Saturday, July 8, 2006

Comedian Jan Murray Passes On

Comedian Jan Murray died July 2 at the age 89. He was perhaps best know as the host of the Fifties game show Treasure Hunt and for his many guest appearances.

Jan Murray was born Murray Janofsky in the Bronx on October 4, 1916. As a child he discovered his gift for comedy after watching routines at the local vaudeville theatre. By the time he was 18 he was doing stand up comedy on the vaudeville stage. He later performed at the Catskills and still later became a headliner in Las Vegas.

In 1950 he moved into television as the host of such series as Sing It Again. In 1955 he was the host of his own show, Jan Murray Time. He hosted Treasure Hunt from 1956 to 1959. On the show contestants could pick out a treasure chest--some of which contained large money prizes, while others which would contain some gag prize. After hosting several shows, Murray became a frequent guest star on several series. Among the shows on which he made appearances were The Lucy Show, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Name of the Game, Love American Style, Ellery Queen, and Hunter. He sometimes served as a guest host on The Tonight Show and a panellist on Hollywood Squares. Murray also appeared in such movies as Thunder Alley, The Angry Breed, and History of the World Part I.

I don't remember Jan Murray as a host of various TV shows and game shows, not having been born yet, but I do remember him from his many guest appearances and his stints on Hollywood Squares. Even in dramas his roles were usually comedic ones. And as might be expected of someone who had honed his art on stages in the Catskills, his timing was perfect. Although he may not be one of the best known comedians of the past fifty years, he was certainly one of the best.

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