Wednesday, June 18, 2014

What's My Wednesday? #6: Sweet Mystery

Today's mystery challenger (and Birthday Girl - an I'm sure still elegant 111) may now be the most unfashionable of Hollywood greats, but she nonetheless gets that satisfying murmur of appreciation from the audience as she she appears...

By the time she was on What's My Line? (In December of 1952), Jeannette MacDonald had been a star for nearly 30 years, first on Broadway and then, of course, as the Queen of the Refined Musical in film.  If by the end of her on-screen years - she made her last film three years before she was a Mystery Challenger - she had succumbed to a serious case of Great Lady Syndrome, here she's pretty entirely charming, even if she doesn't come close to stumping the panel.

If you're interested, it's a solid episode overall, with the other guests including a lady horse trainer, a maker of gold bricks, and in a hurried final segment, a TV sound effects man.  The great mystery here isn't really the professions, but rather what exactly is it that Dorothy has stuck in her hair.  They appear to be some kind of metallic version of the kinds of rubber flowers in those days attached to your fancier bathing caps.

These early editions of the show (it was just two years into its long run at this point) are especially fun; they're still working out the timing, and it's amazing how improvised - and tiny - the set seems to be.  The panel sits shoulder to shoulder, and it's clear in longer shots that what they're sitting on are ordinary office chairs.  Still, all the elements are in place, Arlene is wearing her diamond heart, and all's well with the world.  If you ask me, she's one of the great sweet mysteries, if not of life, then at least of classic TV...


  1. I loved watching these episodes when they were a late-night staple on cable TV. I still remember the man who stumped the panel: He was Kennedy's hat maker, and was working on the hat the newly elected president would wear for his inauguration. (For which Kennedy famously went hatless.)

  2. A fun segment! While Jeanette's type of voice is not my favorite and the films with Nelson Eddy are where in my opinion she is at her worst she is charm itself here. She was much more fun in her earlier films and sent up her image most pointedly in the little known but light and breezy Cairo where she is paired oddly but pleasingly with Ethel Waters.

    Those starburst flowers in Dorothy's hair look like decorations you would see on a birthday present, they do her no favors.