Clayton Johnson Heermance, Jr. (June 18, 1908-September 8, 1969), better known as Bud Collyer, was an American radio actor/announcer who became one of the nation's first major television game show stars. He is best remembered for his work as the first host of the TV game shows Beat the Clock and To Tell the Truth but he was also famous in the roles of Clark Kent/Superman on radio and in animated cartoons, initially short subjects and later on television. He also recorded a number of long-played 33 1/3 R.P.M. record albums for children. Some of these had bible stories, in keeping with his strong connections with his church & deep spirituality.
Early Life and Career
Collyer was born in Manhattan, to Clayton Johnson Heermance and Caroline Collyer. He originally sought a career in law, attending Williams College where he was a member of Psi Upsilon fraternity and Forham University law school. Though he became a law clerk after his graduation, making as much in a moth of radio as he did in a year of clerking convinced him to make broadcasting his career, changing his surname and becoming a familiar voice on all three major network radio networks by 1940.
He held starring on major supporting roles in The Man I Married (as Adam Waring); Kate Hopkins, Angel of Mercy (as Tom), Pretty Kitty Kelly (as Michael Conway), Terry and the Pirates (as Pat Ryan), Renfew of the Mounted (as Renfew) and Abie's Irish Rose (as Abie Levy). He also was the announcer of radio soap operas including The Guiding Light and The Goldbergs.
Collyer's best remembered radio starring role began in early 1940 in The Adventures of Superman on the Mutual Broadcasting System, a role he also performed in the subsequent Superman cartoons. Collyer supplied the voices of both Superman and his alter ego Clark Kent, opposite radio actress Joan Alexander as Lois Lane. very Superman episode featured a scene in which Clark Kent changed into his Superman costume, an effect which Collyer conveyed by shifting voices while speaking the phrase "This is (or "looks like") a job for Superman!" his voiced always dropping when becoming Superman.
Game Show Hosting
Collyer got his first helping of game shows when he co-hosted ABC's (the former NBC Blue network) Break the Bank with future Miss America Pageant mainstay Bert Parks, and when he was picked to host the radio original of the Mark Goodson-Bill Todman team's first game Winner Take All. Collyer went on to host the television versions of both shows. (Winner Take All became, in due course, the first hosting seat for another game show titan, Bill Cullen.)
Beat the Clock
In 1950 Bud Collyer got the job which genuinely made him a household name: Beat the Clock, a game show that pitted couples (usually, but not exclusively, married) against the clock in race to perform silly (sometimes messy) tasks, which were called "problems" but could with more accuracy be called "stunts". The grand prizes for these usually came in terms of cash or home appliances. (When Monty Hall hosted the program in the 1970s, the "problems" did indeed come to be called "stunts") Collyer hosted the show for eleven years (1950-61) and he co-produced it for part of its run.
Collyer did an excellent job keeping the show fast-paced; he spoke quickly and brightly, and was often moving around the stage as much as the contestants. Frequently Collyer would interrupt a stunt to offer helpful advice, or demonstrating a more efficient way to win a game. One of Collyer's trademarks on the show was securing his long-tubed stage microphone in his armpit (particularly while demonstrating the basics of a stunt for his contestants) He also typically wore bow ties, and liked to point out when contestants were "bow-tie guys" like himself, though initially, through the mid-1950s, he wore straight "four-in-hand" neckties most weeks. He enjoyed meeting families of contestants and was fond of children. He would always ask about contestants' children and sometimes would compare the number and sexes with that of his own family. When children were brought onstage with their parents he would take time to talk to each of them and ask them what they wanted to be when they grew up in a manner reminiscent of his contemporary Art Linkletter.
At the height of the show's popularity, an installment of The Honeymooners (which surfaced years later, when Jackie Gleason released the so-called "Lost Episodes") featured blustery Ralph Kramden and scatterbrained Ed Norton appearing on and playing Beat the Clock. Unlike the show's familiar parody of The $64,000 Question (The $99,000 Answer) Gleason's Beat the Clock episode used the actual show and set, complete with the familiar large 60-Second clock emblazoned with sponsor Sylvania's logo and ending with Collyer and his famous sign-off: "Next time may be your time to beat the clock".
To Tell the Truth
In 1956, Collyer became equally, if not more, familiar as the host of a new Goodson-Todman production To Tell the Truth on CBS. This panel show features four celebrities questioning three challengers all claiming to be the same person. Collyer would read and affidavit from the actual contestant and then monitor the panel's cross-examination. Because the show depends on conversation instead of physical stunts, Collyer's demeanor on To Tell the Truth was much calmer and more avuncular than his fever-pitch performances on Beat the Clock. After the celebrities voted their choices, Collyer intoned the famous phrase "Will the real...John Doe...please...stand up?" Collyer always employed pauses to build the suspense. Sometimes one of both imposters would pretend to stand up before the real contestant did, bringing a moment of last-minute suspense as well as a chuckle from Collyer. The sequence provided an especially riotous in 1962, when Collyer purred, with a particularly pronounced twinkle, "Will the real...Bob Miller...please...stand up?" Two Bob Millers, both pitchers for the newborn New York Mets, rose in response.
