Saturday, March 14, 2015

Strike it Rich! New York City

I recently found a few fun photos from sometime in the 1950's, taken during someone's visit to a New York City taping (filming?) of the once-popular game show, "Strke it Rich!". Originally it was a radio program (starting in 1947), but moved to television in 1951. 

I love this first shot, a "POV", as ordinary folks (tourists?) wait to get in. They are standing on what I believe is West 47th Street. AND… I just noticed the partial sign: "….NCASTER….KIAN". Burt Lancaster starred in "The Kentuckian" in 1955, so that helps date these photos.

Here we are, inside the studio, watching as everything is set up for the cameras. The man in front of the stairs appears to be host Warren Hull (see photo at the bottom of this post). "Strike It Rich!" was similar to "Queen For a Day", in which contestants tried to outdo each other with tales of their miserable lives. Whoever was deemed the most miserable won cash and prizes. PRIZES, do you hear?? 

Viewers could even call the "Heart Line" and donate money. Many critics found the show ghoulish and vulgar because it took advantage of those who were most desperate; The New York City commissioner of welfare called the show "a disgusting spectacle and a national disgrace". And yet the program was a hit for years!

Here's a second photo. There's the Black Curtain. No! Not THE BLACK CURTAIN! I wonder if this was a setup for a live commercial for Colgate (the show's sponsor)? "Gee, Warren, Colgate leaves my teeth sparkling white, and I love its minty taste!". FYI, nothing classes up a joint like a fake palm tree. I love the big television camera to the left! 

"Strike it Rich" continued through 1958; according to Wikipedia, recordings of the show were destroyed "partly owing to its controversial nature". A few episodes still survive at various television archives such as UCLA and the Payley Center for Media. 

I hope you have enjoyed this episode of "Strike it Rich"!


TokyoMagic! said...

Colgate helps to prevent halitosis and pyorrhea.

TokyoMagic! said...

By the way, these are some pretty incredible photos, Major. I went to some television tapings in the seventies and eighties and there was absolutely no photography allowed. I wonder if it was different in the early days of television audiences, or if this photographer just went unnoticed.

Nanook said...


What wonderful-looking images. That set seems awfully elaborate for both a game show and one from the early days of television.

That "big television camera" is most-likely an RCA TK11, B&W ('natch) - much to the chagrin of CBS's William Paley, who by 1955 was more than pissed with RCA & "General" David Sarnoff for 'stealing-away' the approval of what would become known as the NTSC television system - and color TV.

Strike It Rich was produced at CBS's "Studio 62" Theater, on West 47th Street - which was formerly the Biltmore Theatre - co-owned by George Abbott and the Warner Bros.

And, sorry, 2" quad tape didn't make its first appearance until November 20, 1956. Prior to that, shows were broadcast live, and delayed broadcasts thru the rather miserable-looking kinescope.

Love the last image with a forced, toothy-grin on host Warren Hull. He could be a politician-!

Thanks, Major.

K. Martinez said...

Ghoulish and vulgar. Sounds like my kind of show.

Nanook - Your wealth of knowledge never ceases to amaze me. Great info.

Nanook said...

@ K. Martinez-

Thanks for the kind words. And to keep me on the straight and narrow, I think I'd like to recant my original ID of the camera. It looks more like a TK10.

Also, the theatre is now known as the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, currently playing Constellations.

Major Pepperidge said...

TokyoMagic!, all I care about is the minty taste. My guess is that they weren't so worried about photography in the 50's… I'm surprised these came out as good as they did, though TV studios are famously bright.

Nanook, I knew about Studio 62 (while CBS had several studios around the city, I wonder exactly how many there were?); I guess I thought that if records of the show had been destroyed, they must have been early tapes, but I guess they were the dreaded kinescopes.

K. Martinez, ha ha! Also, I am beginning to suspect that Nanook is an android.

Nanook, we will need to make some adjustments to your positronic brain, I just can't forgive your original statement that the camera was a TK11! Outrageous!

Nanook said...


I like to say I know enough about 'a lotta things' to get me in trouble. If I was truly brilliant, I would know the exact number of venues CBS called TV Studios back in the day.

Also - my brain is actually 'Autotronic'-!

Jackie K said...

Actually fascinating to find out that exploitative reality shows are not unique to the current day.