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NBC Television - eBay, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
NBC Television - eBay, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

11 Fun Facts About Match Game

NBC Television - eBay, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
NBC Television - eBay, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

As ABC readies to relaunch Match Game with Alec Baldwin at the helm, we’re looking back at the classic version of the game—back when Standards and Practices were so stringent that the slightest hint at innuendo that slipped past the censors was hilarious, when Gene Rayburn routinely broke the fourth wall, when wardrobe malfunctions were limited to a flash of underwear, and Rayburn’s microphone was an object of overcompensating curiosity begging to be analyzed by Sigmund Freud.

Match Game, which was the most watched daytime show for four years straight, was—as Charles Nelson Reilly once said—less of a game show and more of a social engagement.

1. IT BEGAN IN A CONFERENCE ROOM.

During a corporate “creative” meeting in the early 1960s, Goodson-Todman staffer Frank Wayne had an idea. “Try this,” he said to his co-workers at the conference table, “write down something about an elephant—and try to write the same thing that you think the others will.” Several different answers came up— “it’s grey,” “it’s big”—but two people wrote “it has a trunk.” Mark Goodson was intrigued with the concept of a game where there were no right or wrong answers and only matching answers scored points. Thus, The Match Game was born.

2. ITS EARLY TECHNOLOGY LEFT SOMETHING TO BE DESIRED.

The Match Game debuted in December 1962, with Gene Rayburn as the host and Bert Kaempfert’s catchy “A Swingin’ Safari” as the theme song. The game pitted two teams of three (one celebrity and two civilians) against each other, with points being won if team members’ answers matched one another. Game show technology was still in its infancy, so even though they had electronic signs to indicate a “match” and the number of points, players had to raise their hands to alert the host that they were ready to show their answer.

3. A MAD WRITER’S “SAUCE” QUESTION MADE THE GAME SAUCIER.

Dick DeBartolo was a Match Game question writer, and a freelance writer for MAD Magazine. The Match Game had been on the air for 10 months when Goodson approached DeBartolo to give him a “heads up” that ratings were sagging and NBC was hinting that the show would be canceled after its one-year contract was up. DeBartolo had a suggestion: why not put a silly, MAD sort of twist on their questions? He gave an example: “Mary likes to pour gravy on John’s ___.” (It was 1963, so of course the panelists would give answers like “mashed potatoes” or “meatloaf,” but the unspoken possibilities made the audience laugh.) Goodson started incorporating one or two “silly” questions per game, and the ratings steadily increased.

4. THE SHOW HAD SOME A-LIST CELEBRITY FANS.

When the show became a hit, everyone’s contracts were renewed and soon a variety of A-list celebrities were clamoring to play. The Match Game was taped in New York, so actors who were working on Broadway could easily slip away to tape a few shows on their days off. Lauren Bacall, Gloria Swanson, and Jayne Mansfield were just a few of the stars who served as team captains during the show’s original 1962 to 1969 run.

5. THE EXECUTIVE PRODUCER WASN’T LOOKING FOR LAUGHS.

When the revamped version of Match Game came back to the airwaves in the summer of 1973 (the original version went off the air in 1969), it had a bigger set, a bigger selection of celebrities, and bigger cash prizes. Much had changed, but not the game play; in the beginning, it was still pretty straightforward (“Name a red flower”) like the 1960s version of the show. Executive producer Mark Goodson preferred it that way; when it came to his game shows, he was very rigid about rules and procedure. He even sent a lengthy memo to Gene Rayburn once, chastising him for clowning around and “getting laughs.” That didn’t stop the writing staff from slipping in the occasional double-entendre-type question.

6. SOME WORDS WERE FORBIDDEN.

Back in the 1970s, there were several words you couldn’t say on television. Match Game contestants and panelists were warned ahead of taping, for example, that they couldn’t say “urinate” or “pee”—only “tinkle” was acceptable. Likewise, any biologically correct word for the naughty bits of human anatomy were verboten, as Fannie Flagg found out one day when she wrote “genitalia” on her card. Director Ira Skutch stormed over to her when they cut the tape and advised her that this was her first and only warning. If she ever said anything of that ilk again, she’d be banned from the show.

7. THE KEY TO THE SHOW’S SUCCESS WAS IN THE CASTING.

The show was still finding its feet during the first few weeks of its return and had a revolving, disparate cast of celebrity panelists. It was decided that perhaps a couple of celebrity “regulars” for Rayburn to get to know well enough to develop a rapport with would also keep the audience tuning back in daily. Jack Klugman had been a reluctant panelist on the first week’s episodes, appearing only on the condition that his then-wife, Brett Somers, would be invited to appear in the future. “Brett is dying to get out of the house, you’d be doing me a favor,” he told Skutch. The gravelly voiced actress with the oversized glasses turned out to be a perfect fit for the show and became one of the three regular panelists.

