Merv Griffin Biography

Talk Show Host, Film Actor, Actor, Theater Actor, Television Actor, Television Producer, Singer(1925–2007)
Merv Griffin was an American television host, singer and business magnate. He created the game shows Jeopardy!, Wheel of Fortune and Click.

Synopsis

Merv Griffin was an American television host and business magnate. From a love of puzzles and games, he built an empire. His game shows, talk show, hotels, and other media commodities made him one of the richest men in the world. He first conceived the show Jeopardy! in 1964, then Wheel of Fortune in '75. He purchased the Beverly Hilton Hotel in the 1980s. Griffin died of prostate cancer in 2007.

Early Life and Career

Mervyn Edward Griffin Jr., was born July 6, 1925, in San Mateo, California. He learned how to play piano from an aunt was soon playing the pipe organ and singing in churches.

At age 19, Griffin abandoned his college studies for show business, singing on San Francisco Sketchbook, a nationally syndicated program based at radio station KFRC. Freddy Martin, a fan of the show, asked Griffin to tour with his big band orchestra, which he did for four years.

He earned enough to form his own record label, Panda Records. His self-released album Songs by Merv Griffin (1946) was the first U.S. album to be mastered on magnetic tape. Griffin's fame soared when he struck gold in 1950 with "I've Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts," which sold over three million copies.

During one of his nightclub performances, Griffin was discovered by Doris Day, who arranged for a screen test at Warner Bros. Studios. He appeared in a number of hit movies before turning his focus to television. One of his films, So This Is Love (1953), featured the first open-mouthed kiss shown in theaters.

Griffin started appearing regularly on television shows as The Arthur Murray Dance Party and The Jack Paar Show. He hosted a game show, Play Your Hunch from 1958 to 1962.

Griffin became a substitute host for Jack Paar on The Jack Paar Tonight Show and scored some of the show's highest ratings. As a result, NBC gave him his own daytime talk show, which debuted on the same day Johnny Carson first hosted The Tonight Show on October 1, 1962.

The program was canceled after its first season, but The Merv Griffin Show returned as a syndicated program in 1965. He then received an offer to host a new game show, Word for Word, in 1963, which he produced as well. An avid fan of puzzles since childhood, this led him to conceive the idea for and produce Jeopardy! (1964), one of the most successful game shows in television history.

Television Career

In 1965, Griffin launched a syndicated talk show for Group W Westinghouse Broadcasting. The Merv Griffin Show featured an eclectic mix of guests. As host, he is noted for putting his subjects at ease, but while he was not regarded as a tough or penetrating interviewer, Griffin was not shy about tackling controversial subjects, including the Vietnam War.

In 1969, CBS hired Griffin to directly compete with Johnny Carson. But he began to be harassed by CBS executives who objected to the antiwar statements of his guests and who had wanted to fire his long-term sidekick and mentor, Arthur Treacher, because he was too old.

The CBS show was canceled in 1972 and Griffin returned to syndication, via Metromedia for the next 14 years.

In 1975, when NBC canceled Jeopardy!, he was allowed to produce the show's successor, Wheel of Fortune. A modest hit on daytime television, it became a phenomenon in 1983 in the syndication market with Pat Sajak and Vanna White. A revival of Jeopardy! in 1984 was also a huge success, making Griffin an extremely wealthy man.

The sale of Merv Griffin Productions to Columbia Pictures (then-owned by Coca-Cola) in 1986 netted him $250 million. He also became a real estate mogul, purchasing the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills and a ranch near Carmel, California, where he raises thoroughbred racing horses.

In March 2001, the Gold Label released his new CD, It's Like a Dream, for which he composed the title song.

Griffin received a Lifetime Achievement Daytime Emmy Award in 2005.

Griffin was married to Julann Elizabeth Wright in 1958 (divorced in 1976). They had a son, Tony, in 1959, and two grandchildren.

Griffin, who escorted actress Eva Gabor of "Green Acres" for nine years before her 1995 death, refrained from discussing his personal relationships in detail. In 1991, he was sued for $200 million by a former male employee, Brent Plott, on palimony charges, and for $11.5 million by former Dance Fever host Deney Terrio for sexual harassment. Both suits were ultimately dismissed.

In July 2007, he was admitted to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles after a recurrence of the prostate cancer he had battled in 1996 was found during a routine examination. Merv Griffin, big band-era crooner, talk-show host and entertainment mogul, died of prostate cancer on August 12, 2007. He was 82.

Later Years

In March 2001, the Gold Label released his new CD, It's Like a Dream, for which he composed the title song.

Griffin received a Lifetime Achievement Daytime Emmy Award in 2005. Griffin was married to Julann Elizabeth Wright in 1958 (divorced in 1976). They had a son, Tony, in 1959, and two grandchildren.

Griffin, who escorted actress Eva Gabor of "Green Acres" for nine years before her 1995 death, refrained from discussing his personal relationships in detail. In 1991, he was sued for $200 million by a former male employee, Brent Plott, on palimony charges, and for $11.5 million by former Dance Fever host Deney Terrio for sexual harassment. Both suits were ultimately dismissed.

In July 2007, he was admitted to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles after a recurrence of the prostate cancer he had battled in 1996 was found during a routine examination. Merv Griffin, big band-era crooner, talk-show host and entertainment mogul, died of prostate cancer on August 12, 2007. He was 82.

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