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You Bet Your Life (1950-1961)

You Bet Your Life


30 minutes.

Game Show / Family / Variety

Host: Groucho Marx

Announcer: George Fenneman

The Secret Word Girl (appearing at times in place of the duck). Marilyn Burtis

Orchestra: Jack Meakin

Before the proceedings begin, a stuffed duck is lowered to reveal a secret word that, if said during the course of the program, awards players an extra hundred dollars. Two players who work jointly as a team are first introduced, then comically interviewed by the host. Following the interview they compete in a game segment that is distinguished by two formats.

Groucho Marx matches wits with the American public in eight episodes of this classic game show.  Starting on the radio in 1947, “You Bet Your Life” made its television debut in 1950 and aired for eleven years with Groucho as host and emcee.  Sponsored rather conspicuously by the Dodge DeSoto car makers, the show featured two contestants working as a team to answer questions for cash prizes.  Another mainstay of these question and answer segments was the papier-mâché duck that would descend from the ceiling with one hundred dollars in tow whenever a player uttered the “secret word”.  The quiz show aspect of “Your Bet Your Life” was always secondary to the clever back-and-forth between host and contestant, which found Groucho at his funniest.  It’s in these interview segments that “You Bet Your Life” truly makes its mark as one of early television’s greatest programs.

Format One:

The couple, having previously selected one category from a list of twenty subjects, receives one hundred dollars betting money. Players then select a question by cash value—from ten to one hundred dollars. If it is correctly answered the money is added to their total; if not, they lose half of their one hundred dollars. Four questions are played; each correct answer adds money; each incorrect answer cuts the previous total in half. Of the two, sometimes three couples, the highest cash winners receive a chance to answer the bonus question, which starts at $500 and increases by this amount each time one couple fails to answer it. The question is read and players receive fifteen seconds with which to answer. A correct answer awards the money; an incorrect answer allows them to keep their original earnings, which are divided between them.

Format Two.

Players are asked questions based on the categories they have chosen. Four correct answers in a row awards players one thousand dollars; two misses in a row disqualifies them. The couples who have won a thousand dollars are permitted to risk it in an attempt to win ten thousand dollars. A large spinning wheel with numbers ranging from one to ten is displayed. Couples select two numbers: one for ten thousand dollars and one for five thousand dollars. The wheel is spun. If it stops on one of the two numbers that have been selected, the question is worth that amount of money; if it doesn’t, the question is worth two thousand dollars. The question is asked and players receive fifteen seconds with which to answer. If an incorrect answer is given they lose half of their thousand dollars; the five hundred dollars is then divided between them.

You Bet Your Life Intro

Secret Word - House

Secret Word - Food

Secret Word - Water

Secret Word - Hand

Secret Word - Door

Secret Word - Head

Secret Word - Chair

Secret Word - Clock

Secret Word - Voice

Secret Word - Wall

Secret Word - Skin - from The Best of Groucho

Actors: Groucho Marx
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Matinee Classics - You Bet Your Life starring Groucho Marx

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