Here’s What Happened to the ‘Match Game’ Celebrity Panelists Before, During and After the Show

From pretty much the beginning, game shows have played an important role in the history of television, from 1938’s Spelling Bee to 1941’s Truth of Consequences to the still reigning Wheel of Fortune, The Price is Right and Jeopardy. In between there have been dozens of others, with hosts like Monty Hall, Bob Barker and Gene Rayburn becoming as recognizable (if not more so) than many prime time stars. And for a time, Gene ruled with Match Game, which, in its most famous incarnation, had players (and viewers) attempting to match their answers with half a dozen celebrities.

“The 60s version of March Game that ran on NBC from 1962 to 1969 featured a lot of celebrity guests,” explains A. Ashley Hoff, author of Match Game 101: A Backstage History of Match Game (“A fabulous gift for all the pop culture junkies and game show fans in your life,” he laughs), “ranging from bona-fide movie stars like Gloria Swanson, Lauren Bacall, and Joan Fontaine to Broadway director Abe Burrows; a young Liza Minelli did the show with Dustin Hoffman just before he hit it big with The Graduate. But it was the party atmosphere of the even bigger seventies version that really set the bar.”

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From the Collection of A. Ashley Hoff

In Closer’s recent profile of Gene Rayburn, game show historian and Gene’s biographer, Adam Nedeff, detailed that Match Game ended its first run on NBC in 1969, but was resurrected in 1973 thanks to the success of The Hollywood Squares. While that show featured nine celebrities, Match Game would go with six and change from its original incarnation in that instead of competing teams, the show would feature two contestants playing for themselves while they did their best to match their answers with the celebrities on stage. “In the 1970s,” he says, “it just became a classic example of everything working.”

As to the celebrities themselves, Ashley details that “Richard Dawson was the first ‘regular’ and there from the beginning; Brett Somers and Charles Nelson Reilly each began during the third week of the show and their chemistry was so perfect that they were made regulars. For most of the regular run, these three set personalities anchored the show, followed by a rotating cast of semi-regulars like Betty White, Debralee Scott, and Patti Deutsch, plus the occasional one-off guest like Charlene Tilton, Rita Moreno (who had done the NBC Match Game a number of times) and Della Reese.”

Please scroll down for much more on the celebrities of Match Game.