Mark Leo Goodson (January 14, 1915 – December 18, 1992) was an American television and radio producer, best known for specializing in game shows.
Early Life and EducationEdit
Mark Leo Goodson was born in Sacramento, California on Thursday, January 14, 1915. His parents, Abraham Ellis (October 16, 1876-January 25, 1954) and Fannie (nee Krasik) Gross Goodson (January 28, 1887-September 24, 1986), were Russian-born immigrants that came to America in the early 1900s.
"I was very fat and not overwhelmed with self-love," Goodson said of his childhood self. As a child, Goodson acted in amateur theater with the Plaza Stock Company. "We were very poor," Goodson said of his childhood. "When I was 14 [my father] bought a chicken ranch in Hayward [ Calif.] which failed miserably and he lost it in the Depression. My memory was always of where to eat, who would pay the rent, five-day-old bread, secondhand clothes. I loathed that idea. There was a whole feeling of catastrophe right around the corner."
"Then we moved to Berkeley, where Father, who was a health-food faddist, opened a health-food store." Goodson's father opened what was the first health food store in Berkeley, a town that would later become famous for it's health food retailing. "He was hot-tempered and distrusted things that tasted too good," says Goodson of his father. "Every two weeks he would go on a grape diet. He was like Gandhi, an ascetic. My mother, on the other hand, was very lusty, a gregarious woman who liked to dance, give parties and play cards."
"When I first went to work, if somebody had guaranteed me a job at $10,000 a year for life, I would have grabbed it because security was everything. That and never going back where you came from." Goodson said. "Money never became to me things I could buy; nor the ability to purchase a boat or 50 watches. Money to me gave me an overwhelmingly strange sense of security. It is a symbolic sense of achievement and control of the world. There's something I must confess, although it sounds cocky. Environment controlled me; I was helpless in it. I want to control it, have authority, not be at its mercy, have dignity."
Goodson graduated from Hayward High School in 1933. He described himself as having been a "terrible student" in high school, and was "very poor in languages, in mathematics, and all the academic subject required to get into college". When it came time for him to apply for admission to the University of California in Berkeley, he found that he couldn't get in, this made it necessary for him to take make-up courses in college algebra and in a foreign language.
Originally intending to become a lawyer, "My parents were determined that I would become a lawyer.", he graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1937 with a degree in Economics. While in College he financed his education through scholarships and by working at the Lincoln Fish Market. After his graduation, he began his broadcasting career in San Francisco, working as a Disc Jockey at KJBS radio station for $30 a week. In 1939, he joined KFRC radio station, where his job duties included announcing and newscasting.
While at KFRC he created, produced and hosted his first game show creation, a radio quiz called "Pop the Question" (1939), which involved contestants selecting questions by throwing darts at multi-colored balloons. He also created and produced "The Quiz of Two Cities" (1941-44), which was innovative at the time. The quiz show, broadcasted simultaneously on KFRC and KHJ Los Angeles, pitted contestants from the rival cities against each other.
Marriage and Early CareerEdit
On February 16, 1941 in Los Angeles, Goodson married his first wife, Bluma Neveleff, the daughter of Louis and Sophie (Levey) Neveleff. He described her as being "a rather strong lady who helped guide my career". Shortly after their marriage they moved to New York City. He soon found work as a free-lance announcer, catching on with the radio show 'We the People'. "He was not very well dressed, he had a big innocent grin, and he was so nervous he rattled his script against the mic," remembered Levy, the show's producer, in an interview, "but he had a great voice."
Goodson was The Answer Man (1942) for a while, wrote and directed the dramatic spots on The Kate Smith Show, and was MC of a show called The Jack Dempsey Sports Quiz (1941). "I didn't know anything about sports," Goodson said. "I bluffed my way through for 26 weeks. Then they told me the real money was in describing ball games. I bought a book called The Rules of Baseball."
By 1943, Goodson was earning $20,000 annually. "I saw Mark go from rags to riches to great wealth," said Levy, "and it created problems for him. He was always insecure. He hesitated to go into "21," for instance, because he felt he didn't belong." His announcing career came to an abrupt end when he gained a severe case of mic-fright. "I was reading a commercial when my hands started to perspire and my voice began to tighten," said Goodson. "Soon I would become nauseous if I walked into a studio." He soon turned to psychoanalysis. "I had a lot of emotional problems. I hadn't been terribly faithful to my wife, and I felt guilty."
Goodson's career changed for the better, after he read a magazine article about a well-known professional marriage counselor. He sought her out, not for counseling, but to use her files. From them he created a half-hour soap opera, 'Appointment With Life' which he produced and directed for ABC radio. "I told them I'd directed before, but it was a fib," he said in an interview. "Then I deliberately hired an actress whose husband headed an ad agency that sponsored its own shows." This fib would land him a job producing the popular soap 'Portia Faces Life'. He also directed the United States Treasury Department's war bond-selling show The Treasury Salute (1944-45). But Goodson's passion remained with game shows, and after his brief time with soap operas, he decided to return to them for good.
