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Allen Ludden (October 5, 1917 – June 9, 1981) was an Americanmarker television personality, emcee and game show host.

Early years

He was born as Allen Packard Ellsworth in Mineral Point, Wisconsinmarker. His father, Elmer Ellsworth, died at age 26, on January 6, 1919, when Allen was a toddler. Allen later took the surname "Ludden" from his stepfather.

Education and career

An English and dramatics major at the University of Texasmarker, Ludden graduated with Phi Beta Kappa honors in 1940 and received his Master of Arts in English from the same university in 1941. He served in the U.S. Army, received a Bronze Star, and was discharged with the rank of captain in 1946. During the late 1940s and early 1950s he carved out a career as an advisor for youth in teen magazine columns and on radio. His radio show for teenagers, Mind Your Manners, received a Peabody Award in 1950.

Ludden hosted many game shows, including the GE College Bowl, but he was most well-known for hosting both the daytime and prime time versions of Password on CBS and ABC between 1961 and 1975. His opening TV catch phrase, "Hi doll", was directed toward his beloved real-life mother-in-law, Tess White, mother of Betty White. He ended Password with a "password of the day", and then "So long, see you tomorrow, I hope." Ludden began hosting an updated version of the game, Password Plus, on NBC, in 1979, but chemotherapy treatments for stomach cancer forced him off the show in late October 1980. Tom Kennedy filled in as host during this time. Other shows hosted by Ludden include Liar's Club, Win With the Stars, and Stumpers! He also hosted the original pilot for The Joker's Wild and hosted a talk-variety show, Allen Ludden's Gallery.


Ludden, a Roman Catholic, married Margaret McGloin in 1943. She died from cancer in October 1961, just two weeks after their 18th wedding anniversary. They had a son, David, and two daughters, Martha and Sarah.

He proposed to twice-divorced Betty White, whom he had met on Password, at least twice before she accepted. Eventually, they were married on June 14, 1963, and remained together until Ludden's death. They appeared together in an episode of The Odd Couple that featured Felix's and Oscar's appearance on Password. Ludden also appeared as a guest panelist on Match Game, with White sitting in the audience (she was prompted to rip apart one of Ludden's wrong answers on camera during an episode of Match Game '74; the two appeared together on the panel in 1975).

At the request of the publishers Dodd, Mead & Co., Ludden wrote and published four books of "Plain Talk" advice, plus a youth novel, Roger Thomas, Actor (1959), all for young readers. He received the 1961 Horatio Alger Award.


After Ludden was diagnosed with stomach cancer in early 1980, he took a leave of absence from Password Plus for chemotherapy treatment and returned a month later. (Bill Cullen substituted during this time.) In late October 1980, he slipped into a coma while on vacation. It was initially reported that he had suffered a stroke, but the coma was actually caused by high levels of calcium from medication taken to help fight the cancer. Ludden hoped to return to hosting again, but his cancer grew worse during this time and he never returned. Allen Ludden died in Los Angeles on June 9, 1981, just days before his 18th wedding anniversary with Betty White. He was 63. Ludden was buried beside his father in the Ellsworth family plot in Graceland Cemetery in his hometown of Mineral Point, Wisconsinmarker.

Ludden's best friend Tom Kennedy took over as host of NBC's Password Plus in Ludden's absence, until it left the air in 1982.


Allen Ludden was posthumously awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Famemarker, located today next to that of his widow, Betty White.


A walkway at the Los Angeles Zoomarker was named in his memory (Betty White is a board member at the Zoo) and a man-made lake in Mineral Point was named Lake Ludden in his honor.

In January 2001, TV Guide named Ludden the greatest game-show host of all time.


The Allen Ludden Papers collection is located at the Free Public Library in his native Mineral Point, Wisconsinmarker. The items include letters written or received by Ludden, typed radio scripts, newspaper and magazine clippings by or about Ludden, publicity photographs and personal photographs, and a pair of horn-rimmed spectacles (which are broken). The collection was donated by Betty White.


  1. The Mineral Point Public Library archives - Allen Ludden Papers

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