Monty Hall, Co-Creator and Host of ‘Let’s Make a Deal,’ Dies at 96

Monty Hall, Co-Creator and Host of ‘Let’s Make a Deal,’ Dies at 96

Mr. Hall recalled it somewhat differently in 2013: The game changer, he said, was a woman carrying a sign that said, “Roses are red, violets are blue, I came here to deal with you.”

Whatever it was that opened the floodgates, would-be deal makers were soon showing up wearing live-bird hats, Tom Sawyer costumes or boxes resembling refrigerators. Some simply waved signs pleading, “Pick Me.”

Photo

Mr. Hall with contestants on “Let’s Make a Deal” in 1969. Credit ABC Photo Archives, via Getty Images

It was all for the chance to barter their way to a big prize. A woman might sell Mr. Hall the contents of her handbag for $150, and then agree to trade that $150 for whatever was behind a curtain, or in a big box, in the hope that it was something valuable — say, a $759 refrigerator-freezer stocked with $25 worth of cottage cheese and a $479 sewing machine.

She could then compound her glee by being smart enough not to trade it all back for the old purse and whatever amount of cash Mr. Hall had slipped into it — maybe a hefty amount or maybe a measly $27. If she went for the deal that turned out to be a loser, she was, in the language of the show, zonked.

At the end of the show, the two biggest winners were given a shot at the Big Deal. They could trade their winnings for whatever was behind one of three doors: a new car, perhaps, or $15,000 in cash, or, if they were not so lucky, something worth less than what they had traded. All the while, the affable, smooth-talking Mr. Hall gave no hint of where the treasure might lie.

“Monty had to be a very likable con man; he had to convince people to give up a bird in the hand for what’s in the box,” David Schwartz, the author, with Fred Wostbrock and Steve Ryan, of “The Encyclopedia of TV Game Shows,” said in an interview.

Mr. Hall had other responsibilities, too, Mr. Schwartz added: “He had to be a traffic cop, to get a decision out of the contestant without taking a long time. With his great ability to ad-lib, he knew how to keep the show moving.”

Mr. Hall kept “Let’s Make a Deal” moving for most of almost 5,000 broadcasts on NBC, on ABC and in syndication. The show ended its original daytime run in 1976 on ABC. A concurrent syndicated nighttime version lasted until the next year. It occasionally resurfaced over the next decades and, after being off the air for a while, was revived in October 2009 on CBS, with Wayne Brady as host. That version is still on the air.

“Let’s Make a Deal” became such a pop-culture phenomenon that it gave birth to a well-known brain-twister in probability, called “the Monty Hall Problem.” This thought experiment involves three doors, two goats and a coveted prize and leads to a counterintuitive solution.

The show itself could give rise to the unexpected. “You get some strange moments,” Mr. Hall said in 2009. He recalled the day that a contestant was zonked when he chose a curtain behind which he had hoped was a car.

Photo

Mr. Hall with the actor and comedian Wayne Brady in 2009, the year “Let’s Make a Deal” was revived with Mr. Brady as host. Credit Dan Steinberg/Associated Press

“It was an elephant,” Mr. Hall continued. “It freaked — ran backstage, down a ramp and out into the streets of L.A. That’s probably the wildest moment.”

Mr. Hall had his proud moments as well. In 1973 he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 1988, Mr. Hall, who was born in Canada, was named to the Order of Canada by that country’s government in recognition of the millions he had raised for a host of charities. In 2013 he was presented with a lifetime achievement award at the Daytime Emmys.

Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, on Aug. 25, 1921, Monte Halparin (he later changed the spelling of his first name and took the stage name Hall) was one of two sons of Maurice Halparin, a butcher, and the former Rose Rusen, a teacher.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and zoology from the University of Manitoba. But, smitten by applause while appearing in college musicals, he moved to Toronto and began working as an actor and singer. In 1955 he moved again, this time to New York, where he became a regular on “Monitor,” a mix of comedy, music, sports and news on NBC Radio.

Five years later, Mr. Hall moved to Hollywood to host “Video Village,” a CBS TV show on which contestants played the role of “tokens” on a human-size game board. He teamed with the writer and producer Stefan Hatos to create “Let’s Make a Deal” in 1963.

Mr. Hall is survived by a show-business family: two daughters, Joanna Gleason, a Tony Award-winning actress, and Sharon Hall, a television executive; a son, Richard, a producer who won an Emmy for “The Amazing Race”; a brother, Robert Hall, a lawyer; and five grandchildren. His wife of almost 70 years, the former Marilyn Plottel, an Emmy Award-winning television producer, died in June.

Mr. Hall remained involved in “Let’s Make a Deal” to the end, as an owner of the show and an occasional guest. Interviewed in 2013, he gave Mr. Brady, his successor as host, his seal of approval.

“He’s making it his show,” he said. “He’s learning the star of the show is the contestant and to make them feel at home, make them feel like they came to your party.”

Continue reading the main story

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *