Earlier in the week, I was watching videos of some of the greatest speeches in history, because I am a nerd. However, after a video of Robert F. Kennedy’s announcement and subsequent speech regarding the assassination of MLK (which, if you’re interested in such a thing, is a must-watch speech), I stumbled upon something entirely different. In the list of suggested videos, I was enticed to click on a video titled “Last Witness to President Abraham Lincoln Assassination I’ve Got A Secret”. To my surprise, it was a clip from a 1950’s gameshow called I’ve Got A Secret.
I was immediately hooked. I found the premise of the show, as well as the retro 1950’s television style to be immensely entertaining. The basic premise of the show is that a contestant with some sort of secret or quirk is brought out by the host, and their secret is subsequently told to the host and the audience. Following this revelation, a panel of four people (whom, based on my research, are all relatively famous personalities from that era) ask the guest simple yes or no questions regarding their secret in an attempt to guess what it is. Each panelist is timed, and following the questioning period of each panelist, the contestant is rewarded with $20 until their secret is guessed, or until each panelist has had the opportunity to question them, resulting in a total potential winnings of $80.
The host and panel of I’ve Got A Secret are a huge part of what makes the show so entertaining. During its nearly 15 year lifespan, the show had a number of hosts and panelists. My personal favorite lineup consists of Garry Moore as host, with a panel of Bill Cullen, Jayne Meadows, Henry Morgan, and Faye Emerson. Their back and forth banter and witty personalities make for some of the show’s best content. It is worth mentioning that Betsy Palmer is also a fairly entertaining panelist. However, based on what I have seen, a lineup consisting of anyone else is inferior comparted to the one mentioned above. They make for the most entertaining episodes by a long shot.
There are many different aspects of I’ve Got A Secret that make it so entertaining. On the surface, it is a fun game show. The very nature of the guessing game makes it very fun to watch. But beyond that, the show is downright fascinating. It provides a glimpse into American culture from a time before many of us (or even our parents) were alive. Things were so much different in the 1950’s. I’ve Got a Secret is a prime example of both the good and bad of 1950’s culture and society. Much of the fun in the viewing of this show is comparing and contrasting the differences between then and now. For much of the show’s run, its primary sponsor was Winston Cigarettes. Not only is the show littered with Winston advertisements (something that would never fly today), but a carton of Winston cigarettes were given to each contestant in most of the clips I have found. This could absolutely never happen today. As a matter of fact, in one clip, which I was unfortunately unable to find again to put in this article, host Garry Moore gave a carton of Winstons to his guests, who were two small boys who couldn’t have been more than 12 years old. While he did tell them to be sure that they gave them to their dads, could you imagine if a television host today handed two small children cartons of cigarettes? It is small cultural differences like this that make the show so interesting. If you can look past the occasional comment that could be deemed as sexist or inappropriate by today’s standards, the show has great entertainment value.
I would highly recommend the show to anyone who thinks they might be interested in this glimpse of 50’s culture. There are literally dozens upon dozens of clips from the show available on YouTube. All you have to do is search “I’ve Got A Secret” and you will be provided with hours of quality content. Just make sure you have plenty of free time before you start watching. I have spent hours watching clips and full episodes of I’ve Got a Secret since I discovered it.
Thanks for reading! Be sure to check out some of the other articles from me and the rest of the Mid-American Culture staff!
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