Larry Blyden

Larry Blyden

Blyden in 1962
Born Ivan Lawrence Blieden
(1925-06-23)June 23, 1925
Houston, Texas, U.S.
Died June 6, 1975(1975-06-06) (aged 49)
Agadir, Morocco
Cause of death Car accident
Resting place Forest Park Lawndale Cemetery
Nationality American
Education Wharton Elementary School
Sidney Lanier Junior High School
Lamar High School
Alma mater Southwestern Louisiana Institute
University of Houston
Stella Adler Studio of Acting
Occupation Actor, stage producer and director, game show host
Years active 19481975
Spouse(s) Carol Haney (m. 1955; div. 1962)
Children 2

Larry Blyden (June 23, 1925 June 6, 1975) was an American actor, stage producer and director and game show host. He made his Broadway stage debut in 1948 and went on to appear in numerous productions on and off Broadway. In 1972, he won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for his performance in the revival of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum which he also produced. That same year, he became the host of the syndicated revival version of What's My Line?.

At the time of his death, Blyden was slated to host a new game show Showoffs. He died of injuries sustained in a single car accident while vacationing in Morocco on June 6, 1975.

Early life

Blyden was born Ivan Lawrence Blieden to Adolph and Marian (née Davidson) Blieden in Houston, Texas,[1][2] and raised in the Jewish faith.[3] As a child, he attended Wharton Elementary School and Sidney Lanier Junior High School.[2] Blyden became interested in acting at a young age and made his stage debut in a production headed by Margo Jones when he was 14 years old.[4] After graduating from Lamar High School, Blyden attended Southwestern Louisiana Institute for a year before enlisting in the United States Marine Corps during World War II.[2] After the war, he enrolled at the University of Houston. While in college, Blyden worked as an announcer for KPRC radio and performed at the Alley Theatre and Houston Little Theater.[2][5] After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in 1948, Blyden moved to New York City to pursue an acting career.[4]


Stage and films

While in New York, Blyden again worked in radio and studied acting at the Stella Adler Studio of Acting for eighteen months.[6] While starring in a showcase of The Importance of Being Earnest, he was spotted by director Joshua Logan who cast him in a small role in the Broadway production of Mister Roberts.[7] He was then cast in the larger role of "Ensign Pulver", and remained with the production until 1951.[6] His second Broadway role was that of "Schmutz" in the original production of Wish You Wish Here. In 1958, Blyden replaced Larry Storch as "Sammy Fong" in the out-of-town tryouts for the musical Flower Drum Song. He remained in the role during the show's original Broadway run for which he was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical.[8] The show was choreographed by his then-wife, Carol Haney.[9] That same year, he appeared in You Can't Take It with You, at Expo 58 (also known as Brussels World's Fair).[7]

In November 1962, Blyden tried his hand at stage directing in the Broadway production of Harold, starring Anthony Perkins and Don Adams. The production closed after twenty performances.[10] In February 1967, Blyden replaced Martin Balsam in the Broadway production of You Know I Can't Hear You When the Water's Running.[11] Blyden's second stage directing effort was the play The Mother Lover, in which he also starred. The production also featured Eileen Heckart and Valerie French and premiered at the Booth Theatre on February 1, 1969.[12] In March 1972, he portrayed the role of "Hysterirum" in the revival of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, starring Phil Silvers, which Blyden also produced.[13] He won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for his work in the play.[1]

In 1974, Blyden appeared as "Dionysos" with the Yale Repertory Theatre in the musical comedy The Frogs, in New Haven, Connecticut. The play was written by Burt Shevelove, and based on a play written by Aristophanes in 405 B.C. The play's music and lyrics were composed by Stephen Sondheim.[14] Blyden's final stage role was that of "Sidney" in Alan Ayckbourn's comedy Absurd Person Singular, for which he was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play and a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play.[15] He remained with the production for 250 performances.[16]

