MOORE, GARRY

U.S. Television Personality

Garry Moore, genial host of numerous successful network television programs throughout the 1950s and 1960s was a major influence on the early acceptance of the medium among American viewers. During his long-running broadcast career Moore appeared regularly during prime time hours and different time periods. Like Arthur Godfrey, Moore hosted prominent daytime and weekly evening shows which contributed to his immense popularity. His programs were frequently among the top-ten list of highly rated prime time programs. As a comedian Garry Moore combined genial humor with a pleasant personality and relaxed style that made him a favorite with audiences.

Moore originally worked as a network radio comedian and writer known by his real name, Thomas Garrison Morfit. Because Morfit was difficult to pronounce, an on-air contest to select a stage name was conducted. Beginning in 1940 he became known to the listening audience as Garry Moore.

In 1949 CBS Radio originated the Garry Moore Show, a daily one hour variety program produced in Hollywood. Network programmers recognized a successful radio personality in Moore, and given their need for programming talent on its young television network, CBS provided the opportunity for Moore to host a variety television show in New York. When the Garry Moore Show was introduced on CBS daytime television in 1950 Moore established a distinctive on-air identity with his crew cut hair and bowtie image. His physical appearance enhanced his casual demeanor and easy going conversational style that became familiar to home viewers.

Moore's initial telecasts followed a somewhat checkerboard scheduling pattern. Beginning as a 30-minute evening series, the live Monday-through-Friday Garry Moore Show made its television debut in June 1950. By August the program changed to one night weekly and expanded to an hour in length. For its fall 1950 lineup CBS scheduled Moore weekday afternoons, a move that lasted eight years. By 1951 the Garry Moore Show reportedly was the second largest revenue source for CBS and for a time the network could not accommodate potential sponsors awaiting the opportunity to advertise on the program.

Moore's daytime program format was flexible but generally included humorous skits, singing, monologues, and studio audience interaction. Regular performers were featured along with special guests. Supporting Moore with the various program segments were singers Denise Lor and Ken Carson, and announcer and sidekick Durward Kirby. Guest comedians Don Adams, George Gobel, Carol Burnett, Don Knotts, and Jonathan Winters made their earliest television appearances on Moore's show, contributing to the entertaining tone and boosting their individual careers. The Garry Moore Show remained on air until mid-1958 when Moore voluntarily relinquished his hosting duties due to the exhaustive work schedule. By the 1958 fall season Moore returned to CBS, hosting a weekly evening program, again called the Garry Moore Show.

The hour-long evening series followed a format similar to Moore's daytime variety program. During its six-year run. the Garry Moore Show introduced comedienne Carol Burnett who later starred in her own successful CBS show during the 1960s and 1970s. Other comedic and musical talents regularly appearing on the Moore nighttime variety show Included Durward Kirby, Marion Lorne, and Dorothy Loudon. Allen Funt's "Candid Camera" became a regular segment on the program. Another popular weekly feature was a lengthy nostalgia segment known as "That Wonderful Year." Given the grueling work required to produce the show, Moore decided to discontinue the program in 1964. Moore reappeared in 1966 as host of yet another weekly Garry Moore Show variety series, but after five months of competition with Bonanza, CBS canceled the show due to poor ratings.

In addition to hosting several variety shows, Garry Moore moderated two television panel quiz programs, I've Got a Secret and To Tell the Truth. He began a 12 year reign as moderator of Goodson-Todman Productions I've Got a Secret, in 1952. This popular CBS prime time program featured celebrity panelists who tried to guess the secret of ordinary and celebrity contestants. Panel members appearing through the years included Bill Cullen, Jayne Meadows, Henry Morgan, Faye Emerson, and Betsy Palmer. I've Got a Secret was among the A.C. Nielsen Top 20 television programs for seven years. It remained one of the most popular panel programs ever on television. Goodson-Todman sold I've Got a Secret to CBS and Garry Moore in 1959, and he continued to moderate the show until 1964.

To Tell the Truth, also from Goodson-Todman, had been moderated for a decade by Bud Collyer. It was taken over by Garry Moore when the program went into syndication In 1969. Another half-hour celebrity panel show, the object of To Tell the Truth was to determine which of three contestants was telling the truth. Regular panelists included Orson Bean, Bill Cullen, Kitty Carlisle, and Peggy Cass. Moore left the program and television for good in 1977 when he developed throat cancer. The wit, charm and personality so much a part of Garry Moore, influenced numerous television hosts both during and following his long career. He died from emphysema in 1993 at age 78.

-Dennis Harp

 


Garry Moore

GARRY MOORE. Born Thomas Garrison Morfit, in Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.A., 31 January 1915. Married: 1) Eleanor Borum Little, 1939 (died 1974), children: John Mason Morfit, Thomas Garrison Morfit; 2) Mary Elizabeth De Chant, 1975. Writer and actor at radio station WBAL in Baltimore, 1935-38; news announcer and sports commentator, radio station KWK in St. Louis, 1939; star and writer, NBC Blue Network's Club Matinee, 1939-43; New York emcee, NBC's Everything Goes, 1942; co-star and writer, Jimmy Durante-Garry Moore Show, 1943-48; host of NBC's Take It or Leave It, 1948-50; star, CBS radio show Garry Moore Show, 1949-50; star, CBS-TV's Garry Moore Show, 1951-58, 1958-64, 1966-67; moderator, I've Got a Secret, 1953-64; substitute host, Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts, 1953; host, syndicated television quiz show To Tell the Truth, 1969-77. Member: National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. Died on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, 28 November 1993.

TELEVISION SERIES

1951-58, 58-64, 1966-67 Garry Moore Show
1953-64 I've Got a Secret
1969-77 To Tell the Truth

RADIO

1939-43 Club Matinee
1943-48 Jimmy Durante-Garry Moore Show
1948-50 Take It or Leave It
1949-50 Garry Moore Show

FURTHER READING

Blumenthal, Norman. The TV Game Show Book. New York: Pyramid, 1975.

DeLong, Thomas A. Quiz Craze: America's Infatuation with Game Shows. New York: Praeger 1991.

Fabe, Maxine. TV Game Shows. Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1979.

Graham, Jefferson. Come on Down!!!: The Game Show Book. New York: Abbeville, 1988.

Schwartz, David, Steve Ryan, and Fred Wostbrock. The Encyclopedia of TV Game Shows. New York: Zoetrope, 1987.

 

See also I've Got a Secret; Talk Shows