FUNT 1914 - 1999
Allen Funt, creator and original host of the landmark television
series Candid Camera, perfected an art that has entertained people for nearly 60 years. From a humble start on radio in 1947, he used hidden microphones and cameras
to catch unsuspecting people worldwideall in the spirit of fun.
Allen Funt's preoccupation with catching people off-guard and making
them laugh at themselves took many forms. Following the success of Candid Microphone
on the ABC Radio Network, Candid Camera was launched in 1948 and became a top-rated
TV show in both network runs and syndication. In 1968, Funt also produced his
first feature-length motion picture, the hidden-camera study of sexuality, "What
Do You Say to a Naked Lady?" His other credits included 40 movie shorts for Columbia
Pictures, three books"Eavesdropper at Large," "Candid Kids" and "Candidly,
Allen Funt"seven record albums and more than 100 sales training films for
How does one prepare for a career hiding cameras, dreaming up crazy
situations and delighting people with their own foolishness? Allen Funt's early
years gave few clues. Born September 16, 1914, in New York City, the son of a
diamond merchant, Funt graduated from high school at the precocious age of 15.
Too young for college and eager for a career in art, he attended Pratt Institute
in Brooklyn before entering Cornell University, from which he earned a B.A. in
After graduation he attended Columbia University School of Business
Administration and then returned to Pratt for additional courses in art, which
led to a job in the art department of an advertising agency. He subsequently became
a copywriter and then joined the radio department, where he found his true métier.
He became a radio idea man, dreaming up gimmicks for shows.
During World War II, the Army Signal Corps put Funt and his radio
experience to good use for five years. While in the service, Funt experimented
with the then young art of location recording, using a wire recorder, the predecessor
of today's tape recorder. The portability of the contraption led Funt to try out
various concealment techniques. The happy result was Candid Microphone, which
premiered on ABC Radio soon after Funt left the Army.
Funt, who never regarded himself as an actor, soon found himself playing
many characters in the programdisguised as a dentist, garage mechanic or
some other occupationserving as the catalyst for unsuspecting people whose
candid reactions to unusual situations were recorded. Candid Microphone soon gave
birth to the television version, Candid Camera, which appeared at one time or
another on all three networks and in many foreign countries. The program was an
acclaimed hit on CBS-TV from 1960 to 1966.
The next two decades brought about the New Candid Camera, a weekly
half-hour syndicated series that ran for over five years in the mid-70's, as well
as adult versions of the popular show created for cable. During this time, Funt
also produced several Candid Camera Specials for NBC and CBS. Peter Funt joined
him in 1987 for the CBS specials.
Allen Funt's philanthropic endeavors were many. He turned over to
his alma mater, Cornell, the entire library of Candid Camera recordings and films,
together with a grant to make this material available the world over for research
and other academic uses. For several years he also established a Fellowship at
Syracuse University for post-graduate studies in radio and television aimed at
providing the broadcast industry with qualified black personnel.
Due to his continued interest in the effects of laughter on healing,
Funt established the "Laughter Therapy" foundation, which makes Candid Camera
videocassettes available at no charge to people with serious illnesses.
Called the "second most ingenious sociologist in America" by no
less an authority than super-sociologist David Reisman in his book, "The Lonely
Crowd," Funt always considered himself a student of human nature, rather than
a practical joker.
He moved from New York to Central California in 1978, and embarked
on cattle ranching and horse breeding at his 1,100-acre Big Sur ranch, bordered
on one side by the Pacific and the other by the beautiful Sierra Mountains. Often
he could be found ankle-deep in sawdust making furniture or building additions
to the ranch. Following a stroke in 1993, he was forced to take things easier,
but still with that same Funt appreciation for life's little absurditiesand
of course, still sporting a "Smile."
Allen Funt is survived by five children: Peter, Patricia, John,
Juliet and William; and four grandchildren: Stephanie, Daniel, Katherine and Anna.
return to About Candid Camera
Camera PO Box 827 Monterey, CA 93942