Charles Nelson Reilly was an old friend of Rayburn’s—the two had worked together on Broadway in Bye, Bye Birdie—and Rayburn invited him to play, thinking his sly wit and flamboyant personality would make for an amusing panelist. British actor/comedian Richard Dawson was often sarcastic but had a quick mind and was a good game player; it didn’t hurt that he was also handsome and charming. He became the third permanent panelist. It wasn’t long before the three had more or less developed into “characters” that fit together like puzzle pieces—Somers and Reilly, the bickering couple, and Dawson, the droll matinee idol who kissed the female contestants.

8. THE SEATING CHART WAS CAREFULLY PLANNED.

Somers and Reilly occupied the middle and end chairs of the top tier, and Dawson was stationed in the center chair, bottom row. The remaining spots were filled by a variety of different celebrities, some of whom appeared almost semi-regularly. The first seat on the top row was reserved for a comedian or sitcom star, preferably a male. The fourth seat (first chair on the second tier) was called the “dummy seat” behind the scenes; the celeb in that chair was always the “ditzy blonde” type—think Loni Anderson or Suzanne Somers. The sixth seat was “the worst” according to the celebs who sat in it over the years; the previous five panelists have already used the best jokes or quips, and you were expected to be original. This “thinking person’s” spot was frequently filled by Betty White, Marcia Wallace, or Fannie Flagg.

9. THE EPISODES WERE FILMED MARATHON-STYLE, OVER A SINGLE WEEKEND.

No wonder the panelists often seemed a bit tipsy as their answers grew more outrageous—they frequently were. Rayburn lived on Cape Cod, Massachusetts and flew to Los Angeles every two weeks on Friday, and then the cast and crew proceeded to tape 12 shows over the weekend. With such an exhaustive schedule, the panelists (and host) tended to imbibe a bit during the lunch break … and the dinner break. (Depending upon what time of day the episode was taped, the Styrofoam cup a cast member was seen sipping from was frequently filled with vodka instead of water.) Despite his onscreen demeanor, however, Dawson did not indulge; his beverage of choice was always coffee. The cast never appeared to be outright bombed, but they were decidedly “looser” in some episodes…

10. THE PANELISTS ONCE PROTESTED AN ANSWER.

Despite all their wacky hijinks, the panelists still kept in mind that their goal was to try and win some money for the civilian contestants. So when the judge made an odd, arbitrary decision on the acceptability of “college” versus “finishing school” during a 1977 episode, the panelists went into full protest mode. Of course, today such anarchy would have been edited out prior to broadcast, but it was this type of spontaneity that kept viewers tuning in.

11. SOME CONTESTANTS WENT ON TO BECOME CELEBRITIES.

ChiPs actress Brianne Leary competed on a 1976 episode and won a little over $9000. (She appeared as a celebrity panelist three years later, the only civilian to do so.) While she was a struggling actress Kirstie Alley from Wichita, Kansas (who listed her occupation as “interior designer”) paid her bills by appearing on TV game shows. In 1979 she won some big bucks (and an approving leer from Rayburn) as a Match Game contestant.

Additional Source:
The Real Match Game Story: Behind the Blank

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6 Times There Were Ties at the Oscars
getty images (March and Beery)/ istock (oscar)
getty images (March and Beery)/ istock (oscar)

Only six ties have ever occurred during the Academy Awards' near-90-year history. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) members vote for nominees in their corresponding categories; here are the six times they have come to a split decision.

1. BEST ACTOR // 1932

Back in 1932, at the fifth annual Oscars ceremony, the voting rules were different than they are today. If a nominee received an achievement that came within three votes of the winner, then that achievement (or person) would also receive an award. Actor Fredric March had one more vote than competitor Wallace Beery, but because the votes were so close, the Academy honored both of them. (They beat the category’s only other nominee, Alfred Lunt.) March won for his performance in horror film Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (female writer Frances Marion won Best Screenplay for the film), and Beery won for The Champ, which was remade in 1979 with Ricky Schroder and Jon Voight. Both Beery and March were previous nominees: Beery was nominated for The Big House and March for The Royal Family of Broadway. March won another Oscar in 1947 for The Best Years of Our Lives, also a Best Picture winner. Fun fact: March was the first actor to win an Oscar for a horror film.

2. BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT // 1950

By 1950, the above rule had been changed, but there was still a tie at that year's Oscars. A Chance to Live, an 18-minute movie directed by James L. Shute, tied with animated film So Much for So Little. Shute’s film was a part of Time Inc.’s "The March of Time" newsreel series and chronicles Monsignor John Patrick Carroll-Abbing putting together a Boys’ Home in Italy. Directed by Bugs Bunny’s Chuck Jones, So Much for So Little was a 10-minute animated film about America’s troubling healthcare situation. The films were up against two other movies: a French film named 1848—about the French Revolution of 1848—and a Canadian film entitled The Rising Tide.

3. BEST ACTRESS // 1969

Probably the best-known Oscars tie, this was the second and last time an acting award was split. When presenter Ingrid Bergman opened up the envelope, she discovered a tie between newcomer Barbra Streisand and two-time Oscar winner Katharine Hepburn—both received 3030 votes. Streisand, who was 26 years old, tied with the 61-year-old The Lion in Winter star, who had already been nominated 10 times in her lengthy career, and won the Best Actress Oscar the previous year for Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. Hepburn was not in attendance, so all eyes fell on Funny Girl winner Streisand, who wore a revealing, sequined bell-bottomed-pantsuit and gave an inspired speech. “Hello, gorgeous,” she famously said to the statuette, echoing her first line in Funny Girl.

A few years earlier, Babs had received a Tony nomination for her portrayal of Fanny Brice in the Broadway musical Funny Girl, but didn’t win. At this point in her career, she was a Grammy-winning singer, but Funny Girl was her movie debut (and what a debut it was). In 1974, Streisand was nominated again for The Way We Were, and won again in 1977 for her and Paul Williams’s song “Evergreen,” from A Star is Born. Four-time Oscar winner Hepburn won her final Oscar in 1982 for On Golden Pond.

4. BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE // 1987

The March 30, 1987 telecast made history with yet another documentary tie, this time for Documentary Feature. Oprah presented the awards to Brigitte Berman’s film about clarinetist Artie Shaw, Artie Shaw: Time is All You’ve Got, and to Down and Out in America, a film about widespread American poverty in the ‘80s. Former Oscar winner Lee Grant (who won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 1976 for Shampoo) directed Down and Out and won the award for producers Joseph Feury and Milton Justice. “This is for the people who are still down and out in America,” Grant said in her acceptance speech.

5. BEST SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION) // 1995

More than 20 years ago—the same year Tom Hanks won for Forrest Gump—the Short Film (Live Action) category saw a tie between two disparate films: the 23-minute British comedy Franz Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life, and the LGBTQ youth film Trevor. Doctor Who star Peter Capaldi wrote and directed the former, which stars Richard E. Grant (Girls, Withnail & I) as Kafka. The BBC Scotland film envisions Kafka stumbling through writing The Metamorphosis.

Trevor is a dramatic film about a gay 13-year-old boy who attempts suicide. Written by James Lecesne and directed by Peggy Rajski, the film inspired the creation of The Trevor Project to help gay youths in crisis. “We made our film for anyone who’s ever felt like an outsider,” Rajski said in her acceptance speech, which came after Capaldi's. “It celebrates all those who make it through difficult times and mourns those who didn’t.” It was yet another short film ahead of its time.

6. BEST SOUND EDITING // 2013

The latest Oscar tie happened only three years ago, when Zero Dark Thirty and Skyfall beat Argo, Django Unchained, and Life of Pi in sound editing. Mark Wahlberg and his animated co-star Ted presented the award to Zero Dark Thirty’s Paul N.J. Ottosson and Skyfall’s Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers. “No B.S., we have a tie,” Wahlberg said to the crowd, assuring them he wasn’t kidding. Ottosson was announced first and gave his speech before Hallberg and Baker Landers found out that they were the other victors.

It wasn’t any of the winners' first trip to the rodeo: Ottosson won two in 2010 for his previous collaboration with Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker (Best Achievement in Sound Editing and Sound Mixing); Hallberg previously won an Oscar for Best Sound Effects Editing for Braveheart in 1996, and in 2008 both Hallberg and Baker Landers won Best Achievement in Sound Editing for The Bourne Ultimatum.

Ottosson told The Hollywood Reporter he possibly predicted his win: “Just before our category came up another fellow nominee sat next to me and I said, ‘What if there’s a tie, what would they do?’ and then we got a tie,” Ottosson said. Hallberg also commented to the Reporter on his win. “Any time that you get involved in some kind of history making, that would be good.”

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11 Haunting Facts About Beloved

Toni Morrison—who was born on February 18, 1931—made a name for herself with The Bluest Eye, Sula and Song of Solomon, but it wasn’t until 1987’s Beloved, about a runaway slave haunted by the death of her infant daughter, that her legacy was secured. The book won the Pulitzer Prize and was a key factor in the decision to award Morrison the Nobel Prize in 1993. All the awards aside, Beloved is a testament to the horrors of slavery, with its narrative of suffering and repressed memory and its dedication to the more than 60 million who died in bondage. Here are some notable facts about Morrison’s process and the novel’s legacy.

