This is a bit of a different Mystery Guest segment than those I usually post, but it's one of the most adorable and also hilarious. The celebrity guest is someone who was quite well-known in her day, but not at this point, Helen Traubel.
Helen Traubel was a famous Metropolitan Opera star. Never the prima donna (which will be clear as you watch), later in her career, she made a slight and "controversial" shift and began performing in more popular music venues, and her contract with the Met was not renewed when she refused to give them up. Most famously, she starred in a Rodgers & Hammerstein musical, one of their lesser-knowns, called Pipe Dream, based on a couple of John Steinbeck novels, Cannery Row and Sweet Thursday. It has a pleasant score, if not distinguished. Two songs I recall as being nice are “All At Once You Love Her” and “The Man I Used to Be.”
(Side note: a very unsuccessful movie – but one I liked a great deal – was made of Cannery Row in the 1980s with Nick Nolte and Debra Winger. I was working at Universal Studios at the time, and ran into the producer Michael Phillips after it flopped. I explained why I liked it so much, and his face lit up when he said, “You got it! Yes, that’s exactly what we were going for.” The story is about a bunch of bums and low-lifes in the Skid Row district of, I believe, San Francisco, and that’s how it got reviewed, with disdain and no reason to care about the downtrodden characters. But in their little world, they didn’t see each other as bums and low-lifes at all, but had respect and dignity and charm, in their own little microcosm, separate from the outside world. That’s the sweetness that I loved, and what the producer was SO happy I got. Phillips and writer-director David S. Ward had previously made The Sting together.)
Anyway, back to What's My Line? Helen Traubel is an utter joy -- but what also makes the video such a treat is panelist Wally Cox, sitting in for Bennett Cerf. Wally Cox always played a sort of shy, nerdy comic character -- made famous in the TV series, Mr. Peepers, which was on the air at the time. He clearly is totally lost with how the game is played and how to ask the proper questions, but he has such total lunatic fun with his bewilderment that he turns what could have been annoyingly awkward into a hoot. And Helen Traubel eats it all up.
I can't edit the video to just the Mystery Guest segment, but just scroll to the 17:50 mark.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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