Monday, February 23, 2009

Game Shows and the movies

I've mentioned that I'm a game show fan. Even in spite of the success of Slumdog Millionaire, TV game shows aren't the easiest thing to write movies about, largely because the real thing is more interesting than the movie version. (Anybody who's yelled answers out at their TV will know what I mean.) Quiz Show, about the game show scandals of the 1950s, is probably the best known.

However, several prominent game show hosts appeared in movies as actors. There are, of course, the people who were originally actors, and then went on to host game shows. Richard Dawson was a TV star on Hogan's Heroes long before he hosted Family Feud; or you might recall that Groucho Marx had a comedy act with his brothers long before hosting You Bet Your Life.

But some of the people whose best known work is as a game show host also made some movies. Peter Marshall started off as part of a nightclub act with Tommy Noonan long before he became the host of The Hollywood Squares; in between he appeared in a few dreadful movies such as The Rookie.

If you watch Gregory Peck's biopic of Douglas MacArthur, keep your eyes open: the original Jeopardy! host, Art Fleming, has a brief role.

More interesting are the movies of Dick Clark. Host of several incarnations of Pyramid, it was his job as host of American Bandstand that probably got him his first big movie role, that of a young teacher in the high-school drama Because They're Young. Clark tries, but fortunately, the focus of the movie is more squarely on the students. Amazingly enough, it got him another acting gig, in the medical drama The Young Doctors. It's a movie about a hospital pathology department that's saved by a fine performance from Fredric March. Don't watch it for Clark, unless you're also a game show fan. You'll end up laughing at how stilted his performance is. Perhaps unsurprisingly, neither of Clark's movies are on DVD.

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