The late Merv Griffin (July 6, 1925 - August 12, 2007) was in "Cattle Town" (1952), "So This Is Love" and "The Boy From Oklahoma" (both 1954) and Paul Simon's "One-Trick Pony" (1980). He played (or voiced) himself in other movies, including George Cukor's underrated "Rich and Famous" (1981) and two Steve Martin comedies, "The Man With Two Brains" (1983) and "The Lonely Guy" (1984). Backed by Freddy Martin & His Orchestra, he had a #1 hit in 1950 with "I've Got A Lovely Bunch of Coconuts." His popular daytime TV talk show, where the likes of Orson Welles used to stop by for a chat, ran (with a few brief interruptions, including an abortive shift to late-night) from 1962 to 1986. Not only was he nominated for Emmys (he also won some) and Golden Globes, but he owned the Beverly Hilton Hotel (among others) where the Globes and other award shows were mounted and telecast.
He was one of the richest people in Hollywood, but for a while he was perhaps most famous for "dating"
Zsa Zsa Eva Gabor, if you can believe that. He was also the subject of a recurring impression by Rick Moranis ("Show us your lining... We'll be right back!) on "SCTV" -- perhaps most memorably the "Special Edition" episode in which "The Merv Griffin Show"" metamorphosed into "Close Encounters of the Third Kind."
But Merv's most enduring legacy (somehow it seems right to call him "Merv") was that he created game shows: "Wheel of Fortune" and the king of 'em all, "Jeopardy" -- both of which remain on the air today.
I love "Jeopardy." But back in early April, I was greatly disturbed by the disgraceful (lack of) contestant responses to a Double Jeopardy category called "Foreign Cinema." First, guess which two (TWO!) they got right. Then let me know how you scored:
2) The submarine models for this 1981 German film were also used in "Raiders of the Lost Ark."
3) In this 1957 Ingmar Bergman film, a knight back from the Crusades challenges Death to a chess game for his life.
4) Truffaut provided the story for this 1959 Godard film in which Belmondo plays a hood who kills a cop.
5) This 1963 Fellini film was the basis for the 1982 Broadway musical "Nine."
Doo-doo, doo-doo, doo-doo doooo...
Click below for answers -- er, questions.
1) (Who is) Ang Lee. (They got this one.) 2) (What is) "Das Boot." (Got it on the second try.) 3) (What is) "The Seventh Seal." 4) (What is) "Breathless" (1960). 5) (What is) "8 1/2." (How much more of a hint do you need than that the musical was called "Nine"?)
But tell me: Is anyone else the slightest bit bothered that people who were sharp enough with names and dates and titles to get on "Jeopardy" performed so lamentably in this category? Or are my expectations just unrealistic (again)?