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Groucho Marx:You Bet Your Life

Groucho Marx , George Fenneman    NR (Not Rated)   DVD
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
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Product Description

Amazon.ca

With 18 shows that remained unseen since their original broadcasts in the 1950s, You Bet Your Life: The Lost Episodes offers another welcome example of the way DVDs are preserving our precious television heritage. Of course, this long-running game show (1950-61) was barely a game show at all. Instead, it was a perfect showcase for the wit and whimsy of Groucho Marx (1890-1977), who clearly relished the third major chapter (after stage and movies) of his illustrious career. With his mischievously elevated eyebrows and ever-present cigar, the great comedian was right at home with average and above-average civilians, recruited from the studio audience in offbeat pairs to answer quiz questions and win typically modest sums of cash. "Say the secret word and split a hundred dollars," said Groucho as each contest commenced, and a mangy stuffed duck named Julius (Groucho's real name) would drop from the rafters to reveal the secret word.

While there was a modicum of preparation before these shows were filmed, most of Groucho's one-liners and snappy comebacks are impressively off-the-cuff, hilariously demonstrating the mastery of humor that Groucho--still vital in his well-heeled sixties--had honed over decades of live performance. His frequently nervous contestants are equally amusing, sometimes giving as well as they got from their rapier-witted host. They are also occasionally exceptional: professional baseball umpires; super-athlete Bob Matthias; a decorated Korean War hero; a Mr. And Miss Universe; a celebrated mystery writer; TV comedian Ernie Kovacs; British "hipster" comic Lord Buckley; and even Gary Cooper's mother appear as contestants. With a revealing glimpse of '50s popular culture, these well-produced DVDs also include a wealth of You Bet Your Life artifacts: the "stag reels" showcase Groucho's deft handling of "mature humor" edited from the original broadcasts; a behind-the-scenes film reveals the show's inner workings and primary staff; and ads for Plymouth/DeSoto dealers (the show's sole sponsor) are quaintly charming by latter-day standards. Best of all, Groucho's original radio audition is included, along with a priceless 10-minute radio clip featuring Groucho and Bob Hope--a comedy gem that led to Groucho's long-term employment on television. For Marx Brothers and Groucho fans, this is a treasure trove of smile-inducing nostalgia. --Jeff Shannon

Product Description

Groucho Marx is arguably the most famous, iconic comedian of all-time. It's funny to think that for all the great films and stage appearances he made throughout his career both in the Marx Brothers act and solo later in his life, Groucho Marx actually seemed to prefer this modestly-produced TV series above all others in which he was involved. Groucho Marx was the emcee and star of this filmed quiz show, which had begun on radio in 1947. Although it was ostensibly a game show, the series' most important asset was the humor injected by Groucho into the interviews he did with the contestants. Contestants were picked primarily based on the potential they had to be foils for Groucho's barbs, which they seemed to love. At the start of each show the audience was informed of the night's secret word. If any of the contestants happened to say it while they were on the air, they won an extra $100. When they said the word a dilapidated stuffed duck would drop from the ceiling with the $100 attached. YBYL became a huge television hit show, and as big a part of his legacy as the amazing movies he made with his brothers in the earlier part of his career.

You Bet Your Life ran on television from October 5, 1950 - June 29, 1961 (423 episodes), one of the longest running shows in the history of television. (There were also 105 episodes that aired exclusively on radio.)The program was renamed The Groucho Show during its last season and has been seen in syndication as The Best Of Groucho for the last 40 years.


