George Fenneman  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

George Watt Fenneman (November 10, 1919May 29, 1997) was a radio and television announcer who died aged 78. He was born in Beijing, China and grew up in San Francisco, California. He graduated from San Francisco State College in 1942 and worked as a radio correspondent during World War II.

His career began as a radio announcer for commercials. His most famous role was as announcer on the Groucho Marx quiz show, You Bet Your Life. The show began in 1947 on radio. Fenneman joined the program while still on the radio and stayed with it when it moved to the television medium in 1950. He was the perfect straight man for the zany antics and quips of Marx. Fenneman was actually selected because of his intelligence and ability to calculate the score of the contestants. He remained friends with Marx after the show ended in 1961 until the comedian died in 1977.

Fenneman was one of two paired announcers on Dragnet, sharing narration duties with Hal Gibney on radio and the original Dragnet television series, and with John Stephenson when Dragnet returned to TV in 1967. It was Fenneman's voice which announced, "The story you are about to see is true. The names have been changed to protect the innocent." while Stephenson would be heard at the end of the episode telling the punishment of the criminal, more or less, relaying a court's verdict.

He appeared on screen in the 1951 film The Thing from Another World in a substantial but uncredited role. He and his wife were neighbors of the director, Christian Nyby. A spontaneous on-set script revision convinced Fenneman his future was not in movie acting. Producer Howard Hawks took a long scientific speech away from Robert O. Cornthwaite's character Dr. Carrington, preferring to give exposition to a minor character (Fenneman). As a radio performer accustomed to reading from a script and not used to quick memorization, Fenneman stumbled over the technical gobbledegook ("We have the time of arrival on the seisomograph..."), resulting in 27 takes of the scene. In the final film, viewers can see the other actors trying not to smile as Fenneman spouts the lines. He also appeared in an obscure serial, Mystery Lake, in which he played the unlikely role of a naturalist teaching a young girl about the flora and fauna around a Tennessee lake. This serial aired on The Mickey Mouse Club. He avoided on-screen performances thereafter, except as himself in documentaries.

Mr. Fenneman also hosted two different game shows, Anybody Can Play in 1958; and a daytime offering from CBS, Your Surprise Package in 1961. In 1966, he hosted a pilot for a show called Crossword, which would later be re-named The Cross-Wits and picked up nine years later with a new host.

In 1963 he hosted an ABC program, Your Funny, Funny Films, a precursor to America's Funniest Home Videos. His last credit was as narrator of The Naked Monster, released posthumously in 2006.

Contrary to popular belief, George Fenneman is NOT the voice of the US Naval Observatory Master Clock (that distinction belongs to Fred Covington according to Demetrios Matsakis at the observatory), nor of the National Institute of Standards and Technology's WWV.

He was married to Peggy Ann Clifford from 1943 until her death in 1984 and had three children.

He died from emphysema in Los Angeles, California on May 29, 1997 at the age of 77.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "George Fenneman" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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