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George Fenneman; ‘You Bet Your Life’ Announcer

TIMES STAFF WRITER

George Fenneman, the veteran radio and television announcer with the suave looks and mellifluous voice who was best known as a foil for Groucho Marx on “You Bet Your Life,” has died. He was 77.

Fenneman, who also was host of several game shows and the announcer for Jack Webb’s “Dragnet,” died Thursday in his Los Angeles home of respiratory failure.

“Listen, those were the biggest 15 years of my life,” Fenneman told The Times in 1975 when KTLA-TV Channel 5 began showing reruns Marx’s 1950s comedic game show. “ ‘You Bet Your Life’ was my career.”

In the early days of the show, which began on radio in 1947 and on television in 1950, Fenneman was a straightforward announcer reading commercials. But Marx quickly made him the scorekeeper; he was frequently on camera and became a target of the comedian’s barbed asides.

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“I don’t know exactly what we had--what kind of chemistry--but it worked,” Fenneman said. “I guess I was the underdog.”

Customarily unflappable, Fenneman often got flustered trying to maintain his dignity with Marx or with the Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis comedy team, whose television show he also announced.

Martin and Lewis, Fenneman said, would shower him with sheet music or cut off his tie while he was on camera selling cigarettes.

Fenneman’s own shows in those early days of television included “Anybody Can Play,” “The Perfect Husband,” “Talk About Pictures” and “Your Funny Funny Films,” featuring viewers’ home movies. He also was host of a highly regarded KCET-TV program, “On Campus.”

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From 1978 until 1995, Fenneman was the television spokesman for Home Savings of America.

Fenneman is survived by his wife of 54 years, Peggy; his son, Clifford; and two daughters, Beverly and Georgia.

The family has asked that memorial donations be made to a hospice organization, Project Night Light, 1313 Vine St., Los Angeles, CA 90024.


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