Many radio and television game shows have their origin in parlour games and it is no surprise to realise that I've Got A Secret was based on the game of "Secret, secret,who's got the secret". The format was simple but very durable. Sitting together on one side of a plain, unadorned set, each of four panelists took a 30-second turn questioning and then guessing a contestant's secret. The contestants were a mixture of ordinary people and celebrities and the panellists were invariably celebrities. Each episode used four contestants and, in the American original, one contestant in each episode was a celebrity. Ordinary contestants received a small money prize if they stumped the panel. In the case of the celebrity contestant, the secret was very often related to some element of their fame. Thus the first episode of Secret in 1952 featured the actor Boris Karloff's revelation was that he was afraid of mice.
The U.S. version of the program was the longest running and most popular game show in the history of the genre. It began in June 1952 and ran on the CBS network until 1967. However it was not quite an overnight success. The premiere episode used a courtroom as the set. Host Garry Moore was pesented as a judge, the contestants as witnesses under cross-examination, and the panellists as the questioning lawyers. CBS cancelled the program after its first season but almost immediately changed its mind and the program resumed after its summer break. Secret became enormously popular and ran for 15 years on network television, a record never equalled by another game show. By the late 1950s it was consistently in the top ten of U.S. television programs; it survived the quiz scandals of 1958-59; its popularity remained intact through the first part of the 1960s. The program was revived for syndication from 1972 to 1973 and also played a short summer stint on CBS in 1976.
I've Got A Secret had three hosts in its time on U.S. television--Garry Moore, Steve Allen, and Bill Cullen. Cullen, a long-time panellist was made famous by the program, but many other panellists were already well-known. Among them were Laraine Day, Orson Bean, Henry Morgan, Jayne Meadows, Faye Emerson and Betsy Palmer. Secret featured several producers including Allan Sherman who was to have his own career in the early 1960s as a comic singer cum satirist.
The program was originated and produced by the inimitable Mark Goodson and Bill Todman. Their partnership in developing successful game show formats had begun in radio in 1946 and I've Got A Secret was one of their earliest programs in television.
Garry Moore (1952-1964)
Steve Allen (1964-1967)
Bill Cullen (1976)
Louise Allbritton (1952)
Laura Hobson (1952)
Walter Kiernan (1952)
Orson Bean (1952)
Melville Cooper (1952)
Bill Cullen (1952-1967)
Kity Carlisle (1952-1953)
Henry Morgan (1952-1976)
Laraine Day (1952)
Eddie Bracken (1952)
Faye Emerson (1952-1958)
Jayne Meadows (1952-1959)
Betsy Palmer (1957-1967)
Bess Myerson (1958-1967)
Pat Collins (1976)
Richard Dawson (1976)
Elaine Joyce (1976)
Mark Goodson, Bill Todman, Allan Sherman
June 1952-June 1953 Thursday 10:30-11:00
July 1953-September 1961 Wednesday 9:30-10:00
September 1961-September 1962 Monday 10:30-11:00
September 1962-September 1966 Monday 8:00-8:30
September 1966-April 1967 Monday 10:30-11:00
June 1976-July 1976 Tuesday 8:00-8:30
Blumenthal, Norman. The TV Game Shows. New York: Pyramid, 1975.
Fabe, M. TV Game Shows. Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1979.
Graham, J. Come on Down!!!: The TV Game Show Book. New York: Abbeville Press, 1988.
Schwartz, D., S. Ryan, and F. Wostbrock, The Encyclopedia of Television Game Shows. New York: Zoetrope, 1987.