'Let's Make a Deal' host Monty Hall dead at 96

(Reuters) - Monty Hall, one of the most popular game show hosts in American television history as he presided over a throng of outrageously costumed and nearly delirious contestants on "Let's Make a Deal" for almost three decades, died on Saturday at age 96, his son said.

Richard Hall said his father died at home in Beverly Hills, California, likely of heart failure.

Members of his audiences, dressed as clowns, playing cards or giant tomatoes, would shriek "Monty, Monty, Monty!" as they tried to convince Hall to give them a chance to win a washing machine or a new Cadillac. Sometimes the prizes were a "zonk" - a gag gift such as a live donkey or a wrecked car.

Hall was the co-creator of "Let's Make a Deal" and hosted more than 4,000 episodes from 1963 to 1986 (with occasional hiatuses) and then again in 1990 and 1991. The show drew good ratings even as it jumped from network to network and into syndication.

"Let's Make a Deal" became a part of American pop culture, with Hall one of the most recognizable stars on TV.

18 PHOTOS
Monty Hall through his career
See Gallery
Monty Hall through his career
Former game show host Monty Hall arrives at the 2014 Palm Springs International Film Festival Awards Gala in Palm Springs, California January 4, 2014. REUTERS/Fred Prouser (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT)
COWBOY THEATER -- Pictured: Host Monty Hall in 1956 -- (Photo by: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
LET'S MAKE A DEAL -- Pictured: Host Monty Hall with audience members -- (Photo by: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
LET'S MAKE A DEAL -- Pictured: Host Monty Hall with audience members -- (Photo by: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
IT'S ANYBODY'S GUESS -- Pictured: (l-r) Host Monty Hall, contestants in 1977 -- (Photo by: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
IT'S ANYBODY'S GUESS -- Pictured: Host Monty Hall -- Photo by: Herb Ball/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank
LOS ANGELES - SEPTEMBER 5: ALL NEW BEAT THE CLOCK, featuring game show host Monty Hall (in center, wearing dark suit jacket) with models (from bottom, clockwise), Cindee Appleton, Lisa Parkes and Autumn Hargis. Image dated September 5, 1979. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - DECEMBER 8: ALL NEW BEAT THE CLOCK, featuring game show host Monty Hall (at right, wearing suit jacket). Image dated December 8, 1979. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)
CANADA - JANUARY 26: Monty Hall: One of best known TV games show hosts. (Photo by Reg Innell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - DECEMBER 02: THE WONDER YEARS - 'The Test' - Season Six - 12/2/92, Kevin's (Fred Savage) future was played out in a mock 'Let's Make a Deal' with host Monty Hall. , (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)
395302 14: Former television game show host Monty Hall attends the Los Angeles Consul General of Canada and Los Angeles Kings'' tribute for Garnet 'Ace' Bailey October 3, 2001 in Los Angeles, CA. The event honored Bailey, a long-time scout for the Kings who was a victim of the United Airlines Flight 175 plane crash, September 11. (Photo by Vince Bucci/Getty Images)
HOLMBLY HILLS, CA - JULY 21: Television host Monty Hall attends the 30th Year of The Merchant of Tennis/Monty Hall/Cedars-Sinai Diabetes Tennis Tournament at the Playboy Mansion on July 21, 2002 in Holmby Hills, California. The event benefits the Cedars-Sinai's Diabetes Center. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
SANTA MONICA, CA - MARCH 19: Game show host Monty Hall is seen at the HP, Hollywoodpoker.Com display at Distinctive Assets At The 2006 TV Land Awards gifting lounge at Barker Hangar at the Santa Monica Airport on March 19, 2006 in Santa Monica, CA. (Photo by Katy Winn/Getty Images for Distinctive Assets)
LET'S MAKE A DEAL -- Pictured: Monty Hall -- Photo by: NBCU Photo Bank
PASADENA, CA - AUGUST 3: Host Wayne Brady and Creative Consultant Monty Hall of the television show 'Let's Make a Deal' listen during the CBS Network portion of the 2009 Summer Television Critics Association Press Tour at The Langham Huntington Hotel & Spa on August 3, 2009 in Pasadena, California.� (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - MARCH 20: Game show host Monty Hall attends the 2nd annual Rebel With a Cause Gala held at the Paramount Studios on March 20, 2014 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Tommaso Boddi/WireImage)
Game show icon Monty Hall accepts his Lifetime Achievement Award during the 40th annual Daytime Emmy Awards in Beverly Hills, California June 16, 2013. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Hall also produced other game shows, hosted variety shows and appeared as a guest star on television series. He was known for charity work for organizations including Variety Clubs International, which raised money for disadvantaged children.

"Many people know my father as an icon on TV but he was also a tireless supporter of charities that meant as much to him as his TV work," Richard Hall said by telephone from California.

He was born Monte Halperin on Aug. 25, 1921, in Winnipeg, the son of a slaughterhouse owner father and an actress mother. After working in radio in Canada, he came to the United States in 1955.

In the early 1960s, he was developing game shows and joined forces with TV veteran Stefan Hatos. They devised "Let's Make a Deal" in which Hall picked people from the audience to become contestants in sort of a trading game. Initially, audience members wore normal clothing but started wearing costumes and carrying funny signs to get Hall's attention.

Hall would offer contestants a modest prize, then give them a chance to trade it for a mystery prize hidden by a curtain, stashed in a big box or concealed behind door No. 1, door No. 2 or door No. 3. That prize might be worth thousands of dollars or might be a "zonk" like a farm animal. Audience members jumped up and down, shouted, cried and kissed Hall when they won, and sometimes even when they lost.