Over the course of his career, Blyden appeared in three feature films. He made his film debut in a supporting role in the 1957 drama The Bachelor Party, starring Don Murray. He also had supporting roles in Kiss Them for Me (1957) and On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (1970).[7]


In addition to stage and occasional film work, Blyden also appeared in guest spots for television shows. In the 1950s, he made guest performances on several dramatic anthology shows including Playhouse 90, Omnibus, The Loretta Young Show and The United States Steel Hour. In May 1955, CBS announced that Blyden was set to star opposite Nita Talbot in the sitcom Joe and Mabel. The series, which was based on the radio series of the same name that had aired on the NBC Red Network from February 1941 to September 1942, was scheduled to premiere on September 20, 1955. Production began that summer but was hampered by the Screen Actors Guild strike that began on August 5, 1955. Although the strike lasted just ten days, production on the series ceased. Production eventually resumed but the series was plagued with various issues and, upon being previewed for critics, was poorly received. CBS eventually decided to burn off the series' thirteen completed episodes during the summer of 1956 after which it was canceled.[17]

After the cancellation of Joe and Mabel, Blyden returned to stage work (replacing Ray Walston in the Philadelphia and Broadway runs of Who Was That Lady I Saw You With? and Flower Drum Song).[9] He returned to television in 1959 as "Sammy Glick" in the television adaptation of Budd Schulberg's 1941 novel What Makes Sammy Run?. The two-part special aired on the NBC Sunday Showcase on September 27 and October 4, 1959, and also starred John Forsythe, Dina Merrill and Barbara Rush.[18]

In the early 1960s, Blyden returned to television with guest starring roles in two episodes of The Twilight Zone: "A Nice Place to Visit" in April 1960 and "Showdown with Rance McGrew" in February 1962 in which he starred as the title character.[19] In 1963, Blyden was cast to star in a second sitcom, NBC's Harry's Girls. Produced by MGM Television, the series was an adaptation of the Robert E. Sherwood play Idiot's Delight, with Blyden starring as Harry, a vaudeville style performer constantly getting into trouble and falling in love.[20] The series received a great deal of publicity before it aired because it was being filmed on location in Europe (interiors were filmed at the Studios De La Victorine in France while exteriors were shot on location in Rome, Paris and other European locations).[5][21] Upon its debut, Harry's Girls was also not well received and was canceled after one season.[21] For the remainder of the decade, Blyden continued with guest roles on television including spots on Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Defenders, The Fugitive, and The Man from U.N.C.L.E..

In the late 1960s, Blyden began working as a game show host and master of ceremonies starting with Personality in June 1967.[22] In 1969, he hosted You're Putting Me On and The Movie Game. In 1972, Blyden took over hosting duties for the syndicated revival of the game show What's My Line?. Blyden remained the show's host until it was canceled in 1975.[23]

In the weeks before his death, Blyden was involved in several major projects. He co-hosted the 29th Tony Awards telecast that aired on ABC on April 20, 1975.[24] On May 2, Blyden reprised his role as Ensign Pulver opposite Henry Fonda at a gala tribute to director Joshua Logan at Broadway's Imperial Theatre (which was recorded and eventually released on a privately distributed LP album). He also narrated a segment of CBS's Bicentennial Minute which aired during primetime the evening of May 30.[25]

Personal life

Blyden married actress and dancer Carol Haney on April 17, 1955 in Las Vegas.[26] The couple had two children: Joshua and Ellen Rachel. Blyden and Haney were divorced in 1962.[5]

During their marriage, Blyden and Haney purchased the historic Achenbach House in Saddle River, New Jersey, which they believed to be haunted by the spirit of its builder. After Haney's death in 1964, Blyden inherited the home and became convinced that her spirit was haunting the house. Blyden later told a friend that in the months after Haney's death, the house was filled with the smell of brownies baking which had been Haney's favorite. Blyden told his friend that after he yelled at Haney to leave him alone, the smell instantly vanished.[27] The house was later sold to tour operator Mario Perillo and was destroyed by fire in 2004.[28]


