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10 Stand-Up Facts About To Tell the Truth

When ABC revives To Tell the Truth on June 14 with new host Anthony Anderson, it will earn a place in history as one of only two TV game shows to air first-run episodes in seven consecutive decades. Join us for a trip back through time to the days when female game show panelists wore evening gowns and cartons of cigarettes were given away as consolation prizes.

1. PRODUCERS DIDN’T WANT TO MAKE A DEAL WITH MONTY HALL TO HOST.

Bob Stewart had been creating and producing game shows for radio for several years and was looking to make a transition to television in 1955 when he happened to bump into Monty Hall. The future Let’s Make a Deal host had only recently arrived in the U.S. from his native Canada and had landed a temporary hosting gig filling in for an ailing Gene Rayburn on an NBC children’s game show called The Sky’s the Limit.

Hall told Stewart that he was friends with producer Mark Goodson’s attorney, and that he could arrange a meeting with him if Stewart had any ideas for game shows that Hall could host. Stewart pitched two shows to the attorney, but when a follow-up meeting was scheduled it was requested that Stewart attend solo. Goodson liked his ideas, but not with Hall attached.

2. THE SHOW UNDERWENT A FEW NAME CHANGES BEFORE IT WAS SOLD.

One of the two shows that Stewart had pitched was called Three of a Kind (the other show, by the way, was the game that eventually became The Price Is Right); it involved three contestants who all claimed to be the same person. It was up to a panel of four celebrities to ask a series of questions and determine the genuine contestant from the imposters.

By the time a pilot episode was made, the name of the show had changed to Nothing but the Truth. Mike Wallace hosted the premiere episode, but when the game was picked up as a series, the name had changed again—to To Tell the Truth—and Wallace had departed as host in order to pursue a career in news broadcasting instead.

3. CATCHPHRASES WERE PART OF THE SHOW’S SUCCESS.

Merv Griffin filled in for To Tell the Truth host Bud Collyer on many occasions during the 1960s, but even at that young age he knew he wanted to do more in television that just work in front of the camera. Griffin adopted Mark Goodson as his mentor and carefully studied all of Goodson-Todman’s most successful shows to see what worked and what didn’t. One thing Goodson emphasized was regularly using precise verbiage during portions of a show, like when explaining the rules. A phrase that caught on as part of the lingo was even better, such as To Tell the Truth’s “Will the real John Doe, please stand up?” Griffin discovered that such repetition provided continuity and comfort to the audience. He employed those tactics years later when he created his own hit game shows.

4. THE “CELEBRITY” PANELISTS WEREN’T ALWAYS CELEBRITIES.

Even during To Tell the Truth’s original run, viewers sometimes wondered exactly what some of the celebrity panelists’ claims to fame were. While To Tell the Truth’s celebrities didn’t have quite the New York café society vibe that surrounded the What’s My Line? panel, most of them were more or less known for their work on Broadway or the Metropolitan Opera since the show was taped in Manhattan. So while East Coast theater buffs might have known that Peggy Cass won a Tony Award for her work in Auntie Mame, folks in Peoria, Illinois would probably only remember Kitty Carlisle from her appearance in the Marx Brothers’ A Night at the Opera and be unaware of her 20-year tenure on New York State’s Council of the Arts.

5. THE IMPOSTERS WERE FOUND IN THE WANT ADS.

The producers did run ads in some of the local New York newspapers, since they often needed “types” to fill the imposter roles, including beefy men who could pass for professional wrestlers or attractive women who looked like models but were really rodeo champions. What they didn’t want were professional (or aspiring) actors, believing that to be a convincing imposter, you had to be an Average Joe with no acting experience.

A team of production assistants often spent their afternoons wandering the streets near the studio plucking folks out of lines at bus stops, Broadway ticket booths, and waiting for tables at restaurants as possible fakes. An out-of-own accent was a definite plus, since many of the “real” contestants were from distant parts of the country. The producers interviewed an average of 80 hopefuls each week to fulfill their requirement of 20 imposters.

6. SOME OF THE IMPOSTERS WENT ON TO BECOME FAMOUS IN THEIR OWN RIGHT.

A young Cicely Tyson posed as folk singer Shirley Abicair in 1963, and future supermodel Lauren Hutton pretended to be Lulu Porter, the winner of the Polish International Song Festival. And then there was Anderson Cooper, who was just nine years old when he pretended to be Wally Norton, the world’s youngest professional bear trainer.

7. SOME CONTESTANTS BECAME FAMOUS A SECOND TIME.

Singer Bob McGrath appeared as a contestant on To Tell the Truth in 1966 by virtue of both his fame as a featured tenor on the TV show Sing Along with Mitch and as a successful recording artist in Japan (he’d released several albums of traditional Irish folks songs recorded in Japanese). Three years later, McGrath signed on to star in a new PBS series called Sesame Street, which would keep him busy for the following 40-plus years.

