Ludden on the game show Stumpers!, 1976
Allen Packard Ellsworth
October 5, 1917
Mineral Point, Wisconsin, U.S.
|Died||June 9, 1981 (aged 63)|
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Alma mater||University of Texas|
|Occupation||Game show host, television personality, actor, singer|
(m. 1943; died 1961)
Betty White (m. 1963)
Allen Ludden (born Allen Packard Ellsworth, October 5, 1917 – June 9, 1981) was an American television personality, actor, emcee and game show host, perhaps best known for having hosted various incarnations of the game show Password between 1961 and 1980.
Allen Ludden was the first child of Elmer Ellsworth, a Nebraska native living in Mineral Point, Wisconsin, and working as an ice dealer; and his wife Leila M. Allen, a Wisconsin native and housewife. Elmer Ellsworth died the next winter at age 26, a victim of the worldwide Spanish flu epidemic, on January 6, 1919.
When Allen was about five years old, his mother remarried, to Homer Ludden, Jr., an electrical engineer and the son of H.D. Ludden, the town physician, a Chicago native who had practiced in Mineral Point since 1906. Allen was given his adoptive father's name and became Allen Ellsworth Ludden. The family lived briefly in the Wisconsin cities of Janesville, Elkhorn, Antigo and Waupaca before moving to Texas when Allen was nine years old.
Education and career
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An English and dramatics major at the University of Texas (now known as the University of Texas at Austin), Ludden graduated with Phi Beta Kappa honors in 1940 and received his Master of Arts in English from the same university in 1941. He served in the U.S. Army as officer in charge of entertainment in the Pacific theater, received a Bronze Star, and was discharged with the rank of captain in 1946. During the late 1940s and early 1950s he carved out a career as an adviser for youth in teen magazine columns and on radio. His radio show for teenagers, Mind Your Manners, received an honorable mention Peabody Award in 1950.
Ludden hosted many game shows, including the GE College Bowl, but he was most well known for hosting both the daytime and prime time versions of Password on CBS and ABC between 1961 and 1975. His opening TV catch phrase, "Hi doll," was directed toward his beloved real-life mother-in-law, Tess White, mother of Betty White.
Ludden began hosting an updated version of the game, Password Plus, on NBC, in 1979, but chemotherapy treatments for stomach cancer forced him off the show in late October 1980. Other shows hosted by Ludden include Liar's Club, Win with the Stars, and Stumpers! He also hosted the original pilot for The Joker's Wild and hosted a talk-variety show, Allen Ludden's Gallery.
At the request of the publishers Dodd, Mead & Co., Ludden wrote and published four books of "Plain Talk" advice, plus a youth novel, Roger Thomas, Actor (1959), all for young readers. He received the 1961 Horatio Alger Award. He released an album called Allen Ludden Sings His Favorite Songs on RCA Records in 1964.
Ludden married Margaret McGloin on October 11, 1943. She died of cancer on October 30, 1961, just 2½ weeks after their 18th wedding anniversary. They had a son, David, and two daughters, Martha and Sarah.
He proposed to twice-divorced Betty White, whom he had met on Password, at least twice before she accepted. Their romance blossomed when they played summer stock together, in the play Critic's Choice in 1962. They also appeared together in the romantic comedy Janus in 1963. They were married on June 14, 1963, and remained together until Ludden's death; White has never remarried. They appeared together in an episode of The Odd Couple in which Felix and Oscar appeared on Password. Ludden also appeared as a guest panelist on Match Game, with White sitting in the audience (she was prompted to rip apart one of Ludden's wrong answers on camera during an episode of Match Game '74; the two appeared together on the panel in 1975, and on Match Game PM in 1980).
After Ludden was diagnosed with stomach cancer in early 1980, he took a month-long leave of absence from Password Plus for chemotherapy treatment, with Bill Cullen filling in as host. On October 7, he slipped into a coma while on vacation in Monterey, California. It was initially reported that he had suffered a stroke, but the coma was actually caused by high levels of calcium from medication taken to help fight the cancer. Tom Kennedy assumed duties as host of Password Plus, and although Ludden hoped to return to the show, his cancer grew worse and he never returned. Ludden died in Los Angeles on June 9, 1981, at age 63, just five days before his 18th wedding anniversary. Ludden was buried beside his father in the Ellsworth family plot in Graceland Cemetery in his hometown of Mineral Point, Wisconsin.
A walkway at the Los Angeles Zoo was named in his memory (Betty White is a board member at the Zoo) and an artificial lake in Mineral Point was named Ludden Lake in his honor. Betty White also donated a Labrador Retriever named "Ludden" to Guide Dogs for the Blind in San Rafael, California, in memory of her late husband.
Ludden is mentioned in passing in an episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show entitled "Don't Break the Chain" (Season Two, Episode 10), in reference to his allegedly sending the character Lou Grant a chain letter.
The Allen Ludden Papers collection is located at the Free Public Library in his native Mineral Point, Wisconsin. The items include letters written or received by Ludden, typed radio scripts, newspaper and magazine clippings by or about Ludden, publicity photographs and personal photographs, and a broken pair of horn-rimmed glasses. The collection was donated by his widow, Betty White.
- "Elmer Dale Ellsworth (Obituary)". Iowa County Democrat. Mineral Point. January 9, 1919. p. 1.
- "Ludden Finds 'Password' to Success". Green Bay Press Gazette. July 8, 1962. p. 44. Retrieved April 19, 2018 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Allen Ludden, TV Host, Is Dead; On 'College Bowl' and 'Password'". The New York Times. June 10, 1981. p. B6.
- "Mind Your Manners". The Peabody Awards. Retrieved 24 August 2018.
- White, Betty (October 12, 2010). Here We Go Again: My Life In Television 1949-1995. New York City: Scribner. ISBN 978-1451614268. Retrieved August 24, 2018.
- "Members". Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans. Retrieved August 24, 2018.
- White, Betty. Here We Go Again: My Life In Television 1949-1995. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 1995.
- King, Susan (June 17, 2009). "Betty White keeps saying yes to life's proposal". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 6, 2017.
- "Production History". Cape Playhouse. Archived from the original on February 6, 2017. Retrieved February 6, 2017.
- Daily Variety; October 9, 1980; Page 19
- Bechen, Brooke (June 20, 2013). "Local men pay tribute to Allen Ludden by cleaning tombstone". Dodgeville Chronicle. Retrieved August 24, 2018.
- "Stories: Shelley Rhodes". Guide Dogs for the Blind. Archived from the original on 2017-07-02.
- Weiss, Shari (April 9, 2011). "Betty White: Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan are 'ungrateful' actors who 'abuse' their fame". New York Daily News. Retrieved January 18, 2014.
- "The Mineral Point Archives". Mineral Point Public Library. Archived from the original on 2008-05-14.
- The Allen Ludden & Betty White Archive
- Allen Ludden's biography
- Allen Ludden at Find a Grave
- Allen Ludden on IMDb
| Host, College Bowl
| Host, Password, Password Plus
1961-1967, 1971-1975, 1979-1980 (interrupted by Bill Cullen in 1980)
| Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Game Show Host