Allen Packard Ellsworth or Allen Ludden (October 5, 1917 – June 9, 1981) was an American television emcee and game show host. He was born Allen Packard Ellsworth in Mineral Point, Wisconsin. He attended the University of Texas at Austin, where he graduated. For many years up until his death he was married to frequent Password player and actress Betty White.
Ludden was the first child of Elmer Ellsworth, a Nebraska native living in Mineral Point, Wisconsin and working as an ice dealer; an 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 Ludden was about five years old, his mother remarried to 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 cities of Janesville, Elkhorn, Antigo and Waupaca before moving to Texas when Ludden was nine years old.
Education and Career
An English and dramatics major at the University of Texas (now knows as the University of Texas at Austin) 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, 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 an honorable mention Peabody Award in 1950.
Ludden hosted many game shows including GE College Bowl but he was most well known fir 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 towards his beloved real life mother-in-law Tess White mother of Betty White.
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. 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.
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 married Margaret McGloin on October 11, 1943. She died of cancer on October 30, 1961 just 21/2 weeks after their 18th wedding anniversary. They had a son, David, and two daughters, Martha and Sarah.
He proposed twice-divorced Betty White, whom he had meet of Password at least twice before she accepted. Their romance blossomed when they played summer stock together , in the play Critic's Choice in 1962. They also appeared together in the romantic comedy Janus in 1963. 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.
After Ludden was diagnosed with stomach cancer in early 1980, he took a month-long leave of absence from Password Plus for chemotherapy treatment with Bill Cullen filling in as host. On October 7, 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 assumed duties 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 at age 63 just five days before his 18th wedding anniversary. Ludden was buried 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. Betty White also donated a Labrador Retriever named "Ludden" to Guide Dogs for the Blind in San Rafael, California in memory of her late husband.
In an interview with 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?".
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 his widow Betty White.