8. THE “WORLD’S GREATEST IMPOSTER” FOOLED THE PANEL.

Frank Abagnale Jr., the subject of Steven Spielberg’s Catch Me If You Can, made an appearance in 1977 and managed to stump the panel. The 2002 film used pieces of the original game show when reenacting that portion of Abagnale’s story.

9. A PRESIDENT ONCE SERVED ON THE PANEL.

Ronald Reagan sat on the To Tell the Truth panel in 1958—nine years before he was elected Governor of California, and 22 years before he defeated Jimmy Carter to become President of the United States.

10. THE BIRTH OF ALEX TREBEK'S FIRST CHILD FORCED MARK GOODSON TO FILL IN AS HOST.

As time went on, To Tell the Truth went through several hosts: Bud Collyer’s health issues forced him to retire in 1968, and he was replaced by Garry Moore. Moore was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1976 and eventually Joe Garagiola took over hosting duties in 1977.

In later years, the show moved from New York to Los Angeles and several emcees came and went, including Robin Ward, Richard Kline, Gordon Elliott, and Lynn Swann. When Swann departed in 1991 due to scheduling conflicts with his ABC Sports commitments, Alex Trebek was hired as the new full-time host. One day, just shortly after he began taping, Trebek received word that his wife had gone into labor with their first child. He explained the situation to Mark Goodson then dashed off to the hospital, leaving Goodson to step in as a last-minute host for two episodes.

Additional Sources:
Merv, an Autobiography, by Merv Griffin

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10 Regional Twists on Trick-or-Treating
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Walk around any given American neighborhood on the night of October 31, and you’ll likely hear choruses of "trick-or-treat" chiming through the area. The sing-songy phrase is synonymous with Halloween in some parts of the world, but it's not the only way kids get sweets from their neighbors this time of year. From the Philippines to the American Midwest, here are some regional door-to-door traditions you may not have heard of.

1. PANGANGALULUWA // THE PHILIPPINES

Rice cakes wrapped in leaves.
Suman

The earliest form of trick-or-treating on Halloween can be traced back to Europe in the Middle Ages. Kids would don costumes and go door-to-door offering prayers for dead relatives in exchange for snacks called "soul cakes." When the cake was eaten, tradition held that a soul was ferried from purgatory into heaven. Souling has disappeared from Ireland and the UK, but a version of it lives on halfway across the world in the Philippines. During All Saints Day on November 1, Filipino children taking part in Pangangaluluwa will visit local houses and sing hymns for alms. The songs often relate to souls in purgatory, and carolers will play the part of the souls by asking for prayers. Kids are sometimes given rice cakes called suman, a callback to the soul cakes from centuries past.

2. PÃO-POR-DEUS // PORTUGAL

Raw dough.
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Instead of trick-or-treating, kids in Portugal go door-to-door saying pão-por-deus ("bread for god") in exchange for goodies on All Saints Day. Some homeowners give out money or candy, while others offer actual baked goods.

3. HALLOWEEN APPLES // WESTERN CANADA

Kids trick-or-treating.
iStock

If they're not calling out "trick-or-treat" on their neighbors’ doorsteps on Halloween night, you may hear children in western Canada saying "Halloween apples!" The phrase is left over from a time when apples were a common Halloween treat and giving out loose items on the holiday wasn't considered taboo.

4. ST. MARTIN'S DAY // THE NETHERLANDS

The Dutch wait several days after Halloween to do their own take on trick-or-treating. On the night of November 11, St. Martin's Day, children in the Netherlands take to the streets with their homemade lanterns in hand. These lanterns were traditionally carved from beets or turnips, but today they’re most commonly made from paper. And the kids who partake don’t get away with shouting a few words at each home they visit—they’re expected to sing songs to receive their sugary rewards.

5. A PENNY FOR THE GUY // THE UK

Guy Fawkes Night celebration.

Peter Trimming, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0

Guy Fawkes Night is seen by some as the English Protestants’ answer to the Catholic holidays associated with Halloween, so it makes sense that it has its own spin on trick-or-treating. November 5 marks the day of Guy Fawkes’s failed assassination attempt on King James as part of the Gunpowder Plot. To celebrate the occasion, children will tour the neighborhood asking for "a penny for the guy." Sometimes they’ll carry pictures of the would-be-assassin which are burned in the bonfires lit later at night.

