During the first two decades of television history, one of the most popular and welcome faces
to come into America's living rooms was Bud Collyer. From 1948, when he hosted Winner Take All, until his death in
1969, Bud made an indelible mark on the game show landscape, and helped to pave the way for hundreds of other well-known (and
not-so-well-known) game show hosts to follow in his footsteps.
Bud was born Clayton J. Heermance, Jr. on June 18, 1908
in New York City. While his mother, brother, and sister were all in show business, Clayton wanted to follow in his father's
footsteps and become a lawyer. Clayton worked his way through Fordham University as a radio actor, and after graduation, he
took a job as a law clerk. Within two years, he found that job to be a disaster, financially, that is. He turned to broadcasting
for good when he realized that he made as much money in one month of radio than he would've made in a whole year of law. Clayton
changed his last name from Heermance to Collyer, and by the time he was 32, he was heard on all the major radio networks,
earning more than $50,000 in the process.
Among Bud's many radio roles were 'Pat Ryan' on Terry and the Pirates,
the title role on Renfrew of the Mounted, and 'Abie' on Abie's Irish Rose. He was also heard on The March
of Time, Cavalcade of America, and as actor and/or announcer on many radio soap operas. (Let's just say, to borrow a phrase
from the great Jimmy Durante, 'Bud did a million of 'em!') However, Bud's most memorable radio role came on February 12, 1940
when he assumed the title role on Mutual's The Adventures of Superman. His portrayal of the 'strange visitor from another
planet who came to Earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men' would prove to be among the most famous
to come from the 'Golden Age of Radio.' Bud would use two different voices for both Superman, and his alter ego of Clark Kent.
('mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper') He would come to the line, 'This is a job.....' with a tenor-type
voice; which he would then lower to a bass when he finished the line, '.....for SUPERMAN!' All the while millions of young
listeners sat in front of their radios, picturing the Man of Steel leaping out of the window, or out of a vacant building,
shouting, 'UP, UP, AND AWAY!' All this was accompanied by the sound of rushing wind, which would simulate Superman's flying
through the skies. The part of Lois Lane, Superman's girlfriend, was played for most of the run by radio actress Joan Alexander
(who would later become a regular panelist on the early 50s TV panel show, The Name's the Same). Bud would continue
his stint as Superman until 1950.
About that same time, Bud began to dabble in radio game and quiz shows. He was co-host
along with Bert Parks (later of Miss America pageant fame) on ABC radio's Break the Bank for five years, and also hosted
the original radio version of Mark Goodson and Bill Todman's first creation, Winner Take All (that show would also
be the first major game show hosting job for Bill Cullen). But a change in broadcasing was in the winds; that change came
in the form of television. And Bud Collyer would be among the few radio personalities to make a successful leap into the new
medium. He would first get his catheode feet wet hosting the TV versions of Break the Bank and Winner Take All.
But it was his next game show gig that would make him a bonafide TV star.
|Bud on Beat the Clock with his "leading lady," Roxanne.
On March 23, 1950, Bud was tapped to host a stunt-oriented game show called Beat the Clock;
it would also become the first non-panel success for Goodson-Todman. For the next 11 years, in both primetime and daytime
versions of BtC, Bud would lead contestants (usually married couples) through various timed stunts; most of them involved
whipped cream, balloons, and broken dishes. The players would be rewarded for their success with a Sylvania TV set; Sylvania
being the main sponsor for BtC throughout most of the show's run (other sponsors included Fresh Deodorant and Hazel Bishop
cosmetics). During the show's heyday, Bud and his beautiful blonde co-hostess Roxanne (real name: Dolores Rosedale) would
reign as the first popular game show couple, the Pat and Vanna of the 1950s. Unfortunately, with their popularity came rumors
that Bud had become jealous of Roxanne's fame; whether those rumors were true or not has been debated for years afterward.
Roxanne would be replaced in 1955 by Beverly Bentley, who would remain with the show until 1956 when she left to do the original
version of The Price is Right on NBC. Other BtC assistants over the years included Madeline Tyler, Bette Calvin, Joanne
Jordan, Nancy Kovack, Louise King, and Toby Dean. On October 13, 1958, BtC transferred to ABC, where it would remain until
January 27, 1961.
|Bud presides over To Tell the Truth
On December 18, 1956, Bud landed what would become his most successful game show hosting gig
ever. Goodson-Todman's To Tell The Truth had three contestants at a time, all claiming to be the same person, trying
to stump a panel of four who tried to sort out the real person from the two imposters. Throughout the show's 12-year primetime
and daytime run on CBS, such celebrities as Polly Bergen, Hy Gardner, Kitty Carlisle, Ralph Bellamy, Tom Poston, Peggy Cass,
Orson Bean, Phyllis Newman, and Bert Convy would try to pick out the real John/Jane Doe.
|An early Truth panel (l-r): Polly Bergen, Hume Cronyn, Hildy Parks, & Dick Van Dyke.
|The DEFINITIVE Truth panel (l-r): Tom Poston, Peggy Cass, Orson Bean, & Kitty Carlisle.
|Which of these three men is the REAL Bill Melendez? (famed Peanuts animator)
However, not every game show Bud touched turned to Neilsen gold. In 1954, Bud was picked to
host the daily game show Feather Your Nest; where couples vied to win a different room of furniture. (You might say
this show was a forerunner of the later Dream House.) However, that show ended two years later. Bud had one last game
show gig as host of ABC's Number Please in 1961. But many of his fans feel it wasn't one of Bud's best game shows,
nor was it his most memorable.
One year after his last appearence as To Tell the Truth host, Bud succumbed to
a circuliartory ailiment and passed away on September 8, 1969. Ironically, that same day, TTTT came back in a new syndicated
version hosted by friend and fellow TV host Garry Moore. That version ran until 1978.
There's no doubt in anyone's
mind that Bud Collyer was the first game show superstar. Even today, game show fans remember the many catch-phrases he made
part of our lexicon--such as:
"Roxanne, who do we have now?"
"Maybe next time will be YOUR time to Beat the Clock!"
the real Paul Boland please stand up?"
"Always remember To Tell the Truth!"
But I feel we should conclude
this tribute to Collyer with the phrase he would send his contestants out with. It showed the religious side of Collyer, the
side he showed both as a family man and in his other job as superintendent of a Sunday school.