Robert Dwan, who directed Groucho Marx’s “You Bet Your Life” quiz show died Jan.21 of pneumonia in Santa Monica. He was 89.
He staged the performance and supervised the editing for the entire 14 year run of the show, where Marx interviewed contestants before they played a question-and-answer quiz. “You Bet Your Life,” debuted on radio in 1947 and aired on television from 1950 to 1961.
In his 2000 memoir “As Long As They’re Laughing,” Dwan that no time limit was enforced during the filming of the show, with Dwan later editing the show to a half hour and cutting out offensive material.
Dwan said 525 “You Bet Your Life” programs were produced in 14 years for radio and television, in which Groucho faced 2,500 contestants.
For Dwan’s efforts as director, the acerbic Marx would frequently tell him: “Bob, I have nothing but confidence in you — and very little of that.”
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Dwan, who became a close friend of Marx and traveled with him to Europe, also directed the comedian in “Time for Elizabeth,” a play written by Marx and Norman Krasna that ran in summer stock in the late 1950s and early ’60s, with Dwan managing the tours.
Born in San Francisco, he grew up in Burlingame and attended Stanford University, where he studied economics before transferring to the theater department. A year after graduating in 1935, he became a radio announcer with KGO in San Francisco and was later promoted to program manager.
He moved to Los Angeles in the early 1940s and became a network representative on the Red Skelton radio show, for which he became an apprentice writer. After serving in the merchant marine toward the end of World War II, he joined the writing staff of Art Linkletter’s “People Are Funny.”
In his later years, Dwan taught classes on comedy at USC and the Society for the Preservation of Variety Arts.
He is survived by his wife, Lois, a former Los Angeles Times restaurant critic; three sons; two daughters and seven grandchildren.
Donations may be sent to Amnesty International or Doctors Without Borders.