To Tell the Truth (1956-1968)

To Tell the Truth had a simple premise: Three people would come out and all claim to be the same person…a person of great interest but not someone who could be identified on sight. One was the real person. The other two were imposters who had been well-briefed by the producers. It was up to a panel of four celebrities to ask questions and try to determine which was the real person of interest.

Created by Bob Stewart, who may have created more successful game shows than anyone else, To Tell the Truth debuted in prime-time on CBS on December 18, 1956. Bud Collyer was the host and it was from the quiz show mill of Mark Goodson and Bill Todman, who were seeking to replicate the success of their What’s My Line? There were a lot of panel/game shows like this in the fifties and To Tell the Truth was unique in this regard: It was one of the few where the home audience didn’t know the answer as the panel asked questions. We at home could play right along with the panel, which usually included four of the following names: Tom Poston, Peggy Cass, Kitty Carlisle, Orson Bean, Don Ameche, Ralph Bellamy, Polly Bergen, Hy Gardner and Johnny Carson.

An odd “vibe” must have been present on the set for some years there. Host Collyer was one of the more outspoken pro-blacklisting voices in AFTRA, the TV performers’ union. He was all for purging TV of performers and staffers with “pinko” connections…but a lot of those folks worked on To Tell the Truth. Mark Goodson was among the few producers willing to stand up to demands that he drop performers who’d been fingered as unAmerican by Red Channels or other such institutions. He’d resisted demands that he fire Henry Morgan off I’ve Got a Secret and he often hired panelists like Orson Bean and John Henry Faulk who’d crossed Red Channels or AWARE. Bean and Faulk won a union election over a Collyer-backed slate on these issues and Faulk later won a major lawsuit over his blacklisting. Still, from all reports, Collyer was a professional and a gentleman to all on To Tell the Truth.

The original To Tell the Truth ended its prime-time run on May 22, 1967. A daytime version which had started in June of ’62 continued on until September of ’68. That was the end of the Collyer version but others would follow.