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Series / Break the Bank (1945)

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The first of three unrelated Game Shows with this name was from Wolf Productions, debuting on Mutual radio on October 20, 1945. Contestants chosen from the Studio Audience answered questions of increasing value, although the amounts varied:

  • By October 1949, it was $10-$20-$50-$100-$200-$300-$500.
  • The 1953 daytime version used $10-$20-$30-$50-$100-$200-$300.
  • By about mid-1955, the structure was modified to $25-$50-$100-$200-$300-$500.

The highest-valued question was the "Gateway to the Bank". Answering it correctly gave that player/couple one final question for the chance to break the Bank. Missing one question along the way simply knocked you down one rung (for example, missing the $200 question dropped your winnings from $100 to $50, and you'd have to answer another question to get back to $100), but missing a second time ended the game and sent you home with the amount you previously won (in the previous example, $50 due to missing the $100 question). It also added the amount you won to the Bank.

Originally without a permanent host, Bert Parks took the reins permanently in 1946. The television version debuted on the then-new ABC on October 22, 1948 and proceeded to Channel Hop among ABC, NBC, and CBS for the next eight years. The radio version also hopped around, becoming a daily series from 1950 until its end in 1955.


When the show returned to NBC on October 9, 1956, it became Break the $250,000 Bank and overhauled its format to offer considerably more. Unfortunately, nobody ever broke the Bank (the most anybody won was $60,000) and Bank folded, this time for good, on January 15, 1957. The show was replaced on the 22nd by Hold That Note, a Name That Tune-esque game also hosted by Parks, which ran until April 2.

Game Show Tropes in use:

  • Bonus Round: The question for the Bank.
  • Consolation Prize: The amount you had before the second wrong answer.
  • Home Game: Two versions were released by Bettye-B in 1955, but play for considerably more than the show did!
  • Personnel:
    • The Announcer: Including Bud Collyer, Win Elliot, and Johnny Olson.
    • Game Show Host: Bert Parks, famous for helming Miss America pageants and goading answers out of contestants on Yours For A Song. Collyer assisted from 1948-53, afterward hosting a brief daytime version on NBC.
    • Advertisement:
    • Lovely Assistant: They appear to have been added after Collyer left.
    • Studio Audience
  • Progressive Jackpot: The Bank, which started at $1,000 ($500 on the 1953 daytime series) and grew by the amount each player or couple took home until won.

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