How Jack Nicholson Saved You Bet Your Life

Andy Marx, grandson of Groucho Marx, has written an article for Boing Boing explaining how he received a call from NBC in 1973 about several boxes of old film reels from Groucho’s 1950-1961 game show You Bet Your Life. They would be destroyed if Groucho didn’t want them.

He didn’t but was talked into taking them by Andy and Jack Nicholson, who happened to be visiting that day. The several boxes turned out to be 500. Andy was hired to go through the boxes and watch the reels to determine what was on them. Soon, episodes were being aired on PBS stations and some have since been released on VHS, DVD and selected episodes can be viewed on Netflix.

It’s a good read and a great story. But it’s also a sad one. Here’s what the man on the phone from NBC told Andy:

“We’re trying to clear space for the newer shows. There’s a lot of stuff from the ’50s and ’60s that we’re getting rid of. If Mr. Marx would like it, we’ll be happy to send all of the reels to him.”

There’s no way of knowing what was destroyed from that warehouse or how many shows were impacted. You Bet Your Life would have been destroyed, too, if not for that phone call and the presence of Jack Nicholson.

(via the AMIA-L ListServ)

1 Comment

  • Barry I. Grauman says:

    According to Hector Arce in “The Secret Word Is Groucho”, NBC contacted Groucho’s producer [and partner in “YOU BET YOUR LIFE”] John Guedel when they were “cleaning out” their Fort Lee, New Jersey warehouse in 1973, and asked if he wanted a set of 16mm films of the show for his own personal use, as they were destroying the negatives. “HOW MANY OF THEM DID YOU DESTROY?”, Guedel demanded. About 15 of 250, they shrugged. “STOP! Send everything to me, right now!!”, he insisted. They sent him all the negatives and film prints they had {fortunately, they were mostly intact}.
    NBC also contacted Gary Smith, producer of “HULLABALOO”, and asked if he wanted a complete set of videotapes of the series, as they were going to “wipe” them for the tape stock. He declined….and they erased all but three half-hours from the second season [however, the black and white kinescopes were kept by NBC].

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