Sunday, July 6, 2008

I'm a game show fan

I noticed that the Fox Movie Channel are airing a movie called The Rookie at 9:00 AM ET on July 6; one of the stars is credited as "Pete Marshall". That's the same Peter Marshall who would later become the master of The Hollywood Squares. The movie was made several years before Marshall got the hosting job on Hollywood Squares. Also, Marshall isn't the only prominent host who did "real" acting, by which I mean playing a part instead of just a cameo.

There have been any number of people best known as actors, who went on to become game show hosts, both famously and hosting relatively little-known game shows. John Wayne's son Patrick appeared in quite a few movies with his father, and starred in some lesser movies, and after all this went on to host the failed 1990 version of Tic Tac Dough. Groucho Marx is well-known for hosting You Bet Your Life, although he's obviously better-known for the movies he and his brothers made. Ditto Jackie Gleason, although his one game show effort, You're in the Picture is famously remembered for having a debut episode that turned out so badly that Gleason came on the next week to apologize, cancelling the game show and replacing it with a chat show.

As for people best-known for their game show work, there might be Dick Clark, although his movies came before he got the Pyramid job -- and his most famous work might just be American Bandstand, anyway. On the other hand, the original host of Jeopardy!, Art Fleming, did some acting work after his game show was cancelled; if you look carefully you can see him as a secretary in Gregory Peck's biopic of Douglas MacArthur, titled MacArthur.

Perhaps the most interesting, though, is Bob Clayton. He eventually got the hosting job on Concentration, although most of his game show work is in announcing. He made one feature film, The Bellboy, and in it, he shows just how much acting there is in being a good announcer. Jerry Lewis is the star and title character, a bellboy at the Hotel Fontainebleau in Miami, in what is little more than sketch comedy. The sketches are somewhat predictable, but still quite funny, as Lewis plays the always silent, and well-intentioned but incompetent, Stanley. For the most part, Clayton, who plays Stanley's boss, has little blocking; he stands or sits in one spot while Jerry Lewis is being funny around him. However, Clayton has to use his voice to get his emotions across, and this is especially noticeable in one scene in which he points to a pile of bags in the background and says to Stanley, "You see that steamer trunk?" Stanley then immediately goes over to the bags, and struggles with them before finally dragging the steamer trunk over to his boss. At that point, Clayton berates Stanley: Now, Stanley, you never let me finish what I have to say. I didn't want the steamer trunk; I wanted the hat box on top of the steamer trunk. And we're left with poor Stanley having to drag the trunk back to where it was so he can get the hat box. The Bellboy is fun, escapist comedy, and it's timeless, too. It was a huge hit when it came out in 1960, and audiences of all ages can still enjoy it today. Thankfully, it's available on DVD.

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