Meeting Bill TodmanEdit
In 1941, while working on the local quiz show, "The Battle of the Boroughs", Goodson met Bill Todman, a radio writer, director, and advertising copywriter. "I was impressed that he was rich enough to live on Park Avenue and own a Buick," Goodson says. The two found a mutual love for games and decided to partner. "Mark had an idea for a show called Winner Takes All" Todman said. "I changed it to Winner Take All. We auditioned the show for $15 including breakfast at Longchamps. And we went our way. In 1946 I called Mark. 'I got a sale,' I told him. Winner Take All was on for three 15-minute periods a week and $150." The pair's first quiz show, 'Winner Take All', premiered on CBS radio in 1946. They would go on to create four local radio quizzes: Hit the Jackpot, Spin to Win, Rate Your Mate, and Time's a Wastin'.
Winner Take All used a lockout buzzer system and was the first quiz show to pit two contestants against each other. It was also the first to have winners return each week until they were defeated, these firsts would later become the normal for nearly all game shows. Winner Take All also became the first Goodson-Todman television show, debuting on Thursday, July 8, 1948 on the CBS Television Network. What's My Line? soon followed on the same network, debuting on February 1, 1950. "Live television was like flying without a net," said Goodson. "We never knew what would happen. I remember Eddie Fisher as a mystery guest saying, 'Any rumors you hear that Elizabeth and I are breaking up are lies.' Another mystery guest, Judy Garland, had the show's staff chewing its nails when she wobbled in just before she was supposed to go on, with her hair in a riot of curlers, and promptly repaired to her dressing room. I was about to take her place," he contiunes, "when she came over to me and asked, 'How much time do we have?' I said, 'Fifteen seconds, Miss Garland,' and she replied, 'So what's the rush?' and walked onstage."
Quiz shows had been popular on radio through the 1940's, and they were just as popular with TV executives, thanks to costing little to produce and merchandise prizes were furnished for free by manufacturers in return for plugs. A well-known and oft-repeated story had Goodson and Todman carrying prizes for Winner Take All from their office to the studio, when Todman slipped sending small appliances clattering to the sidewalk. Writer Goodman Ace witnessed the accident and yelled, "Hey, Todman, you dropped your script!"
After "What's My Line?" Goodson-Todman began to turn-out game shows just like a factory line. Classic favorite Beat the Clock (1950-61), was followed with By Popular Demand (1950), It's News to Me (1951-54), The Name's the Same (1951-55), I've Got a Secret (1952-67), Two for the Money (1952-57), Judge for Yourself (1953-54), Whats Going On? (1954), Make the Connection (1955), Choose Up Sides (1956), To Tell the Truth (1956-68), The Price Is Right (1956-65), Play Your Hunch (1959-63), and Split Personality (1959-60). Three unsold pilots were also produced including, Rate Your Mate (1951), Take Your Choice (1954), and Play For Keeps (1955). By 1958, Goodson and Todman had become the most successful packagers in television and would become the most prolific game show producers of the 1950s.
Goodson and Todman would go on to produce some of the longest-running game shows in US Television history. While Todman oversaw the company's business outside of television, which included several New England newspapers and radio station KOL in Seattle, Washington, Goodson handled the creative aspects of producing game shows. The people who worked for the company and created many of Goodson-Todman's shows were pivotal to the success of those shows. Goodson-Todman executives like Bob Stewart, Bob Bach, Gil Fates, Ira Skutch, Frank Wayne, Chester Feldman, Paul Alter, Howard Felsher, Ted Cooper and Jay Wolpert, among others, were instrumental in making the shows successful. Goodson and Todman also produced other fields of television programs, including anthologies, The Web (1950-54), The Richard Boone Show(1963-64) and Goodyear Theater (1957–1960); westerns, Jefferson Drum (1958-59), The Rebel (1959-61) and Branded(1965-67); crime drama, Philip Marlowe (1959-60); and possibly the company's biggest failure, One Happy Family (1961), a sitcom. “They wanted to expand their horizons; nobody wants to be pigeonholed,” says Andrew J. Fenady, who produced the westerns with them. Todman was an avid rider and a western fan, and where the shows were concerned, “You could talk to him any time,” Fenady says “He was there if we needed something. And the Goodson-Todman accounting was impeccable. We never went over budget, and we made a lot of money from their honest bookkeeping. They were very, very fair-minded partners.”
The 1960s saw the continued success of Goodson-Todman. Brand new shows premiered like Number Please (1961), Password (1961-67), Say When!! (1961–1965), Missing Links (1963–1964), Get the Message (1964), Call My Bluff (1965), Snap Judgment (1967–1969), He Said, She Said (1969–1970), and The Match Game (1962–1969). Other Goodson-Todman classics came to end, but three of the classics, What's My Line? (1968–1975), Beat the Clock (1969–1974), and To Tell the Truth (1969–1978), were revived in the same decade and all three saw huge ratings. An unsold pilot, It Had to Be You (1963), was also produced.
