If Monty Hall had his way, he wouldn’t have been pointing at Carol Merrill standing next to Door Number Three or handing $10 to a woman in the audience if she had a tube of toothpaste in her purse.
That’s because if Monty Hall had his way, he never would have hosted and produced “Let’s Make a Deal” as he never would have been on American television to begin with.
There’s a long list of Canadians in show business who have headed to the U.S. to find bigger fame and fortune. Long before Alex Trebek got his green card to make American game show greenbacks, Monty Hall did the same thing. But he really didn’t want to, at least if an interview in the Winnipeg Free Press is to believed. This is from August 21, 1959, a couple of years before his big fame on “Deal.”
TV Star Says CBC Cut Him Off
By GENE TELPNER
Free Press Staff Reporter
A Winnipeg entertainer who became a star in New York television said he was “forced into the big time” when CBC cut him off Toronto shows with no explanation.
Monty Hall, now in Winnipeg to visit his parents, Mr. and Mrs. M. H. Halparin, said: “I never wanted to leave Canada for New York. I was content here. But the CBC forced me to pull up stakes and leave. I've seen them take other people off the network without explanation, and once they cut you off, you're through.”
Friday was the last program of Mr. Hall’s popular Canadian radio quiz show, Who Am I, which he started back in 1949. “That was my last link with Canada, and now it’s gone.”
In New York, he has a daily hard-hitting TV interview show called Byline, Monty Hall. He also headlines some of the other big-name shows such as Strike It Rich, Monitor, Keep Talking, The Sky’s The Limit, and has worked on the now defunct quiz show Twenty-One.
Recently he was featured in Life for his introduction of television Bingo, and is considered one of the top master of ceremonies in New York. This fall he’ll resume Monitor, and at the same time work on three shows on three different networks.
“I’ve formed my own package group, Skyline Productions, and in the future I hope to be the man behind the scenes rather than the performer,” he said.
Monty Hall was well-known in Winnipeg show business, performing in university productions and radio plays. A science graduate of the University of Manitoba, he had planned to he a doctor but “radio got in my blood.”
After a successful stint at CKRC, he pulled up stakes for Toronto in 1946 to work for CHUM, and within four months he was manager. In 1953 he got a break in television with a successful future virtually assured.
“After a good television start in Canada, I was really looking forward to a big year in 1955. Suddenly CBC blanked me off all shows, and three shows that I was signed for suddenly unsigned me, according to CBC.”
Mr. Hall was to have originally handled the Pick The Stars show, and Matinee Party, which is now P.M. Party with Gordie Tapp. A third show went to Billy O’Connor.
Wall Of Silence
I spoke to a million people, asked a million questions, but no one would tell me why. They were just silent. Finally in the summer of 1955 I went to New York looking for a job. When the CBC cuts you off, you just can’t walk across the street because there’s nothing across the street.”
Finding a job wasn’t too easy in New York, and he had almost given up when two calls came Dec. 7, 1955. One wanted him to replace Warren Hull on Strike It Rich, and the other was to M.C. a television quiz show, The Sky’s The Limit.
Until this week, Mr. Hall commuted to Toronto from his New York home for the radio show, but now that is broken.
“Anyone who can make the grade in Canadian television and not get blackballed for some reason or other should stay in Canada. I’m not bitter, and if they want to talk to me, I’ll be glad to discuss the possibility of my returning. This is my country, and my family is keeping its Canadian citizenship.”
With Mr. Hall in Winnipeg are his wife and two children, Joanne, 9, and Richard, 2.
What would Monty’s career have been like if he had stayed in Canada? He could have asked his brother Bob, who was a panellist on “To Tell the Truth.” Not the one with Peggy Cass, Orson Bean and Kitty Carlisle. The one hosted by Norman Kihl, a 1962 made-for-Canada version that’s been forgotten by all but a handful of Canadians.
Monty Hall turned 91 today and he can look back on a full and happy career. And he can partly thank the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.