Dennis James, one of television’s first emcees and the host of a string of hit variety and gameshows, including “The Price is Right” and “Name That Tune,” is dead at age 79.
James died of cancer Tuesday at his desert home.
According to reference books, James was the first host of a TV variety show, first host of a TV sports show, first emcee of the Easter Parade telecast, first on-the-spot live TV newsreel commentator, first TV wrestling announcer and first to appear on commercial videotape.
Born in Jersey City, N.J., James started out in radio before joining DuMont’s experimental TV station in New York in 1938.
When the company began its TV network in 1946, James was the host of some of its earliest gameshows, including “Cash and Carry,” which was set in a mock grocery store lined with shelves of the sponsor’s canned goods.
James’ popularity grew with his coverage of DuMont’s wrestling matches, leading to his own daytime variety show called “Okay, Mother.”
Starting in the 1950s, James worked as host of a string of daytime and nighttime gameshows, including “The Price Is Right” from 1972-79 and “Name That Tune” from 1974-75.
He was an announcer on “The Original Amateur Hour” for many years.
James guest starred on TV series such as “Batman,” “77 Sunset Strip,” “Fantasy Island” and “Rich Man, Poor Man.” His movie credits included “Mr. Universe,” “The One and Only” and “Rocky III.”
James is survived by his wife of 47 years, Micki, and three sons.