Allen Ludden

Allen Ludden

Ludden on the game show Stumpers!, 1976
Born Allen Packard Ellsworth
(1917-10-05)October 5, 1917
Mineral Point, Wisconsin, U.S.
Died June 9, 1981(1981-06-09) (aged 63)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death Stomach cancer
Alma mater University of Texas
Occupation Game show host, television personality, singer
Years active 1949–1981
Spouse(s) Margaret McGloin
(m. 1943; her death 1961)

Betty White
(m. 1963; his death 1981)

Allen Ellsworth Ludden (October 5, 1917 June 9, 1981) was an American television personality, emcee and game show host, perhaps best known for having hosted various incarnations of the game show Password between 1961 and 1980.

Early years

Allen Ludden, born Allen Packard Ellsworth, was the first child of Elmer Ellsworth, a Nebraska native living in Mineral Point, Wisconsin and working as an ice dealer; and his wife Leila M. Allen, a Wisconsin native and housewife. Elmer Ellsworth died the next winter at age 26, a victim of the worldwide Spanish flu epidemic, on January 6, 1919. When Allen was about five years old, Leila Ellsworth married Homer Ludden, Jr., an electrical engineer and the son of H.D. Ludden, the town physician, a Chicago native who had practiced in Mineral Point since 1906. Allen was given his adoptive father's name and became Allen Ellsworth Ludden. The family lived briefly in the Wisconsin towns of Janesville, Elkhorn, Antigo and Waupaca before moving to Texas when Allen was still a small child.

Education and career

An English and dramatics major at the University of Texas, 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 as officer in charge of entertainment in the Pacific theater,[1] 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 adviser 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.[2] 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. As a panelist he appeared regularly on The Gong Show.

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.

He released an album called Allen Ludden Sings His Favorite Songs on RCA Records in 1964.


Ludden with wife Betty White, 1968.

Ludden married Margaret McGloin on October 11, 1943. She died from cancer on October 30, 1961, just 2½ 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.[3] Eventually, they were married on June 14, 1963, and remained together until Ludden's death; White has never remarried. They appeared together in an episode of The Odd Couple in which Felix and Oscar appeared 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, and on Match Game PM in 1980).


After Ludden was diagnosed with stomach cancer in early 1980, he took a month-long leave of absence from Password Plus for chemotherapy treatment. On October 7,[4] he slipped into a coma while on vacation in Monterey, California. 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. Tom Kennedy took over as host of Password Plus, and although Ludden hoped to return to the show, his cancer grew worse and he never returned. Ludden died in Los Angeles on June 9, 1981, just days before his 18th wedding anniversary with Betty White.[5] He was 63. Ludden was buried beside his father in the Ellsworth family plot in Graceland Cemetery in his hometown of Mineral Point, Wisconsin.


A walkway at the Los Angeles Zoo was named in his memory (Betty White is a board member at the Zoo) and an artificial lake in Mineral Point was named Ludden Lake in his honor.[6] A Labrador Retriever was named "Ludden" and donated to Guide Dogs for the Blind in San Rafael, California, by Betty White in memory of her late husband.[7]

In an interview on Larry King Live, when asked whether or not she would remarry, Betty White replied by saying, "Once you've had the best, who needs the rest?"[8]

Ludden is mentioned in passing in an episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show entitled Don't Break the Chain (Season Two, Episode 10), in reference to his allegedly sending the character Lou Grant a chain letter.


The Allen Ludden Papers collection is located at the Free Public Library in his native Mineral Point, Wisconsin. 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 broken pair of horn-rimmed glasses. The collection was donated by Betty White.[9]


  1. "Allen Ludden Dies." The New York Times. June 10, 1981.
  2. White, Betty. Here We Go Again: My Life In Television 1949-1995. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 1995.
  3. White, Betty. Here We Go Again: My Life In Television 1949-1995. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 1995.
  4. Daily Variety Magazine; October 9, 1980; Page 19
  5. "Allen Ludden, TV Host, Is Dead; On 'College Bowl' and 'Password'". The New York Times. June 10, 1981. p. B6.
  6. "Local men pay tribute to Allen Ludden by cleaning tombstone". The Dodgeville Chronicle. June 20, 2013.
  7. "Guide Dogs for the Blind - Shelley Rhodes".
  8. Weiss, Shari (April 9, 2011). "Betty White: Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan are 'ungrateful' actors who 'abuse' their fame". Daily News. New York. Retrieved January 18, 2014.
  9. The Mineral Point Public Library archives - Allen Ludden Papers

External links

Preceded by
Host, College Bowl
Succeeded by
Robert Earle
Preceded by
Host, Password, Password Plus
1961-1967, 1971-1975, 1979-1980 (interrupted by Bill Cullen in 1980)
Succeeded by
Tom Kennedy
Preceded by
Peter Marshall
Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Game Show Host
Succeeded by
Bert Convy
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