What’s My Line?

December has arrived and that means it is It’s A Wonderful Life month at Illegible Me, partly because this, one of the finest films ever made, has a Christmas theme and partly because I have a few Jimmy Stewart articles in the can and waiting to be used. Without further ado, then…

Here is James Stewart’s appearance on the popular US game showWhat’s My Line? This particular episode dates from 10th November 1963 and the idea behind the show was for a panel to guess the occupation of a mystery guest by asking simple yes or no question. For every question the panel asked to which the answer was “No” the contestant would gain more points. The majority of contestants were regular members of the public but each week there would also be a mystery celebrity guest; this is why the panellists in this clip are wearing blindfolds. Enjoy.

What’s My Line?‘s popularity was such that the producers were able to arrange an impressive range on celebrity guests for the series. Some, like Jerry Lewis, Peter Cook, Johnny Carson and Groucho Marx, would appear on the panel and try to guess the occupation of the various mystery guests. Others, like Stewart, would appear as the mystery guest and attempt as best as possible to disguise their, often very recognisable, voice. The latter category included guests like Alan Alda, Woody Allen, June Allyson, Lucie and Desi Arnaz, Louis Armstrong, Fred Astair and many, many others. In fact those are just a selection of the guests whose last name begins with A!

You can see the trouble Stewart has in disguising his voice in the clip above. His, after all, was perhaps the most recognisable in Hollywood. Nevertheless, I think he does a pretty good job and he gets to show off his comedic side, playing up to his own persona much to the audience’s delight.

But to me the most fascinating aspect of this clip is the motion picture Stewart is there to plug, Take Her, She’s Mine in which he plays an overprotective father whose beautiful daughter is heading off to college. In particular he mentions visiting Texas on a promotional visit. Generally Take Her, She’s Mine is not regarded as one of his better vehicles, just a fun throw away comedy, but to me this represents a tangible link to one of my favourite actors. I own a ticket to the premier of the film from that Texas showing! And here it is:

Not much of a connection, I know, but it’ll do me for now.


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