There’s a good chance you’ve heard of Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen before. Before his death in 1979, he wrote 73 books and hosted a popular radio show for twenty years before switching to television for another fifteen or so. His prime-time TV program had 30 million weekly viewers and won 2 Emmys. Fulton Sheen was the face of American Catholicism and a faithful and inspiring one at that.
Given his show’s popularity (8,500 fan letters per week) it’s only natural that he was a special celebrity guest on what turned into the Longest Running Prime-Time Broadcast Television Game Show: What’s My Line. On the show a panel of celebrities ask a mystery guest questions, trying to figure out their “line” of work. For celebrity guests, they had to discover their identity.
It’s a treat that Bishop Sheen’s appearance on the show has made its way to YouTube. A few comments on what makes his appearance so special appear below the video.
A “Reel” Gem
A few little details make this video something special. Here’s why I Love this clip:
- 0:16 – The 15 seconds of applause when he the audience learns that he’s the guest is even remarked on by a panelist: “That is the most solid round of applause I’ve heard in a long time.”
- 2:01 – Sheen mentions the name of actor Charles Boye and the host cracks up. I don’t get the joke (a quick Wikipedia search didn’t help) but I love seeing the host’s joy. And speaking of his joy, it’s a treat to watch him throughout this video. The whole time he has a boyish grin on his face, and almost bounces in his seat. He is loving that the Fulton Sheen is the guest. He is giddy in anticipation for the panel to discover who’s with them and you can tell.
- 2:26 – “Weekly on television and non-profit?” A comment meaning to get a laugh from the audience (which it does, big time) but also cracks the case wide open. Everyone found it so funny because it sounds like a terrible program, a failure, but Sheen’s show was beyond popular.
- 3:20 – The panel’s reaction when they figure it out. They are excited, starstruck, even. And all this by a man of God.
- 3:25 – The host can’t help but honor the Bishop: “If I may, breaking some of the rules, Sir, may I say that we’re very happy that you’re on my home network, ABC.
- 3:37 – A gesture of generosity and support. Contestants won more money the longer it took the panel to guess their identity. The panel figured it out quickly, but the host flips all the cards over, giving the Bishop the maximum winnings (about $450 in 2017 dollars), which Sheen asks to be sent to support the 300 leper colonies run by the Propagation of the Faith. The host replies, “That we will, Sir, and add some more to it!”
- 4:11 – All of the panelists seem genuinely happy to meet him. I was especially touched by Dorothy Kilgallen (the only Catholic on the show) bending down to kiss his hand/ring.
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