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NBC logo circa 1930
Information, Please! — The Radio Show
Information, Please! ran as a weekly quiz show on NBC from 1938 to 1952, and was the most literate, long-running radio show of its day.
 


Information, Please! turned traditional quiz programs on their heads by allowing the public to ask questions of a panel of experts, who would then provide the answers, or at least a reply that was entertaining, if not plausible. Listeners from across the country wrote in with questions on topics ranging from performing arts to natural history.

Editorial Cartoons Featuring Information Please
Information, Please! was one of the most popular shows in the Golden Age of radio. The show elevated intelligence and wit as cultural values and allowed everyday Americans to show their smarts. It went on the air just as the United States was emerging from the Great Depression, carried through World War II, and ended as the Golden Age of television began in the Eisenhower 50s. In its heyday the show was a cultural icon — it attracted famous guests, was the subject of editorial cartoons (see gallery), and led to several books and quiz book card games designed for listeners to play the show at home. A set of Information Please film shorts was shown in the early 1940s, and Information Please even had a brief run as a television show in the summer of 1952. The most successful spinoff from the radio show was the Information Please Almanac, an annual volume that first appeared in 1947 and is still published to this day.


Clifton Fadiman was the perfect host. Book review editor of The New Yorker, he was widely read and widely respected. He was warm and witty, able to draw out the best in his guests, and able to sustain the show’s tone of civilized intelligence.

Information, Please! had three regular panelists, who among them were able to answer a great many questions across the spectrum from sports to literature to politics and history.

Oscar Levant
Franklin P. Adams, known as FPA, wrote for the New York Post and was the most popular columnist of his time. Among his famous quotes is one well-suited to Information Please: "I find that a great part of the information I have was acquired by looking up something and finding something else on the way."

John Keiran was a noted sports columnist for the New York Times, whose breadth of knowledge extended well beyond the field of play.

Oscar Levant was a Renaissance man of the arts—a composer, a gifted pianist, and an actor (Band Wagon).

In addition to the regular panelists, Information, Please! had as "guest experts" many of the leading writers, comedians, actors, directors, athletes, historians, and politicians of the day. These included:

Lillian Gish

Alfred Hitchcock
Lillian Gish, actress
Moss Hart, dramatist
Alfred Hitchcock, director
Harold Ickes, Secretary of the Interior under FDR
Boris Karloff, actor
Fiorella LaGuardia, mayor of New York City
Sinclair Lewis, author and Nobel laureate
Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., US Senator
Clare Booth Luce, author and politician
Groucho Marx, actor and comedian
Will Rogers, humorist
Carl Sandburg, poet
Gene Tunney, heavyweight champion and author
Orson Welles, actor and director


The original sponsor of Information, Please! was Canada Dry. Over the years the show was also sponsored by Lucky Strike, Heinz, Mobil, and Parker Pens. The relationship with Canada Dry was a happy one. The ginger-ale maker even funded an "Information, Please! Party Quiz Book" as a premium. However, the battles between the show’s creator and guardian, Dan Golenpaul, and sponsor Lucky Strike, were the stuff of broadcasting legend. As described in the PBS documentary The American Experience: The Rise of Quiz Shows.

"Information Please was ...noteworthy not only for its success, but for its integrity. At the time, radio programs made their way on air in two ways. They were underwritten by big name sponsors, who were expected to be involved with the show, or they were funded by individual producers, making them self-sufficient. Dan Golenpaul, the producer for "Information, Please," earned kudos when he fired the Reynolds Tobacco Company, which had run a series of untruthful commercials and also demanded that panelists on the show smoke its cigarettes."



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