Allen Funt, who created and hosted the hit television show “Candid Camera” and built it into a nearly 50-year career in Hollywood, has died at age 84, family members said Monday.
Funt, who gained fame as host of “Candid Microphone” in 1947 and was still overseeing “Candid Camera” until he suffered a serious stroke in 1993, died Sunday of complications of that stroke at his home in Pebble Beach, California.
“Allen Funt was one of the inventors of the entire genre of reality television,” said his son, Peter Funt, who has hosted “Candid Camera” since his father’s retirement.
“In an age when TV shows are considered successful if they survive 13 weeks, it’s unheard of for a program to still be pleasing millions of people after 51 years,” Peter Funt added.
Funt hosted and managed the show — with its famous punch line: “Smile, you’re on Candid Camera!” — for nearly 50 years. He also produced feature-length films, movie shorts, three books and seven record albums, nearly all centering on the concept of the hidden camera.
Archives from “Candid Camera” were still used in college sociology courses, business training and even medical research, Peter Funt said.
“I asked him once what he considered his proudest achievement,” Peter Funt said, adding that his father answered: “To be able to go almost anywhere in the world and have people say, ‘Thanks, Allen, you made us smile.'”
Funt was born in New York City, the son of a diamond merchant. He graduated from high school at age 15, attended art school and earned a degree from Cornell University before landing a job in the art department of an advertising agency. It was after moving to the agency’s radio department, writing copy and dreaming up gimmicks for radio shows that he got his first show business break.
While serving in the Army Signal Corps during World War II, he began experimenting with new, more portable radio equipment, which led to the idea of “Candid Microphone.”
The show moved to television in 1948 and eventually appeared on all three networks, becoming a hit on CBS from 1960 to 1966. The show returned again in each of the next three decades and ran in syndication.
Funt also produced several “Candid Camera” specials during that time for NBC and CBS. In the late 1970s, he moved from New York to California, where he ran a cattle ranch.
Funt is survived by his five children and four grandchildren. A private memorial service is being planned.