The show became popular enough to sustain a weekday version as well as a weekly evening version and Collyer presided over both concurrently. Among the celebrities who served as To Tell the Truth panelists during the 14-year run of the show were: Tom Poston, Peggy Cass, Orson Bean, Kitty Carlisle (the foregoing foursome was the resident panel in the weekday series), Don Ameche, Peter Lind Hayes, Johnny Carson, Ralph Bellamy, Polly Bergen, Mimi Benzell, Sally Ann Howes, Hy Gardner, Phyllis Newman and Robert Q. Lewis.
Collyer's other game show hosting the Dumont game shows Talent Jackpot (1949) and On Your Way (1953-1954), the short-lived (two years game show Feather Your Nest and the ABC game Number Please in 1961 which replaced Beat the Clock on the Monday after the final ABC episode.
On September 24, 1957; Collyer was among the guests on To Tell the Truth panelist Polly Bergen's premiere episode of her short-lived NBC comedy/variety show, The Polly Bergen Show.
The Superman Connection
In 1966, Collyer reprised his role as the voice of Superman in the Filmation animated television series The New Adventures of Superman reuniting him with radio vis-à-vis Joan Alexander.
The Beat the Clock Revival
In 1969, Beat the Clock was brought back for a new syndicated run; the host chosen for this show was Jack Narz. One legend holds that Narz was flying to New York to host the first tapings of the show and none other than Collyer himself sat next to Narz on the flight, Narz was nervous and did not know what to expect, but was pleased to find Collyer as generous and kind as he appeared on television. Collyer wished him luck and opined that his run would be as long as the original and before the week was done, handwritten notes for every crew member of the crew who had worked on the original series arrived from Collyer, wishing them all luck. (Collyer's written replies to fan mail were often in longhand).
During his 1950s heyday with Beat the Clock and To Tell the Truth, he was a leader in an overtly faction of the New York chapter of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. That faction supported such publications as Red Channels (The famous list of 151 reputed Communist or reputed fellow travelers, as the term was then, in radio and television) and interest groups that shared the authors' politics---groups like AWARE, Inc. (co-founded, in fact, by the man who wrote Red Channels' introduction), purporting to screen broadcast performers for actual or alleged Communist ties, pressuring networks and advertisers to shun them under threat of boycott.
An opposing faction, led by CBS radio personality John Henry Faulk and Orson Bean, defeated Collyer's faction in an election to run the New York union.
Spirituality and Charity
Religion and charitable work were very important to Bud Collyer, and he was particularly pleased to hear contestants say that they considered donating portions of their winnings to the church, or that they planned to donate for charities. He would often include "God bless you" in his parting words to contestants. He was always particularly happy to have contestant that was a minister on the show and would ask about his congregation. On Beat the Clock, he often delivered public service messages about such charitable causes as the March of Dimes and other drives for research of diseases.
Collyer taught a Sunday school class at his Presbyterian church in Connecticut for more than thirty-five years and spent some of his off time as a caretaker at his church. According to one story, a parishioner called the church one Sunday during a particularly heavy snowstorm to inquire if the church would have services that day. "Oh yes", Collyer replied, tongue in cheek, "God and I are here". Collyer was known to have contributed to various Christian religious works, including authoring at least one religious book and making a recording of the New Testament of the Good News Bible. He wrote two inspirational books Thou Shalt Not Fear (1962) and With the Whole Heart (1966).
When To Tell the Truth was planned to be revived for syndication, producers Mark Goodson and Bill Todman wanted Collyer to once again host the show. Collyer declined, citing poor health. When Goodson and Todman called Garry Moore about the job, he immediately called Collyer, who told Moore "I am just not up to it". Collyer died at age 61 from a circulatory ailment in Greenwich, Connecticut on the same day as the new To Tell the Truth premiered in daytime syndication on September 8, 1969. Moore left Truth shortly before Christmas 1976 to undergo surgery, turning the show over to panelist Bill Cullen. Semiregular panelist Joe Garagiola also acted as the host for several weeks, claiming he was "pinch-hitting" for Moore. Moore, a constant smoker, died of emphysema at Hilton Head on November 28, 1993 at the age of 78.
At the time of his death, he was married to 1930s movie actress Marian Shockley and was survived by her was well as his three children from his marriage to Heloise Law Green. In January 1957, his son Mike appeared as a challenger on To Tell the Truth under the name "Pat Rizzuto" . His brother Richard V. "Dick" Heermance, film editor and producer, also appeared as a contestant on Truth as himself on October 14, 1958. Two of the panelists voted for him, even though he looked nothing like his brother.
Bud Collyer is interred at Putnam Cemetery in Greenwich. In 1985, he was posthumously named one of the honorees by DC Comics in the company 50th anniversary publication Fifty Who Made DC Great.
Collyer was the brother of film actress June Collyer. He had two daughters, Cynthia and Pat, and a son, Michael, who died in 2004.