Editorial Reviews of You Bet Your Life – The Best Episodes, courtesy of Amazon.com
The secret word for Groucho Marx fans is ‘DVD.’ This three-disc set collects a priceless archive of 18 complete and uncut episodes filmed between 1950 and 1960. The surprise success of the radio incarnation of You Bet Your Life assured for Groucho that there would be life after the Marx Brothers, whose film career came to a sad end with 1950’s Love Happy. The television series would be an even bigger hit, and make Groucho a household name. You Bet Your Life was ostensibly a quiz show, but it was more just a forum for Groucho to crack wise with the contestants. These were mostly ordinary people with oddball jobs or interests, or extraordinary talents, like the man who blows up a tire’s inner-tube on an episode included on disc 2. Knowing now that the program was carefully planned does not diminish the fun. There are many precious spontaneous moments, such as the trombone-playing female contestant who practically swoons over Groucho’s announcer/straight man George Fenneman.
Appearances by some ‘special guests’ add to this set’s nostalgia value. Former Western star Hoot Gibson, Johnny ‘Tarzan’ Weissmuller, and former boxing champion Joe Louis play the game, as do future stars Candice Bergen (age 11-1/2) and comedian Phyllis Diller in her first television appearance. Marx Brothers fans will cherish the now-poignant cameo by Harpo (hawking his autobiography, Harpo Speaks!) and the Creamy Prom commercials featuring Harpo and Chico. Screen and songwriter Harry Ruby, who looms large in Marxian folklore (he co-wrote Horse Feathers and Duck Soup), sings a delightful duet with Groucho, ‘The Window Cleaners.’ This set’s special features aren’t horse feathers either. There are rare pilots for some failed post-You Bet Your Life quiz shows, vintage commercials, and so-called ‘stag reels,’ featuring mildly érisqu humor that censors cut from final broadcast. And now, to quote Fenneman, it’s time to sit back, and relax, and enjoy the best of Groucho. —Donald Liebenson
Product Description of You Bet Your Life – The Best Episodes
Groucho Marx is arguably the most famous, iconic comedian of all time. ‘You Bet Your Life’ began on radio in 1947, ostensibly as a game show, and became a huge hit television program and as big a part of Groucho’s legacy as the amazing movies he made with his brothers earlier in his career.
After the start on radio, the show ran through 423 episodes from 1950 – 1961. These 18 episodes are some of the absolute best from over a decade of popular TV, restored for the highest quality sound and picture possible. They feature guest stars like Phyllis Diller, Edgar and Candace Bergen, Joe Louis, Johnny Weismuller, Frankie Avalon, Groucho’s daughter Melinda Marx, Harpo Marx and the first appearance of the show’s trademark duck.
DVD extras include three Groucho pilots including ‘What Do You Want’, ‘Tell It To Groucho’ and the never-before-seen ‘The Plot Thickens,’ plus tons of outtakes and bloopers.
Funny Quotes from Groucho Marx – ’You Bet Your Life’
Groucho: Why do you have so many children?
Female Contestant: Well, I love my husband very much.
Groucho: Hey, I enjoy a good cigar, but I take it out of my mouth once in a while.
Groucho: If we got together as an act, what would it be called?
Contestant: It would be Gonzales-Gonzales and Marx.
Groucho: [to audience] Do you believe that? Two men in the act, and I get third billing!
Announcer: Our next contestants are Marika Aba …
Groucho: And a happy new year.
Groucho: May I kiss your wife?
Contestant: That would have to be over my dead body.
Groucho: Have it your way. Fenneman, get the gun!
Female Contestant: I met this gentleman in Laguna Beach …
Groucho: There are no gentlemen in Laguna Beach.
Female Contestant: Well, this gentleman is now abroad.
Groucho: [pause while the audience titters] Couldn’t be Christine, could it?
Contestant: [Groucho has just asked a question] Well, I believe in doing it the old-fashioned way.
Groucho: [Groucho looks down and smiles. The audience begins to giggle. Groucho then looks up] You know I must have some reputation. There isn’t anything anyone can say on this stage that won’t evoke some kind of a dirty laugh from the audience …
[trying to keep from laughing]
Groucho: What do you mean, ‘the old fashioned-way’?
[loses all seriousness, doubles over laughing]
[Opening lines to the show]
Announcer: And here he is, the one, the only:
Trivia about You Bet Your Life! starring Groucho Marx
- The author William Peter Blatty once won $10,000 on this show. When Groucho asked what he planned to do with the money, he said he planned to take some time off to work on a novel. The result was The Exorcist (1973).
- Usually a prop duck came down on a cable with the prize money when the secret word was spoken. On one occasion however, Groucho’s brother, Harpo, came down instead.
- Gag writers used a Tele-Score bowling alley projector located stage left and out of camera range to feed Groucho one-liners.
- Originally was a radio show starring Groucho Marx, premiering on ABC radio in October, 1947.
- One of the first TV variety shows to be pre-recorded. Eight 35mm cameras were used, duplicated in pairs, in four locations. While one set af cameras shot the program with 10-minute reels, the other set were re-loaded and put into action as the reels ran out.
- Reportedly, the reason why this show was pre-recorded for broadcast is because the network was afraid that Groucho’s ad-libs would run afoul of the censors.
- Groucho stated that the biggest laugh he ever got on the show was when he was talking to a female contestant. He asked about her husband, and she replied earthily, “Have you ever been made love to by a Frenchman?” The audience went into gales of laughter, and Groucho answered, “Not that I can recall!”
- It is part of Hollywood legend that one of the source recordings for the ‘laugh track’ sounds heard on sitcoms since the 1960s originated from a particularly long bit of laughter that erupted during an episode of this series.
- The main reason why they used a duck to come down whenever someone said the secret word was that Groucho didn’t like the sound of sirens going off when a contestant said it.