The $64,000 Question by
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Who was Harold Mendelson?

He’s a guy who grew up in the Fillmore District of San Francisco and went on to become a famous actor and game show host. He was also a lifelong buddy of my father’s. You never heard of Harold? But does the name Hal March ring a bell?

Even though he went on to appear with George and Gracie and Jack Benny, he never forgot his San Francisco roots. I used to have a yellowed copy of a Screen magazine that featured photos of Hal and the old gang from the City. My dad is in one of those pictures, along with other guys they went to Hebrew school with.

I do have another picture of my dad and his pal Hal, this one taken at The Golden Gate International Exhibition of 1939, on Treasure Island in the San Francisco Bay. A couple of good looking dudes. My dad  would have been twenty years old here.

Hal, after he went Hollywood

According to Wikipedia: When it first aired in 1955, The $64,000 Question “almost immediately beat every other program on Tuesday nights in ratings. Broadcast historian Robert Metz, in CBS: Reflections in a Bloodshot Eye, claimed U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower himself did not want to be disturbed while the show was on and that the nation’s crime rate, movie theater, and restaurant patronage dropped dramatically when the show aired. It earned the #1 rating spot for the 1955–56 season, holding the distinction of being the only television show to knock I Love Lucy out of the #1 spot….”   The show had a good run, before the game show scandals changed everything. One other interesting side note about the show: Dr. Joyce Brothers also had a good run on The $64,000 Question. Her area of expertise was…boxing!

But while I’m on the subject of game shows, I must include this photo of my son when he appeared on Jeopardy! earlier this year. That’s another story for another time…

Characterizations: funny, well written


  1. Laurie Levy says:

    This is really interesting, Risa. I guess Hal March came a long way until the scandal that took down The $64,000 Question. I still use that phrase, but only people in my age bracket get it. To my kids and grandkids, I guess that’s not a fortune. Your son on Jeopardy is a story I would love to hear about. What a handsome guy!

    • Risa Nye says:

      It’s truly a generational thing! Somehow, Hal March continued to have a career in TV and films, but he died fairly young. My son may yet write about his journey to Jeopardy. If he does, I’ll let you know! I’ve got the show on tape and still get excited to hear them say: “And Myles is in the lead!”

  2. Khati Hendry says:

    Great pictures and story–and I’m looking forward to the one about your son on Jeopardy. All Retrospectors are jealous. Loved the tidbit about Joyce Brothers’ special expertise on boxing–I would not have seen that one coming!

  3. Marian says:

    Very interesting, Risa, because I hadn’t heard of Hal March. We are getting quite a Jeopardy crowd going. Would love to hear about your son’s experience.

  4. Suzy says:

    I watched Myles’ appearance on Jeopardy, alerted to its airing by your facebook post. It was very exciting, and I won’t give away what happened. That was what I thought your story would be about, but I guess it is his story, not yours. Thanks for all this info about Hal March and the $64,000 Question. That was not a show I ever watched, but it sounds like I should have. Especially to see Joyce Brothers and her expertise in boxing!

  5. Wow Risa, quite a Jeopardy accomplishment for Myles, and U see he got your smart genes! Would love to hear the whole story!

    And altho lately I don’t remember much, I did know that Joyce Brothers was a boxing fan!

  6. Betsy Pfau says:

    Great story, Risa. Yes, $64,000 Question was a generational show, but I remember it and remember hearing that Joyce Brothers had a good run. How interesting that the host was a good friend of your father’s!

    Oh please, more about your son’s Jeopardy appearance! Sad, that it came hard upon Alex’s death. He fought bravely until the end.

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