1. IT’S BASED ON A TRUE STORY.

While compiling research for 1974's The Black Book, Morrison came across the story of Margaret Garner, a runaway slave from Kentucky who escaped with her husband and four children to Ohio in 1856. A posse caught up with Garner, who killed her youngest daughter and attempted to do the same to her other children rather than let them return to bondage. Once apprehended, her trial transfixed the nation. "She was very calm; she said, 'I’d do it again,'" Morrison told The Paris Review. "That was more than enough to fire my imagination."

2. MORRISON CAME UP WITH THE CHARACTER BELOVED AFTER SHE STARTED WRITING.

The book was originally going to be about the haunting of Sethe by her infant daughter, who she killed (just as Garner did) rather than allow her to return to slavery. A third of the way through writing, though, Morrison realized she needed a flesh-and-blood character who could judge Sethe’s decision. She needed the daughter to come back to life in another form (some interpret it as a grief-driven case of mistaken identity). As she told the National Endowment for the Arts’ NEA Magazine: "I thought the only person who was legitimate, who could decide whether [the killing] was a good thing or not, was the dead girl."

3. SHE WROTE THE ENDING EARLY IN THE WRITING PROCESS.

Morrison has said she likes to know the ending of her books early on, and to write them down once she does. With Beloved, she wrote the ending about a quarter of the way in. "You are forced into having a certain kind of language that will keep the reader asking questions," she told author Carolyn Denard in Toni Morrison: Conversations.

4. MORRISON BECAME FASCINATED WITH SMALL HISTORICAL DETAILS.

To help readers understand the particulars of slavery, Morrison carefully researched historical documents and artifacts. One particular item she became fascinated with: the "bit" that masters would put in slaves' mouths as punishment. She couldn’t find much in the way of pictures or descriptions, but she found enough to imagine the shame slaves would feel. In Beloved, Paul D. tells Sethe that a rooster smiled at him while he wore the bit, indicating that he felt lower than a barnyard animal.

5. SHE ONLY RECENTLY READ THE BOOK HERSELF.

In an appearance on The Colbert Report last year, Morrison said she finally got around to reading Beloved after almost 30 years. Her verdict: "It’s really good!"

6. THE BOOK INSPIRED READERS TO BUILD BENCHES.

When accepting an award from the Unitarian Universalist Association in 1988, Morrison observed that there is no suitable memorial to slavery, "no small bench by the road." Inspired by this line, the Toni Morrison Society started the Bench by the Road Project to remedy the issue. Since 2006, the project has placed 15 benches in locations significant to the history of slavery and the Civil Rights movement, including Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina, which served as the point of entry for 40% of slaves brought to America.

7. WHEN BELOVED DIDN’T WIN THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD IN 1987, FELLOW WRITERS PROTESTED.

After the snub, 48 African-American writers, including Maya Angelou, John Edgar Wideman and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., signed a letter that appeared in the New York Times Book Review. "For all of America, for all of American letters," the letter addressing Morrison read, "you have advanced the moral and artistic standards by which we must measure the daring and the love of our national imagination and our collective intelligence as a people."

8. IT’S ONE OF THE MOST FREQUENTLY CHALLENGED BOOKS.

Between 2000 and 2009, Beloved ranked 26th on the American Library Association’s list of most banned/challenged books. A recent challenge in Fairfax County, Virginia, cited the novel as too intense for teenage readers, while another challenge in Michigan said the book was, incredibly, overly simplistic and pornographic. Thankfully, both challenges were denied.

9. MORRISON ALSO WROTE AN OPERA BASED ON GARNER’S LIFE.

Ten years ago, Morrison collaborated with Grammy-winning composer Richard Danielpour on Margaret Garner, an opera about the real-life inspiration behind Beloved. It opened in Detroit in 2005, and played in Charlotte, Chicago, Philadelphia and New York before closing in 2008.

10. MORRISON DID NOT WANT IT MADE INTO A MOVIE.

Although she publicly claims otherwise, according to a New York magazine story, Morrison told friends she didn’t want Beloved made into a movie. And she didn’t want Oprah Winfrey (who bought the film rights in 1988) to be in it. Nevertheless, the film came out in 1998 and was a total flop.

11. THERE'S AN ILLUSTRATED VERSION.

The Folio Society, a London-based company that creates fancy special editions of classic books, released the first-ever illustrated Beloved in 2015. Artist Joe Morse had to be personally approved by Morrison for the project. Check out a few of his hauntingly beautiful illustrations here.

This article originally appeared in 2015.

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