and was shown in What's My Line? at 25.

Episode #195 (February 21, 1954) only exists among collectors as a second-hand kinescope, as the official kinescope is missing from the Goodson-Todman archive.

In 2016, episode #018, aired live on October 1, 1950, was discovered by a film archivist. It was preserved and digitally converted for release.

An audio-only excerpt from the otherwise lost episode #866 (June 18, 1967) can be heard in an LP called The Age of Television. This album, which was put out by RCA Records in 1971, featured interviews with TV personalities about the medium's first 25 years. One of these interviews concerned What's My Line? and included audio from the mystery guest segment featuring Betty Grable from that now-lost episode.

The existing kinescope films (now digitized) have subsequently rerun on television. The series has been seen on GSN[59] at various times. The series is currently[when?] shown on the BUZZR network.[60]

Some episodes of the CBS radio version of the 1950s are available to visitors to the Paley Center for Media in New York City and Beverly Hills, CA. Others are at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., where procedures to access them are more complicated.

Alpha Video released a DVD containing four episodes on February 26, 2008. This is an unofficial release of public domain episodes, and it is unclear if an official release will occur.[61]


Board Games[edit]

Lowell (1955)[edit]

The original What's My Line? based on the Daly era was released by Lowell in 1955.

Whitman (1969)[edit]

The second version based on the Bruner/Blyden era was released by Whitman in 1969.

Endless Games (2001)[edit]

In order to commemorate the shows 50th Anniversary at the time, this version was released by Endless Games in 2001.

Record Album[edit]

Released by Dot in 1955, audio recordings of eight "mystery guest" segments from the original Daly era can only be heard.


Released by Prentice Hall in 1978, Gil Fates the executive producer of the show looks back over a quarter century run of the series. The cover of the book features the photos of panelists Arlene Francis, Bennett Cerf, Dorothy Kilgallen and host John Daly.

International versions[edit]


An Australian version hosted by John Barnes debuted on station TCN-9 in 1956 during the opening week of Australian television and ran until 1958. It was replaced by a long-running version of To Tell the Truth. The archival status of this version is unclear.


The Brazilian version of What's My Line? was called Adivinhe o que ele Faz? ("Guess What He Does?") and was hosted by Heloísa Helena. On December 16, 1956 Helena appeared as a contestant on the American version.[62][63]

Canada (French-speaking)[edit]

Chacun son métier ("To Each His Job" or "To Each His Trade") ran on Radio-Canada from 1954 to 1959 and was hosted by Louis Morisset.[64]

On January 23, 1955 panelist Nicole Germain appeared as a contestant in the first round on the American version,[65] then sat on the panel next to Bennett Cerf for the second round.

On January 18, 1959, near the end of the Canadian run, host Morisset appeared as a contestant on the American version.[66]


Was bin ich? ("What am I?") ran on ARD (First German Television) from 1955 to 1958 and from 1961 to 1989 with Robert Lembke (a Bavarian) as host.[67][68] Lembke was head of the news division of the public Bavarian Broadcasting Establishment Bayerischer Rundfunk (BR) at the time and had bought the rights to the series during a visit to the BBC in 1954.

The best-known panel consisted of district attorney Hans Sachs, actress Marianne Koch, TV announcers Annette von Aretin and Anneliese Fleyenschmidt, and Guido Baumann, head of the entertainment division of Swiss radio and TV station DRS. Austrian TV announcer Ingrid Wendl would usually fill in for von Aretin if the latter was not available.

Guests received 5 Deutsche Mark (DM) for each "no" answer and the panel was allowed 10 "no" answers. Prize money was given in a porcelain piggy bank, and Lembke used to insert a 5 DM coin into the Bank's slot for each "no", producing a loud, characteristic sound. In relation to this, Lembke's most famous line "Welches Schweinderl hätten S' denn gern?" ("Which piggy would you like to have?", spoken in Lembke's strong Bavarian accent), which referred to differently-colored piggy banks.

Playing rules were almost identical to the original American rules on What's My Line with two notable exceptions:

  • Before starting into the line of questions, Robert Lembke would ask the regular guests to perform a "typical gesture" that would occur regularly in their line of working, but wasn't recognizable too easily. A hairdresser, for example, would not perform the gesture of combing a customer's hair but of simply lifting a strand of hair before using the comb.
  • The "celebrity guest of honor" (German equivalent to the "mystery celebrity guest") would receive neither a piggy bank nor money to fill it, but accessories to something he would indulge in privately, ascending in value. So, if a secret guest of honor would (e.g.) be a painter in his private time, he would receive something like a small paint brush on the first "no" up to an easel on the tenth "no". A keen reader would receive up to ten books by his favorite authors, et cetera.