"In 4,700 shows, I got kissed 50,000 times," Hall said in an interview with a classic TV website. "Even when they lost, they were very nice about it. But you know the law in game shows - if you go on a show and you win a donkey, that's your prize. You're entitled to it."

The show's producers showed mercy on the "zonk" winners, however. After the taping of the show, they would be offered a substitute prize, such as a television, and most would take it.

"In 1 percent of the cases, they didn't," Hall said. "There was a time when a farmer won five calves and he wanted the calves. That cost me a fortune because when you rent them from the animal place, they're expensive."

Other members of the show's team were studio announcer Jay Stewart and model Carol Merrill, who displayed the prizes.

Hall made appearances on revivals of the show, including the version hosted by comedian Wayne Brady starting in 2009.

In 1991, the New York Times published an article about what became known as "the Monty Hall problem" - a probability puzzle hotly debated by mathematicians centering on the advisability of switching choices when given options like those on his show. The conundrum was featured in the 2008 film "21" with Kevin Spacey.

Hall was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1973.

In 1947, Hall married his wife, Marilyn, who became an Emmy Award-winning producer. Their three children include Tony Award-winning actress Joanna Gleason.

16 PHOTOS
Marilyn Hall and Monty Hall together
See Gallery
Marilyn Hall and Monty Hall together
Jewish Home for the Aging celebrates 90th birthday. Pic. shows honoree Monty Hall and wife Marilyn Hall. (Photo by Lawrence K. Ho/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Television game show host Monty Hall (C), known for his program "Let's Make A Deal," shares a laugh with Britiain's Prince Philip and Hall's wife Marilyn at the recent Variety Clubs Childrens' International Convention in London. REUTERS/Doug Mckenzie/Shefrin Co. FSP/SV/BK
Television personality Monty Hall, with his wife Marilyn, daughter Joanna and son-in-law Paul, attending a Harvest Moon dinner at the Beverly Hills Hilton, November 1976. (Photo by Frank Edwards/Archive Photos/Getty Images)
BEVERLY HILLS - APRIL 24 : (L to R) Former television host Monty Hall makes a point with his wife Marilyn during the inaugural internationally televised programme 'Temple of the Air' at the Four Season Hotel Beverly Hills on April 24, 2003 in Beverly Hills, California. The event honoured and raised funds to televise and distribute 'Temple of the Air' a programme designed to reach hundreds of thousands unable to attend a synagogue on the high holidays. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 22: (L-R) Guest Marilyn Hall, TV Host Monty Hall and guest Edna Weiss attend the premiere of 'Take Me Out' at The Geffen Playhouse at the Brentwood Theatre on September 22, 2004 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Stephen Shugerman/Getty Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 31: (L-R) Television host Monty Hall and his wife Marilyn Hall attend the Carol Channing Birthday Celebration at the Beverly Hills Hotel on January 31, 2005 in Beverly Hills, California. The event was sponsored by the Beverly Hills Theater Guild. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
WESTWOOD, CA - MAY 1: Actor Monty Hall and Marilyn Hall arrive at the Geffen Playhouse for Backstage at the Geffen Playhouse's Annual Gala featuring a star-studded lineup of celebrity performers and VIP guests celebrating the Geffen's past and present in the newly renovated Geffen Playhouse on May 1, 2006 in Westwood, California. (Photo by John M. Heller/Getty Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JUNE 4: Marilyn Hall and Monty Hall attend the The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences 10th Anniversary Celebration of The Archive Of American Television at Crustacean on June 4, 2007 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by John M. Heller/Getty Images)
Monty Hall (right) and Marilyn Hall during 10th Anniversary of The Archive of American TV - Red Carpet and Inside at Crustacean in Beverly Hills, California, United States. (Photo by Mathew Imaging/FilmMagic)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - SEPTEMBER 02: TV personality Monty Hall (R) and wife Marilyn Hall attend The Taste of Beverly Hills wine & food festival opening night on September 2, 2010 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 3: Marilyn Hall, Monty Hall, Jeff Goldstein, General Sales Manager Warner Bros. Pictures and wife Wendy Goldstein pose during the ribbon cutting ceremony of the new Variety Boys & Girls Club building of Boyle Heights on November 3, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Ryan Miller/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 15: Marilyn Hall (L) and honoree Monty Hall (R) pose during the Heart of Show Business Benefit Luncheon honoring Monty Hall to benefit Variety the Children's Charity of Southern California at Skirball Center on December 15, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Ryan Miller/Getty Images)
PALM SPRINGS, CA - JANUARY 04: Monty Hall and Marilyn Hall arrive at the 25th annual Palm Springs International Film Festival awards gala at Palm Springs Convention Center on January 4, 2014 in Palm Springs, California. (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)
PALM SPRINGS, CA - JANUARY 04: Monty Hall and Marilyn Hall arrive at the 25th annual Palm Springs International Film Festival awards gala at Palm Springs Convention Center on January 4, 2014 in Palm Springs, California. (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JUNE 16: Marilyn Plottel, a guest and Monty Hall attend 40th Annual Daytime Entertaimment Emmy Awards - Arrivals at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on June 16, 2013 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Allen Berezovsky/WireImage)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Read Full Story

Sign up for Entertainment Insider by AOL to get the hottest pop culture news delivered straight to your inbox!

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.