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July 10, 2006

Comedian Jan Murray Passes

Prolific Actor, Game Show Host

Beverly Hills, CA Jan Murray, a stand-up comedian who became one of the stars of television’s early years as the host of several popular game shows, died Sunday, July 2, at his home in Beverly Hills. Murray, who was 89, had been ailing from complications due to pneumonia and emphysema.

Like several New York comics of the 1940s and early 1950s, including Sid Caesar and Milton Berle, Murray began his career in clubs and vaudeville, segued into radio and later flourished in the fledgling medium of television.

Murray made his breakthrough as the witty host of several TV game shows, including Songs For Sale, which began as a radio show and aired on television from 1950 to 1952, Dollar a Second, which aired from 1953 to 1957, and Treasure Hunt, which aired from 1956 to 1959, and which he also created and produced.

Despite strong ratings, Treasure Hunt was canceled in the aftermath of scandals surrounding the game shows Twenty One and The $64,000 Question. From 1960 to 1962, Murray hosted another show, Charge Account.

The son of Eastern European immigrants, he was born Murray Janofsky on October 4, 1916, in the Bronx. He developed an interest in show business as a child, when his mother would take him to burlesque and vaudeville shows. He began performing in his teens, and eventually built an audience of admirers through performances at the Melody Theater in Union City, New Jersey, and so-called “borscht belt” venues in the Catskill Mountains.

In addition to his work on game shows, Murray continued to perform as a stand-up comedian, made frequent appearances in Las Vegas and also acted in several movies, including Who Killed Teddy Bear?, Tarzan and the Great River and The Busy Body, and TV series such as Dr. Kildare, Mannix, and Love American Style. He also filled in for Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show.

Murray’s first marriage, to Pearl Cohen, ended in divorce. He is survived by his second wife, Kathleen Mann, a son from his first marriage and a son and two daughters from his second. He also leaves behind eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

J. Morales

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