6. TRICKS FOR TREATS // ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI

Kids knocking on a door in costume.
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If kids in the St. Louis area hope to go home with a full bag of candy on Halloween, they must be willing to tickle some funny bones. Saying "tricks-for-treats" followed by a joke replaces the classic trick-or-treat mantra in this Midwestern city. There’s no criteria for the quality or the subject of the joke, but spooky material (What’s a skeleton’s favorite instrument? The trombone!) earns brownie points.

7. ME DA PARA MI CALAVERITA // MEXICO

Sugar skulls with decoration.
iStock

While Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is completely separate from Halloween, the two holidays share a few things in common. Mexicans celebrate the day by dressing up, eating sweet treats, and in some parts of the country, going house-to-house. Children knocking on doors will say "me da para mi calaverita" or "give me money for my little skull," a reference to the decorated sugar skulls sold in markets at this time of year.

8. HALLOWEEN! // QUEBEC, CANADA

Kids dressed up for Halloween.
iStock

Trick-or-treaters like to keep things simple in the Canadian province of Quebec. In place of the alliterative exclamation, they shout “Halloween!” at each home they visit. Adults local to the area might remember saying "la charité s’il-vous-plaît "(French for “charity, please”) when going door-to-door on Halloween, but this saying has largely fallen out of fashion.

9. SWEET OR SOUR // GERMANY

Little girl trick-or-treating.
iStock

Halloween is only just beginning to gain popularity in Germany. Where it is celebrated, the holiday looks a lot like it does in America, but Germans have managed to inject some local character into their version of trick-or-treat. In exchange for candy, kids sometimes sing out "süß oder saures"—or "sweet and sour" in English.

10. TRIQUI, TRIQUI HALLOWEEN // COLOMBIA

Kids dressed up for Halloween.
Rubí Flórez, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Kids in Colombia anticipate dressing up and prowling the streets on Halloween just as much as kids do in the States. There are a few significant variations on the annual tradition: Instead of visiting private residencies, they're more likely to ask for candy from store owners and the security guards of apartment buildings. And instead of saying trick-or-treat, they recite this Spanish rhyme:

Triqui triqui Halloween
Quiero dulces para mí
Si no hay dulces para mí
Se le crece la naríz

In short, it means that if the grownups don't give the kids the candy they're asking for, their noses will grow. Tricky, tricky indeed

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11 Thrilling Facts About Dial M for Murder
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In 1953 Alfred Hitchcock was looking for a new project after a film he’d been developing fell through. Sensing a need to go back to his safe space of murderous thrillers, he opted to adapt a stage play that had already proved to be a hit on British television. Though he had no particular attachment to the project, Dial M for Murder would ultimately become one of Hitchcock’s best-known—and best-loved—classics.

From the film’s use of 3D to the debut of Grace Kelly in Hitchcock’s filmography to a pivotal murder sequence that made the director lose weight from stress, here are 11 facts about Dial M for Murder.

1. IT’S BASED ON A STAGE PLAY.

Dial M for Murder is, in terms of locations and number of characters, a relatively sparse film that barely leaves its primary set. This is because it was based on a stage play by Frederick Knott, which premiered as a BBC TV special in 1952 and later opened at London’s Westminster Theater and, eventually, Broadway. After seeing the BBC production, producer Sir Alexander Korda purchased the rights to make the film version, and later sold them to Warner Bros. for $75,000.

2. ALFRED HITCHCOCK THOUGHT HE WAS “COASTING” WHEN HE MADE THE FILM.

By 1953, when Dial M for Murder arrived at Warner Bros., Hitchcock was developing a project called The Bramble Bush, the story of a man who steals another man’s passport, only to find out that the original owner is wanted for murder. Hitchcock wrestled with the story for a while, but was never satisfied with it. When Dial M for Murder landed at the studio, Hitchcock knew the play had been a hit, and opted to direct it. As he later told fellow director François Truffaut, he found the film to be “coasting, playing it safe,” as he was already known as a thriller filmmaker.

3. IT’S HITCHCOCK’S ONLY 3D FILM.

In the early 1950s, the 3D movie craze was raging, and Warner Bros. was eager to pair it with the fame of Hitchcock. So, the director was ordered to use the process on Dial M for Murder. This meant Hitchcock had to work with the giant cameras necessary for the process, but there was also a trade-off that makes the film fascinating—even in 2D. In order to make the film look appropriately interesting in 3D, Hitchcock added a pit into the floor of the set, so the camera could move at lower angles and captures objects like lamps in the foreground. As a result, the film looks like no other Hitchcock ever shot, particularly for the infamous scissors murder that’s the film's thrilling centerpiece. Unfortunately, by the time Dial M for Murder was released in 1954, the 3D fad was dying out, so the film was shown in 2D at most screenings.

4. IT WAS HITCHCOCK’S FIRST FILM WITH GRACE KELLY.

Of all of the iconic blonde stars Hitchcock cast in his films, the most famous is almost undoubtedly Grace Kelly, the actress-turned-princess who first joined him for this film. Hitchcock once described Kelly as a "rare thing in movies ... fit for any leading-lady part,” and it was said he had the easiest working relationship with her of any star. They worked so well together that they went on to make two more films, Rear Window in 1954 and To Catch a Thief in 1955.

5. IT TAKES PLACE ALMOST ENTIRELY INDOORS.

Because Dial M for Murder is based on a stage play, the original script had very little in the way of outdoor set pieces. Hitchcock wanted to keep it that way, as he later explained to Truffaut:

“I’ve got a theory on the way they make pictures based on stage plays; they did it with silent pictures, too. Many filmmakers would take a stage play and say, ‘I’m going to make this into a film.’ Then they would begin to ‘open it up.’ In other words, on the stage it was all confined to one set, and the idea was to do something that would take it away from the confined stage setting.”

Hitchcock wanted to keep the confinement intact, so almost all of the action in the film takes place indoors, largely in the Wendices' apartment. This adds to the intimacy and tension.

6. HITCHCOCK PERSONALLY CHOSE EVERY PROP.

Hitchcock was always known as a meticulous director obsessed with detail, but on Dial M for Murder he was particularly detail-oriented, in part because the 3D cameras were going to capture objects in a way his other films hadn’t. As a result, he selected all of the objects in the Wendice apartment himself, and even had a giant false telephone dial made for the famous “M” close-up in the title sequence.

7. KELLY’S WARDROBE GROWS DARKER ON PURPOSE.

Grace Kelly in 'Dial M for Murder' (1954)
Warner Home Video

Hitchcock’s exacting eye also led to an elaborate “color experiment” to portray the psychological condition of Kelly’s character. As the film begins, the colors she wears are all very bright, suggesting a happy life in which she doesn’t suspect anything is wrong. As the film grows darker for her, to the point that she’s framed for murder, the wardrobe grows darker and “more somber,” as Hitchcock put it.

8. KELLY WON A PARTICULAR WARDROBE ARGUMENT.

For the scene in which Swann (Anthony Dawson) attempts to murder Margot (Kelly) by strangling her (until she manages to stab him with a pair of scissors), Hitchcock had another exacting wardrobe request. He had an elegant velvet robe made for Kelly, hoping to create interesting textural effects as the lights and shadows played off the fabric while she fought for her life. Kelly reasoned that, since Margot was alone in the apartment (as far as she knew) and was only getting out of bed to answer the phone, she wouldn’t bother to put on a robe.

“I said I wouldn't put on anything at all, that I'd just get up and go to the phone in my nightgown. And [Hitchcock] admitted that was better, and that's the way it was done,” Kelly later recalled.

9. HITCHCOCK WAS SO NERVOUS ABOUT THE PIVOTAL SCENE THAT HE LOST WEIGHT.

Dial M for Murder was shot in just 36 days, but the director took special care with one scene in particular: the murder sequence in which Margot stabs Swann with the scissors. Not only was it a key scene in the film, but it was also a moment that required particular care to make the 3D effects work. Hitchcock agonized over the scene to such a degree that he apparently lost 20 pounds during filming.

"This is nicely done but there wasn't enough gleam to the scissors, and a murder without gleaming scissors is like asparagus without the hollandaise sauce—tasteless,” he reportedly said after one take.

10. HITCHCOCK MAKES HIS CAMEO IN A PHOTOGRAPH.

Hitchcock became known throughout his career for making cameos in his films, ranging from the very subtle (you can see his silhouette in neon outside the window in Rope) to the more elaborate (missing the bus in the opening sequence of North by Northwest). In Dial M for Murder, his cameo falls somewhere in between. He appears in a class reunion photo in the Wendice apartment, seated at a banquet table among other men.

11. IT’S BEEN REMADE FOUR TIMES.

Michael Douglas and Gwyneth Paltrow in 'A Perfect Murder' (1998)
Warner Bros.

Dial M for Murder was a film adaptation of a stage play that had also already been adapted for television in Britain, and it proved popular enough that four more adaptations followed. In 1958, NBC broadcast a Hallmark Hall of Fame production, in which both Anthony Dawson and John Williams returned to play Swann and Chief Inspector Hubbard, respectively. A 1967 ABC television production of the play co-starred Laurence Harvey and Diane Cilento. A television movie starring Angie Dickinson and Christopher Plummer was produced in 1981, and in 1998 the play served as the inspiration for the film A Perfect Murder, starring Michael Douglas and Gwyneth Paltrow.

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