Birthday: September 16, 1914
Reality TV Personalities
Died At Age: 84
Sun Sign: Virgo
Also Known As: Allen Albert Funt
Born in: New York City, New York, U.S.
Famous as: Television Host
Spouse/Ex-: Evelyn Kesler, Marilyn Ina Laron
father: Isidore Funt
mother: Paula Saferstein
children: John, Patricia, Peter
Died on: September 5, 1999
place of death: Pebble Beach, California, U.S.
City: New York City
U.S. State: New Yorkers
education: Cornell University, Pratt Institute
Allen Funt was an American television producer, best remembered as the creator and host of the television series ‘Candid Camera’. After completing his graduation, he pursued a career in broadcasting along with the hobby of thinking up gimmicks for radio shows before he served in the Army Signal Corps during World War II. While stationed at war, he developed a keen interest in the wireless portable recorders. His idea was to use hidden cameras and microphones to record people’s responses as they dealt with uncanny and bizarre situations. Initially, it started off as a radio show for a couple of years and later premiered on television as ‘Candid Camera’. The show was an instant hit among the masses because it captured real-time reactions of people and did not contain any form of pre-scripted drama. The hidden cameras caught ordinary citizens unaware of the shocking situations and recorded their reactions. He appeared in many stunts himself and every one of his gag concluded with the catch-phrase, "Smile, you're on Candid Camera". Along with his television show, he also produced two feature films, wrote three books and recorded several albums, nearly all built on the concept of the hidden camera. He was a pioneer of world television who created an entire new programming genre for future generations, popularly known as reality-based television in the current times.
Childhood & Early Life
He was born on September 16, 1914 in New York, U.S. to Isidore Funt, a diamond wholesaler, and his wife, Paula Saferstein. He had an elder sister, Dorothy.
He received his early education from the New Utrecht High School, Brooklyn, New York. After high school, he got enrolled at the Cornell University from where he earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts in 1934.
Then he went to Columbia University for a while and later attended the Pratt Art Institute, Brooklyn for a year before taking up a job.
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He started his career with a job in the art department of an advertising agency. Later he joined the world of broadcasting, working alongside Eleanor Roosevelt, the longest-serving First Lady of the United States, on her radio commentaries. He also provided gags for the hit quiz show ‘Truth or Consequences’, hosted by Ralph Edwards.
During the Second World War, he was drafted in the US Army Signal Corps and was stationed in Oklahoma where he served from 1943 to 1945. While serving in the army, he thought of an idea to record the complaints of fellow army men for broadcasting. But as the soldiers were hesitant to do so, he formulated the idea of a hidden microphone to record them which proved to be very amusing.
In 1946, he began the show titled ‘Candid Microphone’ on ABC Radio to record spontaneous reactions of people in weird situations. Initially he would lure victims into his office, with an offer or for some help, but later, with the introduction of portable recorders, he used to roam around to record material for his radio show.
On August 10, 1948, ABC aired the show on television under the same name which consisted of some footage in the form of theatrical short films showing the common people getting startled by the gags.
In 1949, the show was transferred to NBC as ‘Candid Camera’ and in 1960, CBS selected it for a seven-year broadcast.
The show became an immediate success among the audiences and played on all three major networks in the United States, achieving top ratings both on the networks and in syndication. One of its early hilarious gags included a sequence in which a car came down a hill and pulled up in front of a passer-by, the driver asking for help to get it started. When the hood was raised, people were shocked and confused to see that there was no engine.
Some of its other unusual gags included ‘talking mailboxes’ or ‘bowling balls without holes’. In a classic stunt, members of his crew rode on an elevator facing the rear rather than the door. Soon, the general public would also turn around creating an uncanny comical situation. Another one of his social psychological experiments included two doors in a corridor, one with a sign reading, ‘Use Other Door’, and the other ‘Do Not Enter’.
He also produced two movies which belonged to the same genre of reality-based television. One of his movies was ‘What Do You Say to a Naked Lady?’ (1970), an adult film featuring reactions of different people to a number of erotic situations. His second production was ‘Money Talks’ (1972), in which people expressed their opinions towards money unaware of the fact that they are being filmed.
He also wrote several books in his career such as ‘Eavesdropper at Large: Adventures in Human Nature with "Candid Mike"’ (1952), ‘Candid Kids’ (1964) and ‘Candidly, Allen Funt: A Million Smiles Later’ (1994).
After he retired due to poor health in 1993, the show was continued by his son, Peter Funt. The show went off the air and made comebacks several times throughout the years, as either a regular show or a series of specials.
Personal Life & Legacy
In 1946, he married Evelyn Kesler. The couple was blessed with three children; two sons, Peter and John, and a daughter, Patricia. The couple got divorced in 1964.
In 1964, he married Marilyn Ina Laron. The couple had two children, William and Juliet. This marriage too ended in divorce.
In 1993, he suffered a stroke and remained ill thereafter. He died on September 5, 1999, in Pebble Beach, California.