The series returned from 1961 and ran until Lembke's unexpected death in 1989. The series returned as a weekly program on Kabel 1 from 1999 to 2005,[69] hosted by Björn Hergen Schimpf. The panel consisted of entertainer/comedians Herbert Feuerstein and Tanja Schumann, talk-show host Vera Int-Veen, and former German minister of labour and social affairs Norbert Blüm.


The Indonesian version is called Kuis Siapa Dia ("Who He/She Is"). First premiered on August 3, 1992 until June 26, 1998 then was revived on March 1 until August 26, 2013 on TVRI, it was one of the most successful and legendary quiz show in Indonesia. Created by Ani Sumadi. After 15 years, the show is aired again on Trans 7 TV station starting from October 27, 2014 until March 1, 2015. The hosts were Aom Kusman, Denny Chandra and Ananda Omesh.


The Lithuanian version began in late 2010 under the name "Kas tu toks?" (Who Are You?). It is broadcast on Lietuvos Rytas Television.

Puerto Rico[edit]

A Puerto Rican version aired, and Puerto Rican panelist Sylvette de Aldrey appeared as a contestant on the American version of the program on the 1955 Christmas episode.

South Korea[edit]

The South Korean version began in 1956 by the South Korean government and run as a non-profit organization.[70] On July 28, 1963 a panelist from this version, Miss Keun Oh Kim, appeared as a contestant on the American version.


The Spanish version was called Adivine su vida[71] ("Guess Your Life") and ran from 1960 to 1961.


Sweden aired a version that was called Gissa mitt jobb[72] ("Guess my profession"), and it was televised in 1960 and again in 1974.

United Kingdom[edit]

A British version aired on BBC Television Service from 16 July 1951 to 13 May 1963.[73] The host (called "chairman") on the premiere was Gilbert Harding, who was replaced by Eamonn Andrews for the remainder of the run. Regular panelists included Harding, Isobel Barnett, Barbara Kelly, David Nixon and Cyril Fletcher, while Katie Boyle, Jerry Desmonde, Ghislaine Alexander, Marghanita Laski, Frances Day and Elizabeth Allan were among the others.[74]

There was also a radio version for British listeners on Radio Luxembourg. As Andrews and Harding had exclusive contracts with the BBC, their places were taken by Peter Martyn (later Bernard Braden) and Richard Attenborough. Original-series regulars Nixon, Barnett and Kelly also appeared.

The series returned, on BBC2 with David Jacobs as host, from 23 August 1973 to 18 May 1974. Regular panelists were William Franklyn, Isobel Barnett (Lady Barnett), Kenneth Williams, and Anna Quayle; later in the run, Quayle was replaced by Nanette Newman.[75]

Eamonn Andrews returned to host a revival on ITV from 26 March 1984 with John Benson as announcer. This version aired at night and, although mainly recorded, some episodes were screened live. Taped episodes may be identified as opening with "Tonight from London it's time for What's My Line?", while those broadcast live began with "Live from London". Regular panelists included Angela Rippon, Ernie Wise, George Gale, Jeffrey Archer, Barry Sheene.[76] novelist Jilly Cooper and Patrick Mower. Mower was starring in a West End theatre production at the time the series aired and for the live editions, was seen walking off set as the final credits rolled. After Andrews died in 1987, actress Penelope Keith assumed the role of chairperson in 1988. Angela Rippon took over hosting duties after Keith left until the show ended on 28 August 1990. The Keith and Rippon episodes were taped and screened in ITV's daytime schedule.

The show was revived by HTV West and Meridian from 20 September 1994 to 17 December 1996 hosted by Emma Forbes. A special one-off edition hosted by Hugh Dennis was produced for BBC Four in 2005, as part of a season about British culture in the decade following World War II, along with an episode of the original series, from 5 October 1957.

A one-off episode aired on the BBC website on 7 March 2011 as part of the BBC's Red Nose Day fundraiser 24 Hour Panel People. Stephen K. Amos served as presenter, with David Walliams, Christopher Biggins and Holly Walsh on the panel. Tom Felton was the mystery guest.

A parody of this show, entitled "What's My Crime?", appears in The Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith and its film adaptation. It features a contestant whose crime was to have stolen two hundred bath plugs from hotels.


The Venezuelan version was called Mi Trabajo y Yo ("My Job and I"). On December 24, 1961 the director and moderator of this version, Jacques Lemoine, appeared as a contestant on the American version.[77]

See also[edit]


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External links[edit]