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Dennis James 1917-1997
 


Country : Jersey City, New Jersey
Profession : TV Game Show Host and Announcer
Date of birth : 1917-08-24
Date of death : 1997-06-03
Cause of Death : lung cancer

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Dennis James (August 24, 1917–June 3, 1997) was an American television personality. He worked as an actor, wrestling announcer, sports show host, game show host, and newsreel announcer. He is credited as the host of television's first game show, the DuMont Network's Cash and Carry in 1946, the first person to ever host a telethon, and even the first person to do a TV commercial.



Early career

Born in Jersey City, New Jersey in 1917, Demi James Sposa, began his career in radio with WNEW (now WBBR) but switched to television in 1938, working for the soon-to-become-DuMont Network TV station WABD, which is now WNYW. WABD helped to found the DuMont Television Network in 1945, and so James became the host of a few of DuMont's game shows and served as commentator for their wrestling and boxing shows; he essentially worked as a utility announcer.

James also hosted the daytime variety show Okay, Mother. James often addressed the TV audience as "Mother," a practice he had begun when discussing the finer points of wrestling during his sports broadcasts.[citation needed] He feared that men in the audience would be insulted by the implication that they didn't already know the rules (even if they really didn't), but would accept the idea that James was merely explaining things for the benefit of women watching. During the late 1940s James was also an announcer for Paramount News, announcing various newsreels ranging from hard news to sports.

Game show career

James gained his greatest fame as the host of numerous game shows from 1946 until 1977, including the NBC daytime revival of Name That Tune (1974), and the weekly syndicated nighttime version of The Price Is Right (from 1972–1977). James and producer Mark Goodson co-hosted a promotional film, selling stations on the 1972 revival of Price, which was originally hosted by James' fellow TV pioneer Bill Cullen. He appeared with Bill Leyden in the 1962-1964 NBC quiz program, Your First Impression.

James' game show hosting duties spanned the better part of four decades, presiding over shows like The Name's the Same, High Finance, Chance of a Lifetime (actually a talent contest; he was also Ted Mack's announcer on the latter's Original Amateur Hour at roughly the same time), Haggis Baggis, People Will Talk, PDQ, and Your All-American College Show (another talent contest). James was also the official commercial presenter of the one-episode flop You're in the Picture.

James was a regular substitute host for Monty Hall on Let's Make a Deal during the early 1970s. It was during this time that James caught the attention of Mark Goodson, who at the time was putting together a game show for CBS known as The New Price is Right; the new format would incorporate the original format of the 1950s and 1960s with elements from Let's Make A Deal. James was Goodson's first choice to host the show, but CBS insisted on Truth or Consequences host Bob Barker for that position. Goodson struck a compromise with CBS that saw Barker host the daytime version (a position Barker would hold until 2007) while a weekly syndicated version would be hosted by James for the "access period". James hosted the nighttime Price is Right from 1972–1977, and also filled in for Barker during four daytime episodes that were taped on December 2, 1974 (aired December 24–27), thus becoming the only substitute host in the show's history.

Due to his work mostly being within the earlier years of television, most of James' shows have been destroyed with the exceptions of The Name's the Same and his tenure on Price, plus a few scattered episodes of the other programs mentioned above. Game Show Network has reran his episodes of The Name's the Same but no other shows. Aside of his Christmas Day substitute and two clips used during Game Show Moments Gone Bananas (a series of VH1 specials that later aired on GSN), his version of The Price is Right, although intact, has become forgotten along with his other programs.

Other work

Outside of sports and game shows, James was also a popular commercial spokesman for products including Old Gold cigarettes, Kellogg's cereals and, through his own production company, many local and regional companies and businesses. For nearly 30 years James was the Spokesman for Physicians Mutual Insurance Company until his death in 1997. His expression "Okay? Okay." became a trademark in many of James' commercials.

He returned to his wrestling roots in the Henry Winkler film The One and Only as the announcer for Winkler's title match, and was also the wrestling commentator in Rocky III for the match Thunderlips vs. Rocky Balboa. His final acting appearance was in The Method in 1997.

James hosted the first "telethon" using the then-new television medium to raise money for charity. James was the emcee of the United Cerebral Palsy Associations' telethons. UCP was founded in 1949 by Leonard and Isabel Goldenson and Jack and Ethel Hausman. (Leonard was the American Broadcasting Company's guiding spirit from the 1950s to the 1980s). James hosted the charity's primary telethon (in New York City on WOR-TV (now WWOR-TV) for 47 years, aided by Jane Pickens, Paul Anka, Florence Henderson, and other performers. He also hosted telethons in major cities all over the United States on a monthly basis from 1950 until 1979. When the telethon went national in 1979 with John Ritter as M.C. in Los Angeles, UCP enlisted James as a national presenter, in addition to James's duties as the anchor of the New York City version, which was also seen on cable all over the US via WOR-TV.

