Say the Secret Word, Win a Hundred Bucks
Witty comments, outrageously corny puns, and lewdly suggestive remarks—these were all ammunition in Groucho Marx’s arsenal of humor. Aiming his quips with deadly accuracy, he always scored a hit to the funny bone (although the result was sometimes a groan). If Groucho wasn’t the funniest man in the movies—and many believe he was—he was certainly near the top of the list. When he made the transition to television, his You Bet Your Life was the most oddly entertaining game show ever created.
You Bet Your Life was marginally a quiz show—there were contestants, they won money by answering questions correctly, and there was competition for the big prize. Who watches (or watched) You Bet Your Life for the questions and answers, though? It was Groucho’s clever banter with his various (sometimes weird or outlandish) guests that made the show so watchable, and accounts for its continued popularity, first in reruns, then on VHS, and finally on DVD. Another attraction was handsome and charming George Fenneman, Groucho’s sidekick and straight man. Verbally “abused” by Groucho, George tried to keep everything on track when You Bet Your Life would spin out of control.
Synergy Entertainment recently released a three-DVD collection, Groucho Marx TV Classics, a treasure for Groucho’s fans. Included on two discs are sixteen episodes of You Bet Your Life, still hilarious 50+ years later. The third disc includes the 1949 You Bet Your Life pilot (watching it makes one wonder how the show ever made it to broadcast) and two Hollywood Palace shows hosted by Groucho in 1964 and 1965, most notable for dated acts and Groucho’s shtick.
Also on the third “Extras” disc is You Bet Your Life Stag Reels, a randy collection of conversations between Groucho and his guests that didn’t make it past the censors. They are not only funny for the material they contain, but also compared to what’s available on television today.Continued on the next page