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Groucho-DeSoto Connection March 25 2004
Format:DVD
Incredible as it may seem, most of the "lost episodes" in this Groucho Marx DVD collection might have been lost forever. In the early 1970s, the geniuses at NBC planned to destroy ALL the "You Bet Your Life" programs for the sole purpose of freeing up some warehouse space. Fortunately, Groucho and producer John Guedel thwarted this cultural crime and reissued the comedy-quiz shows for late-night syndication -- with successful results. However, the "Best of Groucho" package was re-edited to eliminate any trace of the DeSoto-Plymouth references from the original broadcasts. Upon viewing this excellent three-disc set, the viewer is immediately aware of DeSoto's dominant sponsorship of "You Bet Your Life" and the major role Groucho played in the selling of its automobiles -- even lending his trademark image to its used-car dealerships. The "stag reels," promotional films and DeSoto commercials featured in this collection make for fascinating and historic viewing. Of course, there's the long-awaited pleasure of seeing 18 unedited "You Bet Your Life" programs for the first time since the 1950s -- a remarkable find comparable to the "lost" Jackie Gleason kinescopes. The result is a valuable addition to Groucho's comic legacy.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Gotta Buy This One! March 15 2004
Format:DVD
This DVD set is even better than I expected, and I expected a lot of laughs. The production of the show itself is charming, Groucho is great, the guests are (usually unintentionally) funny, and the extras showing the commercials, bloopers, etc. are all superb. And the video quality is excellent as well. Groucho's wit, especially when working on a nervous contestant, is something to behold. Sometimes the simplest concepts are the best. These shows are better than most Marx Bros movies!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Got the Life March 8 2004
By Joseph
Format:DVD
The absolute simplicity of concept, economy of verbiage and humanity of the subjects makes You Bet Your Life a TV landmark. Simple, handsome, ugly, funny, wierd people all become fascinating. In the context of a current TV era that has only The Simpsons and Seinfeld to save us, this show puts the trash depicting vulgar, voyeuristic and mechanical people to shame. And yet, YBYL is not essentially different from that which bores me in TV today. Only with a once in a millenium host who circles around the subtleties of sex and voyeurism within strict limits, stages thier weaknesses then gently caresses them back to favour. Brilliant.
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5.0 out of 5 stars THE SECRET WORD IS GREAT!!!!!!! Nov. 28 2003
Format:DVD
YOU BET YOUR LIFE IS THE GREATEST BECAUSE OF THE ONE THE ONLY GROUCHO!I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS TO ANYONE WHO WANTS TO NEVER STOP LAUGHING!!!!!!!
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5.0 out of 5 stars The One The Only, GROUCHO Nov. 26 2003
Format:DVD
This is one dvd, worth it's cost. A trip back in time, (50 yrs. back) to see what people, (of all ages) were wearing, funny ocupations many chosen to be interviewed by Groucho had. The hats that women wore in these times. How I loved the simple set, and wish a game show today, could have such a simplistic set. Watching these 50 yr. old shows, you realize many of these people are long gone, but their images are still seen on this wonderfully made DVD.
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Format:DVD
This collection of Groucho Marx's "You Bet Your Life" quiz shows was obviously prepared with care and affection. In addition to the 18 episodes in the set, many of them never included in the 1961 syndication package, there is a host of show-related video and audio clips. The "stag reel" out-takes contain double-entendre language that never made it to broadcast; it's mild by today's standards but very funny, with Groucho getting the most out of every bawdy laugh. A behind-the-scenes demo with Groucho, announcer George Fenneman, and the series' directors is interesting, and the show's original 1950s commercials are included (but programmed separately, a minor point).
"You Bet Your Life" is first and foremost a vehicle for Groucho Marx, who tosses zingers at hapless contestants. The simple format and low-tech presentation are quite refreshing. If you grew up with the "Best of Groucho" reruns, you may recall that the picture was often re-cropped and enlarged to eliminate the sponsor's logo, resulting in off-center, grainy images. These DVDs boast the original camera compositions, which show the full set and background, with surprisingly sharp picture quality. (There is one episode shown in "Best of Groucho" format, which offers a comparison as well as nostalgia.) Radio-show collectors may be familiar with the Ernie Kovacs episode, which has been issued on disc, but the TV version has different editing and may be of special interest.
Probably the most famous episode of "You Bet Your Life" is included here: the guest is Ramiro G. Gonzales ("Pedro Gonzales Gonzales").
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great package! Oct. 12 2003
By Ingalls
Format:DVD
Great transfers, wonderful booklet and packaging, some surprising extras. This is a great set even though it is a bit pricey for some old tv shows. Now all we need is "Life of Riley" to come out in a DVD box collection and I will be in heaven!
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