Dan Enright, pioneering producer of “Tic Tac Dough,” “Twenty-One” and other TV game shows, and a central figure in the show-rigging scandals of the late 1950s, has died. He was 74.
Enright died Friday of cancer in Santa Monica. His longtime companion, Susan Stafford, vice president of public relations for his company, Barry & Enright, was with him at his death.
Along with CBS’ “The $64,000 Question,” which he did not produce, Enright’s innovative show, “Twenty-One,” on NBC was examined in highly publicized congressional hearings and a grand jury investigation.
Although nobody went to jail, the inquiries exposed behind-the-scenes fakery and bounced game shows off television for a decade. New laws were passed forbidding the coaching of contestants and other deceptive practices.
Enright, exiled for years from U.S. television, freely discussed his role last January in a PBS documentary about the game show scandals called “The American Experience.”
He said he and his late partner, Jack Barry, were prodded into rehearsing contestants and giving them answers to some questions on “Twenty-One” after the show’s sponsor, Geritol, warned them never to allow an episode to be as dull as the show’s premier.
“From that moment on,” Enright said, “we decided to rig the show.”
Enright, who bounced back with several successful shows and won an Emmy in 1990, likened his backstage tactics to handing a script to an actor. The game shows, he believed, were designed to entertain rather than establish national standards for honesty and intelligence.
In the documentary, Enright freely acknowledged rehearsing contestants on questions and answers, turning off the air conditioning in the isolation booth to make contestants sweat and dressing contestants in ill-fitting suits with frayed shirts to make them seem penniless. It was Enright who coached contestants to pat--not wipe--a sweaty brow, bite lips, breathe heavily and sigh, stutter and pause before answering to feign tension.
Disgraced, Enright went to work abroad, spending 12 years with Screen Gems, supervising 23 series in Canada, Australia and Germany.
That record enabled him to return to Hollywood and resurrect his company in 1975, recreating the game show format minus the rigging.
He began with the scandal-free “The New Tic Tac Dough” and “The Joker’s Wild” and went on to the successful “Break the Bank” and, outside the game show genre, a controversial show called “Jack Anderson Confidential,” starring the veteran political columnist.
After beginning his career as an audio engineer at WNYC, the New York City public radio station, Enright teamed with Barry in 1947. Barry died in 1984, and Enright continued to head the company until his death.
In 1948, their hit radio show “Juvenile Jury” became the first commercially sponsored television game show on NBC. Their shows also included “Winky Dink,” “Dough Re Mi,” and “Concentration,” the longest-running daytime game show in television history.
Expanding in recent years to television movies and sitcoms, Enright won his Emmy in 1990 for “Caroline?” a CBS Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation.
He also co-produced full-length feature films, including “Next of Kin,” “Private Lessons” and “Making Mr. Right.”
Enright, who grew up in Israel, formed a lifelong affection for that country. He reorganized Israel’s radio network in 1951 and returned in 1971 at the request of Prime Minister Golda Meir to analyze Israeli television.
Enright is survived by his wife, Stella; a son, Don, and a daughter, Erica.
The family has asked that any memorial contributions be made to the John Wayne Cancer Clinic or the AIDS Services Foundation.