TV’s ‘Let’s Make a Deal’ host and philanthropist
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Monty Hall, the genial TV game show host whose long-running “Let’s Make a Deal” traded on love of money and merchandise and the mystery of which door had the car behind it, has died. He was 96.
Hall, who had been in poor health, died Saturday morning of heart failure at his home in Beverly Hills, said his daughter Sharon Hall of Los Angeles.
“Let’s Make a Deal,” which Hall co-created, debuted as a daytime show on NBC in 1963 and became a TV staple. Through the next four decades, it also aired in prime time, in syndication and, in two brief outings, with hosts other than Hall at the helm.
Contestants were chosen from the studio audience — outlandishly dressed as animals, clowns or cartoon characters to attract the host’s attention — and would start the game by trading an item of their own for a prize. After that, it was matter of swapping the prize in hand for others hidden behind doors, curtains or in boxes, presided over by Carol Merrill.
The query “Do you want Door No. 1, No. 2 or No. 3?” became a popular catch phrase, and the chance of winning a new car a matter of primal urgency. Prizes could be a car or a mink coat or a worthless item dubbed a “zonk.”
The energetic, quickthinking Hall, with his sideburns and colorful sports coats, was deemed the perfect host in Alex McNeil’s reference book, “Total Television.”
“Monty kept the show moving while he treated the outrageously garbed and occasionally greedy contestants courteously; it is hard to imagine anyone else but Hall working the trading area as smoothly,” McNeil wrote.
For Hall, the interaction was easy.
“I’m a people person,” he said on the PBS documentary series “Pioneers of Television.” “And so I don’t care if they jump on me, and I don’t care if they yell and they fainted — those are my people.”
After five years on NBC, “Let’s Make a Deal” moved to ABC in 1968 and aired on the network through 1976, including prime-time stints. It went into syndication in the 1970s and ’80s, returning to NBC in 1990-91 and again in 2003.
Hall also guest-starred in sitcoms and appeared in TV commercials.
And with the wealth that the game show brought, he made philanthropy and fundraising his avocation. He spent 200 days a year at it, he said, estimating in the late 1990s that he had coaxed $700 million from donors.
His daughter Sharon estimated that Hall managed to raise nearly $1 billion for charity over his lifetime.
Born Monty Halparin in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in Canada, Hall grew up during the Depression. In 1942, Hall was doing manual labor at the time when a wealthy stranger offered to pay for his college education on condition that he repaid the money, got top grades, kept his benefactor’s name anonymous and agreed to help someone else.
Hall only revealed the name of the late Max Freed about 30 years later.
Hall earned a degree from the University of Manitoba with the goal of becoming a physician. He was denied entry to medical school, Hall later said, because he was Jewish and faced quotas limiting the admission of minority students.
Instead, he turned to entertainment. He first tested his skills on radio and, after moving to New York in 1955 and later to Los Angeles, began working on a variety of television shows.
He joined with writerproducer Stefan Hatos to create “Let’s Make a Deal.”
“Let’s Make a Deal,” which Monty Hall co-created and hosted, featured contestants in outlandish garb.