George Fenneman, the gracious sidekick to comedian Groucho Marx on television’s “You Bet Your Life,” has died of complications related to emphysema. He was 77.
Fenneman died Thursday at his Los Angeles home, his wife, Peggy, said Wednesday.
Bob Dwan, director of the long-running quiz show that featured the wisecracking Groucho and the deferential Fenneman, said the entertainer’s courtly manner made him the ideal straight man.
“He was the perfect foil for Groucho,” Dwan said of Fenneman, who was often the good-natured butt of Marx’s jokes. “We didn’t pick him for that reason, however. We picked him because he was very bright, someone who could keep track of the quiz score and do the math on the spot.”
Fenneman joined the show in 1950, the year it moved from radio to television, and stayed with it until it went off the air in 1961.
“George’s main principle was that he didn’t tell the jokes, no matter how good a reply he might have,” Dwan said. “He knew what his role was, and he was, above all, a gentleman.”
The entertainer’s voice also was heard during the 1950s as one of the “Dragnet” announcers who proclaimed of the crime drama viewers were about to see: “The names have been changed to protect the innocent.” As recently as 1993, he performed the “Dragnet” voice on “The Simpsons.”