Lost Episode of What’s My Line? Recovered [Updated]

The bulk of an October 1950 episode of What’s My Line? believed to be lost was uploaded to YouTube last night. A 16mm kinescope of the episode was sold on eBay and subsequently digitized and put on YouTube for fans of the series to enjoy. The episode originally aired live on Sunday, October 1st, 1950 with Kathleen Winsor as the mystery guest.

Unfortunately, the kinescope is incomplete. It’s missing part of the fourth round and all of the final round of the episode, plus the closing credits. However, because the recording was started early, it captured the last six minutes of the preceding program: an episode of Celebrity Time with host Conrad Nagel. No episodes of that series are known to exist, so even a short fragment is newsworthy. More importantly, one of the panelists on Celebrity Time was none other than Kyle MacDonnell! I’ll be posting about that a little later.

What’s My Line? originally ran on CBS from 1950 to 1967, producing 876 episodes. According to Wikipedia, it wasn’t until July 1952 that kinescopes were regularly saved and thus only about ten episodes from the first two years are known to exist. That number now increases by one thanks to the recovery of this episode.

(via Steve Hoffman Music Forums)

February 8th, 2016 Update:

Film archivist Stan Taffel, who worked with a What’s My Line? fan to recover the episode, has provided some details on the 16mm print:

There was no paperwork in the can. This was an aircheck print from WCBS-TV in New York. It seems that the motion picture camera that recorded the show began six minutes prematurely which was a secret blessing in that it photographed what is now the only extant footage of the otherwise completely lost “Celebrity Time”. The downside was that the camera ran out of film before the end of the WML episode.

This episode was the eighteenth episode AND the first to be seen on Sunday night at 10:30PM east coast time. As it was before the coaxial cable, the film could only be seen live on the east coast and there weren’t many CBS owned stations back then.

Having this reel of film is a miracle. It is, to the best of my knowledge, the only WCBS-TV with the station promo in existence.

The kinescope was listed on eBay and the fan who operates the What’s My Line? YouTube channel was able to win the auction. The 16mm print was cleaned, repaired, and digitized by Stan and is currently stored in his film archive.


6 Comments

  • ERIC R. PLEASANT says:

    This is one show that I never really got, even the syndicated version that they once had on in the seventies. How it lasted 17 years is a mystery but it does display the diversity that TV of that time had going for it by comparison to today.

  • Patrick McNamara says:

    If I’m not mistaken that’s Jerry Orbach at the newsstand in the beginning.

  • Nathan says:

    I’m so curious to see the lost episode with Veronica Lake. I really really want to see it because it would’ve been right after she chopped all her long locks off. It would be interesting to see the panel’s reaction to her.

  • joe breed says:

    Just found a 16mm what’s my line reel at estate sale. 1950’s — need to take it to library or museum to view it. Anyone know what youtube paid to win bid on ebay for the 1950 lost episode? Also was wondering how to decode the identifying #’s marked on the film leader. Thanks. Breed

    • Gary W. says:

      Breed, I’m sorry I never saw your comment here until today, but I hope you get a notification of my response now. I run the YT channel for WML, and provided the funds to acquire the lost film posted in January. If you get this message, please do send me an email at wgaryw at yahoo.com– i can help (a) identify whatever show this is, and (b) tell you if it’s an otherwise lost show. Hope to hear from you!

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