Entertainer, Actor, Television Host. He is best remembered as the host of his CBS television talk show, "The Merv Griffin Show," which ran from 1965 to 1986. Additionally, he created the game shows "Jeopardy!" (1964), "Wheel of Fortune" (1975), "Ruckus" (1991), "Click" (1997), and "Merv Griffin's Crosswords" (2007) with his own television production companies, Merv Griffin Enterprises and Merv Griffin Entertainment. He was born Mervyn Edward Griffin, Jr. in San Mateo, California, where his father was a stockbroker. He became interested in music as a young boy, singing in his church choir and performing as its organist when he was in his teens, in order to earn extra money. He graduated from San Mateo High School in 1942 and was declared ineligible for military service during World War II because of a heart murmur. At the age of 19, he became a singer on radio, appearing on "San Francisco Sketchbook," a nationally syndicated program based at radio station KFRC. Bandleader Freddy Martin heard him on the radio show and asked him to tour with his orchestra, which he did for four years. By 1945 he had earned enough money to form his own record label, Panda Records, which produced "Songs by Merv Griffin" (1946), the first American album ever recorded on magnetic tape. He became increasingly popular with nightclub audiences, and his fame soared among the general public with his 1950 hit "I've Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts." The song reached the number one spot on the Hit Parade and sold three million copies. This was followed by "Wilhelmina" and "Never Been Kissed". Subsequently drafted for military service at the beginning of the Korean War, he was declared too old (the draft age limit was 26 and he had just turned 27). He was discovered by singer Doris Day at one of his nightclub performances and she arranged for a screen test at Warner Brothers Studio for a role in the 1953 musical film "By the Light of the Silvery Moon." He failed to get the part, but the screen test led to supporting roles in other musical films such as "So This Is Love" (1953). The film caused a minor controversy when he shared an open-mouthed kiss with actress Kathryn Grayson, a first in Hollywood film history since the introduction of the Production Code in 1934. He went on to appear in more pictures, like "The Boy from Oklahoma" (1954) and "Phantom of the Rue Morgue" (1954), but soon became disillusioned with movie making. He bought his contract back from Warner Brothers and decided to focus on a new medium, television. From 1958 to 1962 he hosted a television game show produced by Mark Goodson and Bill Todman called "Play Your Hunch." The show appeared on all three networks, but primarily on NBC. He also hosted a prime time game show for ABC called "Keep Talking." Additionally, he also substituted for a week for the vacationing Bill Cullen on television's "The Price Is Right," and also for Bud Collyer on "To Tell the Truth." In 1963, NBC offered him the opportunity to host a new television game show, "Word for Word," which he produced. Additionally, he produced NBC's "Let's Play Post Office" (1965), "Reach for the Stars" (1967), and ABC's "One in a Million" (1967). In October 1962, when television host Johnny Carson took over NBC's "The Tonight Show" show from Jack Paar, Griffin was one of the many guest hosts NBC used. He was considered the most successful of the guest hosts, and was rewarded with his own live daytime talk show on NBC in 1962, which proved not to be successful, and was cancelled in 1963. In 1965 he launched a syndicated talk show for Group W (Westinghouse Broadcasting), "The Merv Griffin Show," that aired in a variety of time slots throughout North America; many stations ran it in the daytime, others aired it in prime-time and a few broadcast it opposite Johnny Carson's "The Tonight Show." His announcer/sidekick was the veteran British character actor Arthur Treacher, who had been his mentor. When Treacher left the show in 1970, he would do the announcing himself, and walk on stage with the phrase, "And now..., here I come!" He was known for booking controversial guests like George Carlin, Dick Gregory, Richard Pryor, Norman Mailer, and Bertrand Russell. He received critical acclaim for having such guests, but was also widely criticized for it. A student of Transcendental Meditation, he dedicated two shows to the topic and its founder Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, one in 1975, the other in 1977. The show would win eleven Emmy Awards during its 21-year run. In 1969 CBS gave him a late-night television show opposite "The Tonight Show," which was unsuccessful. Sensing that his time at CBS was ending, and tired of the restrictions imposed by the network, he secretly signed a contract with rival company Metromedia, which would give him a syndicated daytime talk show deal as soon as CBS canceled his show. Within a few months he was fired by CBS and his new show began the following Monday and ran until the mid-1980s. He retired in 1986 had become one of the world's wealthiest entertainers, amassing media outlets, hotels, and casinos with a net worth widely estimated in 2003 at over a billion dollars. In 1990 he had an ambitious but unsuccessful attempt at adapting the venerable board game "Monopoly" into a game show of the same name. His biggest failure was a wild game show called "Ruckus," which emanated from the Resorts International Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City, which he owned at the time. Involving slapstick stunts and a somewhat truncated version of his old "Reach for the Stars," the show initially aired locally in New York, with the intent of national syndication early the following year, but the ratings were bad and it was cancelled after several weeks. In 1996 he was diagnosed with prostate cancer which was successfully treated. He returned to singing in March 2001 with the release of the album "It's Like a Dream." On May 14, 2003 he was honored with the Broadcast Music, Incorporated (BMI) President's Award at its annual Film and Television Awards ceremony, for having created some of America's best-known game show melodies. His prostate cancer returned in 2007 and his health deteriorated in August of that year, and he died at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California at the age of 82. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for television.
Bio by: William Bjornstad
"I WILL NOT BE RIGHT BACK AFTER THIS MESSAGE"