For many years the company was headquartered in New York City, New York at the Seagram Building located at 375 Park Avenue. Most of the company's production moved to Hollywood in the early 1970's, starting with the 1971 ABC revival of Password. The Los Angeles offices were located first at 6430 Sunset Boulevard, and later at 5750 Wilshire Boulevard. The company's last New York-based show was the 1980's version of To Tell the Truth, but the New York office remained open and was used for East Coast auditions for Child's Play. The 1970s saw even larger success for Goodson-Todman. New shows included Now You See It (1974–1975), Tattletales (1974–1978), Showoffs (1975), Double Dare (1976–1977), Family Feud (1976–1985), The Better Sex (1977–1978), Card Sharks (1978–1981), Password Plus (1979-82), and Mindreaders (1979–1980). Revivals of Password (1971–1975), I've Got a Secret (1972–1973 and 1976), The Price Is Right (1972–present), Match Game (1973–1982), Beat the Clock (1979–1980), and the Barry-Enright game show Concentration (1973–1978). By early 1978 Goodson-Todman was producing 10 shows on 3 different networks. Two unsold pilots were also produced including, It's Predictable (1970) and Spellbinders (1978).
After divorcing his first wife, Goodson married Virginia McDavid, a former Miss Alabama. This marriage also ended in divorce. In a 1968 court battle Goodson won custody of their daughter, Marjorie. He than married Suzanne Waddell, who had once been a guest on 'What's My Line?', in 1972. Their marriage lasted until 1980 when they also divorced.
The Goodson-Todman partnership continued until Todman's death in 1979, after which Goodson acquired the Todman heirs' share of the company, and in 1982 the company was renamed Mark Goodson Productions. The 1980s and 1990s saw a slow down in production and success for the first time since the company was started. New shows included Blockbusters (1980–1982 and 1987), Child's Play (1982–1983), The Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour (1983–1984), Body Language (1984–1986), Super Password (1984-1989) and Trivia Trap (1984–1985). There was also revivals of To Tell the Truth (1980–1981), Tattletales (1982–1984), Card Sharks (1986–1989), Classic Concentration (1987–1991), Family Feud (1988–1995), Now You See It (1989), Match Game (1990–1991) and To Tell the Truth (1990–1991). A large number of unsold pilots were also produced, including Puzzlers (1980), Star Words (1983), Concentration (1985), Now You See It (1985), Oddball (1986), TKO (1989), Body Talk (1990) and Family Feud Challenge (1992 format). TKO is credited as the last original non-revival idea to come from the most prolific game show producer in television history.
In 1990, Goodson received the "Lifetime Achievement Award for Daytime Television", which was presented to him by Betty White. He also won two Emmy Awards in 1951 and 1952 and Great Britain's National TV Award in 1951. He received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, for his work in television, which is located at 6374 Hollywood Blvd, and he was inducted into the Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame.
He served as a trustee at the Museum of Television and Radio(1985-92), was a member of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, and was a member of the Board of Directors at the American Film Institute (1975-92). He was very philanthropic, the Mark Goodson Building at Cedars Sinai Medical Center is named in his honor.
Goodson died of pancreatic cancer on Friday, December 18, 1992 in New York City. He is buried at Hillside Memorial Park in Culver City, California, where the inscription on his tombstone is designed to resemble the Mark Goodson Productions logo. He was survived by his two children by his first wife, Jill (Goodson) Bishop (born September 8, 1942) and Jonathan Michael Goodson (born August 20, 1945), a daughter, Marjorie (Goodson) Cagle (born October 1, 1962), by his second wife, and six grandchildren. He was also survived by his brother, Elmer Marvin Goodson (November 6, 1918-July 7, 2007), who was an attorney.
Three years after his death, to pay off a massive inheritance tax, Goodson's family sold the rights to the library of his shows to All-American Television, which was subsequently taken over by Pearson Communications, and in turn, was acquired by FremantleMedia which now owns the rights to the library from Mark Goodson Productions. The Goodson and Todman families have been counted among the wealthiest in show business, with a reported value in the hundreds of millions. Goodson's son, Jonathan, has continued with new game show concepts. He joined the company in 1973 as legal counsel, but began production work with the company's shows, including the original version of Card Sharks and eventually producing the 1990 Version of Match Game. He became President and CEO of the company after Goodson’s death, while Howard Todman served as treasurer, and stayed with the company until 1998. He left to start his own production company, Jonathan Goodson Productions, which produces both state lottery game shows and original game show concepts.
|2. Abraham Ellis Goodson (1876-1954)|
|5. Meckly "Michele" _____ (born about 1842)|
|1. Mark Goodson (1915-1992)|
|6. _____ Krasik|
|3. Fannie Krasik (1887-1986)|
|7. _____ Smehoff|
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