On May 6, 1975, Blyden left the production of Absurd Person Singular after he was hired to host a new game show entitled Showoffs.[29] He videotaped the pilot episode on May 24. Before production was set to begin, Blyden was granted a two-week vacation and decided to fly to Marrakesh, Morocco.[7] While driving near Agadir on May 31, Blyden's rental car reportedly went off the road and overturned. According to Blyden's manager, Blyden suffered injuries to the chest, head and abdomen. He underwent surgery but died of his injuries on June 6.[30] Blyden's body was flown back to the United States on June 13. A memorial was held on June 20 after which he was buried at Forest Park Lawndale Cemetery in Houston.[31][32]

Mark Goodson, the producer of Showoffs, later told Variety that he felt the circumstances leading to Blyden's death were unclear. Goodson said that his production company, Goodson–Todman Productions, was initially informed that Blyden had been involved in a car accident while driving to Marrakesh and was hospitalized with serious injuries. A second report from the American consulate claimed that Blyden's injuries were not serious and only required minor surgery. A few days later, it was announced that Blyden was dead.[7] On the audio commentary for the 2009 DVD of What Makes Sammy Run?, Blyden's co-star Barbara Rush claimed that Blyden had been carjacked by bandits and killed.[33]

Broadway appearances

Date Production Role Notes
February 18, 1948 January 6, 1951 Mister Roberts Shore Patrol Officer
Ensign Pulver
Replacement (Ensign)
June 25, 1952 November 28, 1953 Wish You Were Here Itchy Flexner Understudy (Flexner), Replacement (Schmutz)
December 17, 1953 November 13, 1954 Oh, Men! Oh, Women! Grant Cobble
March 3 August 30, 1958 Who Was That Lady I Saw You With? Michael Haney Replacement
December 1, 1958 May 7, 1960 Flower Drum Song Sammy Fong Nominated: Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical
November 29 December 15, 1962 Harold
February 16 April 18, 1964 Foxy Doc
November 11, 1964 January 7, 1967 Luv Milt Manville Replacement
October 18, 1966 November 25, 1967 The Apple Tree Snake, Balladeer, Narrator
March 13, 1967 January 4, 1969 You Know I Can't Hear You When the Water's Running Chuck, George, Richard Pawling Replacement
February 1, 1969 The Mother Lover Seymour Director
March 30 August 12, 1972 A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum Hysterium Producer
Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical
October 8, 1974 May 6, 1975 Absurd Person Singular Sidney Nominated: Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play
Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play