James bought a home in Palm Springs, California, in 1980. He was then called on to host dozens of charity events a year in the Palm Springs area, including events for Childhelp International, The Frank Sinatra Golf Classic and the Bob Hope Desert Classic. In 1992 his Star was placed on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Many luminaries came out, including Bob Hope, to help honor Dennis James. In 1996 Dennis James received a Star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars.

Death

James died on June 3, 1997, from lung cancer at his home in Rancho Mirage, CA.

The Cathedral City, California United Cerebral Palsy center is named after him, as he helped raise $700 million for the charity over the years. His wife, Micki, and his sons, Randy (a Talent Manager) and Brad (who heads his own telecommunications firm), regularly attend events on behalf of the center. He has another son, Dennis James Jr., who practices international law in Washington D.C.


1. Rocky III (1982) .... Wrestling commentator

2. "Fantasy Island" .... Beauty Pageant Announcer (1 episode, 1978)
- Treasure Hunt/Beauty Contest (1978) TV episode .... Beauty Pageant Announcer

3. "Your All-American College Show" (1968) TV series .... Host (1968)
4. "Batman" .... Chet Chumley (1 episode, 1966)
- Dizzoner the Penguin (1966) TV episode .... Chet Chumley
5. "The Farmer's Daughter" .... M.C. (1 episode, 1964)
- The Mink Machine (1964) TV episode .... M.C.
6. "People Will Talk" (1963) TV series .... Moderator (1963)
7. "The Dick Powell Show" .... Brooks (2 episodes, 1962-1963)
... aka The Dick Powell Theatre (USA: new title)
- Everybody Loves Sweeney (1963) TV episode
- The Big Day (1962) TV episode .... Brooks
8. "Your First Impression" (1962) TV series .... Host (1962-63) (unknown episodes)
9. "77 Sunset Strip" .... Sam Mason (1 episode, 1962)
- The Dark Wood (1962) TV episode .... Sam Mason

10. "Club 60" (1957) TV series .... Host (unknown episodes, 1957)
... aka The Howard Miller Show
11. "Kraft Television Theatre" (1 episode, 1954)
... aka Kraft Mystery Theatre (USA: new title)
... aka Kraft Theatre (USA: new title)
- Pardon My Prisoner (1954) TV episode
12. "Turn to a Friend" (1953) TV series .... Host (1953)
13. "Ted Mack Family Hour" (1952) TV series .... Announcer
14. "Okay, Mother" (1951) TV series .... Host (1948-1951)
15. Mr. Universe (1951) .... Announcer

16. "Stop the Music" (1949) TV series .... Occasional Moderator (1949-56) (unknown episodes)
17. "Ted Mack & the Original Amateur Hour" (1948) TV series .... Announcer (unknown episodes)
... aka Ted Mack's Original Amateur Hour (USA: complete title)

Self:

* 1970s
* 1960s
* 1950s
* 1940s

1. The One and Only (1978) .... Himself
2. "Name That Tune" (1974/I) TV series .... Host (1974-75)
3. "The New Price Is Right" .... Sub-Host (4 episodes, 1974)
... aka The Price Is Right (USA: new title)
- Episode #3.83 (1974) TV episode .... Sub-Host
- Episode #3.82 (1974) TV episode .... Sub-Host
- Episode #3.81 (1974) TV episode .... Sub-Host
- Episode #3.80 (1974) TV episode .... Sub-Host

4. "The Hollywood Squares" .... Center Square / ... (2 episodes, 1967-1968)
- Episode dated 30 September 1968 (1968) TV episode .... Guest Appearance
- Episode dated 16 January 1967 (1967) TV episode .... Center Square
5. "P.D.Q." (1965) TV series .... Host (1965 et seq.) (unknown episodes)

6. "Haggis Baggis" (1958/I) TV series .... Host (c.1958-59)
7. "High Finance" (1956) TV series .... Host
8. "The Name's the Same" .... Himself / ... (17 episodes, 1954-1955)
- Episode dated 4 April 1955 (1955) TV episode .... Himself/Host
- Episode dated 28 March 1955 (1955) TV episode .... Himself/Host
- Episode dated 21 March 1955 (1955) TV episode .... Himself/Host
- Episode dated 14 March 1955 (1955) TV episode .... Himself/Host
- Episode dated 28 February 1955 (1955) TV episode .... Himself/Host
(12 more)
9. "Judge for Yourself" (1953) TV series .... Himself / ... (unknown episodes, 1954)
... aka The Fred Allen Show
10. "On Your Account" (1953) TV series .... Host (c.1954)
11. "Two for the Money" (1952) TV series .... On-Camera Announcer (1952-1956)
12. "Chance of a Lifetime" (1950) TV series .... Host (1952)
13. "Chance of a Lifetime" (1952) TV series .... Emcee
14. "The Dennis James Show" (1951) TV series .... Himself/Host
... aka The Dennis James Carnival (USA)

15. "Cash and Carry" (1946) TV series .... Emcee

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