If you grow up in the 60s or happen to love watching old gameshow reruns on cable, then chances are you saw the classic tic-tac-toe-ish program The Hollywood Squares. It debuted on NBC in 1966 and ran until 1981. Since then it revives twice – first in 1986 and again in 1998.
The show’s premise is fairly simple. The board of the game is put together in a three-by-three grid with open-face cubes. Each of these occupies by a celebrity panelist sitting at the desk and facing the audience and contestants.
These celebs ask a series of questions by the show’s host. While the contestants are judging the truth of their answers in order to gain fairness. Just like in tic tac toe, if the contestants manage to line up three squares in a role, they win.
One of the things about the game show is memorable, comedic answers, such as ‘zingers’, provided by the celebrity panelists. The show’s production team is the ones that come up with these humorous quips. It means that at least some of the program is indeed scripted, while the gameplay is not.
Peter Marshall hosted the original incarnation of The Hollywood Squares from 1966 to 1988. He additionally held this post for the nighttime syndicated version of Hollywood squares from 1971 to 1981.
Marshall is a multi-talented star who throughout his career amassed more than 50 TV, film, and Broadway credits. Peter is carefree, a typical jovial man who is smart, his life is rife with turmoil and heartache.
At 95, the West Virginia native lives in Palm Desert, California. His health is steadily deteriorating in recent years, and most recently, he survives about with COVID-19 in early 2021. At first, Marshall’s doctors are almost certain that he is going to succumb to the respiratory infection. But he manages to survive the debilitating disease that turns the world upside down for the last two years.
In this video, we’ll be taking a closer look at Peter Marshall’s life and career. You’ll surprise what he’s gone through over the 9+ decades that he is circling on this blue rock. His story isn’t easy to tell, but throughout all of his struggles, he manages to maintain an air of dignity. Starting by taking a trip back in time to see what his childhood and early adult life is like.
Tragedy Struck Early On
There is little that is more heart-wrenching than losing a parent to death. Peter Marshall was born Ralph Pierre LaCock on the 30th of March, 1926, to parents Ralph and Jean LaCock. Marshall becomes famous as an actor, and modeling agency founder John Robert Powers, who grows up in Huntington, West Virginia.
He rears in a show business family. His mother is an aspiring costume designer who works for Macy’s as a sales associate. And his father, who loves theater, works as a pharmacist. At the tender age of 10, the unthinkable happened when Marshall’s dad committed suicide. The reasons that push Ralph to take his own life are financial issues and depression led him to this fate.
Following his father’s death, Peter moves to the Big Apple, New York City, to live with his mother. Trying her best to make a career as a costume designer while preparing Macy’s food and keeping the lights on.
Peter graduated from high school, and he drafts into the armed forces in 1944. He’s in Italy with the US Army and tasks as a DJ at a local radio station in Naples. In 1946, he discharges with the rank of staff sergeant.
Marshall’s older sister, Joan, also shared a love for acting. She becomes a successful actress in such as She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, Red River, and All the King’s Men. In 1950, Dru played the character Denver, a sex worker, and entertainer, in the John Ford film Wagon Train. On that feature, she got to work alongside stars like Ben Johnson, Ward Bond, and Harry Carey Jr.
Dru pass away from a respiratory ailment that develops from lymphatic edema on September 10, 1996. She was 74 when she died in Los Angeles, California. According to Marshall, she developed this condition due to chemotherapy that she had received over the course of her lifetime. Per her wishes, Dru’s cremates and her ashes scattered at sea in the Pacific Ocean.
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Marshall’s Early Acting Career
In the early 50s, Peter was earning a living performing in nightclubs as a part of a comedy act alongside Tommy Noonan.
Noonan and Marshall are essentially families, as Noonan’s half-brother, John Ireland, marry to Peter’s sister Joanne.
Peter was first given a chance to appear on television on a handful of variety shows. That eventually led him to make early appearances in films such as 1951s Starlift, 1959s The Rookie, and 1962s Swingin’ Along.
1958, Marshall appeared in an episode entitled ‘The Big Hoax’ of the syndicated police drama, Harbor Command. In 1963, he played Lucy’s Brother-in-Law Hughie in Lucille Ball’s top-rated CBS sitcom The Lucy Show in the episode ‘Lucy’s Sister Pays A Visit’.
The Hollywood Square And Beyond
Despite occasionally having the roles in movies and television programs, Peter struggles to find regular work in the entertainment industry until his buddy, actor, writer, and producer Moritz Amsterdam, recommended him to the producers of The Hollywood Squares to replace the Bert Parks who had emceed the game show’s pilot.
Peter initially wasn’t keen on accepting the job offer, but he ended up making it so that his rival, comedian Dan Rowan, wouldn’t get the gig. Marshall’s beef with Rowan stemmed from the time that he and Noonan had written some material for Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In. Apparently, Rowan showed little to no respect for the fact that Noonan had been terminally ill at the time.
Marshall only ever expected to spend about 13 weeks hosting the program before he would go back to performing on Broadway. Ultimately, however, he ended up hosting the program for over 5,000 episodes over a period of 15 years.
Peter excelled at his duties as host. He proved to be the perfect comic foil for such wickedly witty panelists as Rose Marie, Jan Murray, Wally Cox, and Rose Marie. The program eventually came to an end in 1981 after NBC decided that it had run its course the year prior.
After The Hollywood Squares axes, Marshall continued to work as a character actor and game show host. Some of his most noteworthy credits post-Squares were in 1982s Fantasy, 1985s All-Star Blitz, 1988s Yahtzee, the 1994 ‘East Hollywood Squares’ sketch on In Living Color, and 1998s The Reel.
In 2002, more than two decades after ending his tenure as host on the original Hollywood Squares, Marshall appeared as a panelist on the rebooted Hollywood Squares hosted by Tom Bergeron during the show’s ‘Game Show Week’. For one day of that week, Marshall even took over as host while Bergeron was the center square panelist.
On the radio, Marshall hosted the popular syndicated mid-day program Music of Your Life for 15 years, reaching American audiences across the country.
Marshall’s final credit was narrating Rose Marie’s documentary film Wait For Your Laugh in 2017. In 2021, Marshall finally retired from show business.
COVID-19 Ran Through Peter’s Life Like A Wrecking Ball
In January 2021, Marshall diagnoses with COVID-19 at the age of 94. Given his advanced age and the severity of the illness, Marshall’s doctors fully expected him to die from the highly-contagious and virulent respiratory disease. In February, he discharges from the hospital in what expects to be a hospice situation. Against all odds, Peter survived the disease at home under the care of a new doctor and around-the-clock nursing care.
In April 2021, Marshall’s third wife, Laurie, told Fox News that her husband didn’t think that he was going to survive his battle with the contagion. For the first two weeks after his diagnosis, Marshall is put into quarantine and is only able to talk to his wife via phone. When Laurie was finally able to see her husband, she described the outlook of his diagnosis as ‘grim’.
Even though Marshall was certainly in a high-risk category, he wasn’t about to let it get the better of him. He simply refused to let his diagnosis be a death sentence. Every time that he spoke to his wife, he wondered if it would be the last time that they would speak. Peter didn’t want to go out like that. It’s that will to live that probably saved his life.
While he needs to let out a sigh of relief after coming out of that situation alive, COVID-19 will once again rock his world when Marshall’s son, 68-year old pineapple farmer Dave LaCock, is diagnosed with COVID-19 in June 2021. By early July, the Hawaii resident’s condition deteriorates to the point that he needs to be put on a ventilator. A little over a month later. Dave passes away. Following his death, Marshall urges his followers on Twitter to get vaccinated before it is too late to do so.
While fortunately, it looks like the pandemic – at least for right now – enters into a less dangerous endemic-like state, COVID-19 will remember as being one of the worse blights to have ever plagued the world. As of March 2022, more than 6 million people globally have died from the disease.
Peter Marshall knows first-hand the pain and misery that this virus can inflict on people. Between COVID, his father’s suicide as a child, and his sister’s death in the late 90s, Peter has had to contend with a great deal of loss in his life. Regardless, he’s still plugging along with the best he can while trying to enjoy the little time that he has left with his wife and family.
Anyway, now it’s your turn to let your voice be heard. Who do you think is the most memorable game show host of all time? And how do you think Peter Marshall stacks up against legendary game show hosts like Alex Trebek, Bob Barker, and Dick Clark? Let us know in the comments.
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