Year Title Role Notes
1950 The Silver Theatre Episode: "Never Hit a Pigeon"
1950 The Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse 2 episodes
19521954 Armstrong Circle Theatre 3 episodes
1954 Goodyear Television Playhouse Episode: "Suitable for Framing"
1955 Star Tonight Episode: "Zone of Quiet"
1955 The Elgin Hour Harrison B. Harrison Episode: "The $1,000 Window"
1956 Playwrights '56 Sargeant Barney Bender Episode: "Sometimes You Get Rich"
1956 Joe & Mabel Joe Sparton 13 episodes
19561957 Studio One in Hollywood Various 2 episodes
1957 Playhouse 90 Various 2 episodes
1957 The Alcoa Hour Ralph Episode: "He's for Me"
1957 Kraft Television Theatre Episode: "The Old Ticket"
1957 Kiss Them for Me Mississip
1958 DuPont Show of the Month Dr. Sanderson Episode: "Harvey"
1958 Armchair Theatre Krupp Episode: "Time of Your Life"
19581962 The United States Steel Hour Various 6 episodes
19591960 NBC Sunday Showcase Sammy Glick Episodes: "What Makes Sammy Run? (Part 1 & 2)"
"One Clear Voice"
19591960 The Play of the Week Various 3 episodes
1960 The Chevy Mystery Show Peter Meinecke Episode: "The Machine Calls It Murder"
1960 Moment of Fear Episode: "Conjure Wife"
1960 The Witness Bugsy Siegel Episode: "Bugsy Siegel"
1960 Omnibus Teddy Roosevelt Episode: "He Shall Have Power"
19601961 The Twilight Zone Henry Francis
Rance McGrew
Episodes: "A Nice Place to Visit"
"Showdown with Rance McGrew"
1961 Thriller Ralphie Teal Episode: "Choose a Victim"
1961 The Loretta Young Show Various 2 episodes
1961 Target: The Corruptors! Chuck Baxter Episode: "The Golden Carpet"
1961 General Electric Theater Johnny Henderson Episode: "Call to Danger"
1962 Cain's Hundred Jay Adams Episode: "Blood Money"
1962 Adventures in Paradise Charlie Vale Episode: "The Dream Merchant"
1962 The Dick Powell Show Lou Marks Episode: "Tomorrow, the Man"
1962 Sam Benedict Mort Friedman Episode: "Hear the Mellow Wedding Bells"
1963 The DuPont Show of the Week Corporal William Yarrow Episode: "Two Faces of Treason"
19631964 Harry's Girls Harry Burns 15 episodes
1964 Route 66 Cam Wilcox Episode: "Like This It Means Father..."
1964 The Reporter Al Swan Episode: "Murder by Scandal"
1947 Dr. Kildare Eddie Hiller Episode: "Take Care of My Little Girl"
1965 The Alfred Hitchcock Hour Walter Mills/Philip Marshall Episode: "Wally the Beard"
1965 12 O'Clock High Lt. Tony Kemp Episode: "Mutiny at Ten Thousand Feet"
1965 The Defenders Charles Parker Episode: "The Prosecutor"
1965 Kraft Suspense Theatre Lester Pennell Episode: "Twixt the Cup and the Lip"
1965 The Fugitive Sal Mitchell Episode: "Crack in a Crystal Ball"
1965 Slattery's People Martin Keiller Episode: "The Hero"
1966 The Man from U.N.C.L.E. George Dennell Episode: "The Waverly Ring Affair"
1967 ABC Stage 67 Todd Bronson Episode: "Olympus 7-0000"
1967 Ghostbreakers Waldo Kent Television movie
1970 On a Clear Day You Can See Forever Warren Pratt
1970 The F.B.I. Frank Colling Episode: "The Innocents"
1971 The Mod Squad Bob Hardy Episode: "Exit the Closer"
1972 Medical Center Dr. Lieber Episode: "Terror"
1972 Cannon Phil Dobson Episode: "The Torch"
1974 The Wide World of Mystery Daniel Episode: "The Satan Murders"


  1. 1 2 Naden, Corinne J. (2011). The Golden Age of American Musical Theatre: 1943-1965. Scarecrow Press. p. 148. ISBN 0-810-87734-1.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Rydell, Jeny (June 12, 2010). "Blyden, Larry". Retrieved March 31, 2015.
  3. Lee, Esther Kim (2006). A History of Asian American Theatre. Cambridge University Press. p. 21. ISBN 0-521-85051-7.
  4. 1 2 "Larry Blyden: A Look Back". Toledo Blade. Toledo, Ohio. March 17, 1989. pp. P–3. Retrieved March 30, 2015.
  5. 1 2 3 "New Show Debuts Friday". The Tuscaloosa News. Tuscaloosa, Alabama. September 8, 1936. p. 36. Retrieved March 31, 2015.
  6. 1 2 "Car Crash Injuries Fatal To Larry Blyden". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Sarasota, Florida. June 7, 1975. pp. 4–A. Retrieved March 30, 2015.
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 "Larry Blyden, 49, Dies in Morocco of Injuries Sustained in Auto Accident". Variety. June 9, 1975. Archived from the original on April 4, 2005. Retrieved July 6, 2008.
  8. Hischak, Thomas S., ed. (2007). The Rodgers and Hammerstein Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. p. 29. ISBN 0-313-34140-0.
  9. 1 2 Zeitlin, Arnold (August 14, 1960). "The New World of Larry Blyden". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. p. 1. Retrieved March 31, 2015.
  10. Harold at the Internet Broadway Database
  11. Pack, Harvey (August 6, 1968). "Double Career For Larry Blyden". Toledo Blade. Toledo, Ohio. p. 42. Retrieved March 31, 2015.
  12. "The Mother Lover". Retrieved March 31, 2015.
  13. "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum". Retrieved March 31, 2015.
  14. Gardner, Paul (May 19, 1974). "'Frogs' They Would A-Swimming Go". Retrieved July 6, 2008.
  15. "Absurd Person Singular". Retrieved March 31, 2015.
  16. Willis, John A. (1977). "Obituaries". John Willis' Theatre World. Crown Publishers. 32: 262.
  17. "Joe and Mabel". February 27, 2009. Retrieved March 31, 2015.
  18. Gaver, Jack (September 22, 1959). "Larry Blyden Lands TV 'Plum'". Schenectady Gazette. Schenectady, New York. p. 19. Retrieved March 31, 2015.
  19. McGee, Marty; Presnell, Don (1998). A Critical History of Television's The Twilight Zone, 1959-1964. McFarland & Co. p. 225. ISBN 0-786-40448-5.
  20. Parish, James Robert; Mank, Gregory W.; Picchiarini, Richard (1981). The Best of MGM: The Golden Years (1928-59). Arlington House. p. 104.
  21. 1 2 Leszczak, Bob (2012). Single Season Sitcoms, 1948-1979: A Complete Guide. McFarland. pp. 69, 71. ISBN 0-786-49305-4.
  22. Pack, Harvey (June 30, 1967). "Blyden Hosts New Daytime Game". Toledo Blade. Toledo, Ohio. p. 40. Retrieved March 31, 2015.
  23. "Ask TV Times". Beaver County Times. Beaver, Pennsylvania. October 6, 1996. p. 24. Retrieved March 31, 2015.
  24. "1975 - 29th Annual Tony Awards® Sunday, April 20, 1975 Winter Garden Theatre". Retrieved March 31, 2015.
  25. "Television Listings" (PDF). Watertown Daily Times. Watertown, Wisconsin. May 23, 1975. p. 9.
  26. "Short Honeymoon For Actor and Actress". Ocala Star-Banner. Ocala, Florida. April 18, 1955. p. 5. Retrieved March 31, 2015.
  27. Janis, Byron (2010). Chopin and Beyond: My Extraordinary Life in Music and the Paranormal. John Wiley & Sons. p. 197. ISBN 0-470-87233-0.
  28. Fisher, Janon. "Bergen County House on Historic Register Is Fire Victim", The New York Times, March 20, 2004. Accessed February 4, 2012.
  29. "Larry Blyden". Show Music: The Musical Theatre Magazine. Max O. Preeo. 5 (1): 31. 1986. ISSN 8755-9560.
  30. "Auto crash injuries kill Tony winner". Eugene Register-Guard. Eugene, Oregon. June 7, 1975. p. 3A. Retrieved March 30, 2015.
  31. Wilson, Earl (June 13, 1975). "Keith Carradine: Another Ham in the Family". The Milwaukee Sentinel. Milwaukee, Wisconsin. p. 17. Retrieved March 31, 2015.
  32. Brooks, Patricia (2002). Where the Bodies Are: Final Visits to the Rich, Famous, and Interesting. Globe Pequot. p. 195. ISBN 0-762-72337-8.
  33. Barbara Rush, Dina Merrill (February 10, 2009). What Makes Sammy Run? (DVD). Koch Vision.

Further reading

Media offices
Preceded by
Wally Bruner
Host of What's My Line?
Succeeded by
Program cancellation
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