Collection ACC-MSS 008 - Jan Murray Collection

Identity elements

Reference code


Name and location of repository

Level of description



Jan Murray Collection


  • 1936 - 2007 (Creation)


8 boxes, film reels and DVD's

Name of creator

(1916 - 2006)

Biographical history

Jan Murray was a stand-up comedian who started out in theaters and then moved to television, becoming the first established comedian to break into television as a game show host in the early 1950s. Born Murray Janowsky in 1917 in New York, Murray became interested in comedy as he memorized vaudeville acts and performed them for his bedridden mother as a child. He received his first booking at the Bronx Opera house in 1933. He would go on to hone his craft in the “borscht belt” circuit, a group of resorts in the Catskill Mountains that catered to Jewish vacationers. During World War II, he was one of many comedians who performed in USO troupes.

In the post-war years, Murray continued his comedy career using Jewish ethnic humor in vaudeville houses and later becoming a marquee headliner in Las Vegas. In the early years of television, Murray became the first comedian to host a game show and became sought after for his talent as an emcee. Hosting such programs as Dollar A Second, Jan Murray Time, and Treasure Hunt, he would become an example to new and established comedians looking for an alternative avenue for their skill while improving their material and technique. With his quick wit and lively storytelling, Jan Murray was also a frequent guest on late night talk shows and variety shows.
Murray moved to Los Angeles to begin an acting career in 1956, though the film roles would come to be few in number. His roles included guest appearances on sitcoms like The Lucy Show, while occasionally providing a dramatic appearance. During this time Murray also acted in stage plays on and off Broadway, often receiving first billing. In the 1970s Murray had leading roles in minor films including The Day of the Wolves and Which Way to the Front? with Jerry Lewis. In later years, he would become a mainstay celebrity roaster, and was the subject of a roast by the Friars Club. He also spent time supporting many Jewish charities and causes, including hosting the annual West Coast Chabad Lubavitch telethon for several years.
Murray’s health declined in his 80s due to asthma and emphysema and later died of complications from pneumonia and emphysema at the age of 89 on July 2, 2006. He is survived by his wife Kathleen (Toni) Mann, four children, eight grandchildren and two great-grandsons.

Content and structure elements

Scope and content

The collection consists of the original footage of several episodes of game shows hosted by Jan Murray on 16mm film reels. The footage was transferred from the original reels to Betacam tape, from which DVD reference copies were made. Most of the transfers are Kinescope transfer, with the exception of the “Jan Murray Travelogue” footage, which was a 16mm reversal transfer. The footage, dating from the mid-to-late 1950s, consists of episodes from Dollar-A-Second, Jan Murray Time, and Treasure Hunt. An additional item titled “Jan Murray Travelogue,” consists of silent color film footage of Murray and members of his family on vacation.

Dollar-A-Second was a primetime quiz show where contestants earned a dollar for every second they were on stage answering trivia questions. The time on stage was determined by an “outside event” which was followed by remote camera during the show (the birth of a baby, the time it took an audience member to play a song on a piano, etc.). The outside event was only revealed to the audience on stage and at home. When contestants answered incorrectly, they had to perform stunts as penalties. At the end of the game, the contestant had the opportunity to leave with their winnings or continue to play, risking losing their prize money if the outside event occurred during the show.

Treasure Hunt was broadcast from 1956-1959 and combined trivia questions with prizes. It first aired on ABC then moved to the NBC network. Contestants would pick a topic amongst the five given and be quizzed on a subject and earn money for correct answers. After four questions, the contestant with the highest amount would move on to the “treasure hunt,” which would consist of selecting a numbered treasure chest and risking the cash earned to find out what was in the box. Each episode would have one numbered treasure chest containing $25,000 in cash.

System of arrangement

The collection is organized into six series, which are based on the type and theme of the material. Items and series do not necessarily correlate with physical location. Oversized items are located in box 8.

Series 1: TV Routines and Show Files
Subseries 1.1 Contestant Introductions
Subseries 1.2 Routines and Skits for TV
Series 2: Stand up Routines
Series 3:Celebrity Roasts
Series 4: Photographs
Subseries 4.1 Work Related Photographs
Subseries 4.2 Personal Photographs
Series 5: Correspondence
Series 6: Magazine Articles and Publicity
Series 7: Scripts
Series 8: Audio/Visual Material
Subseries 8.1 Audio Material

Conditions of access and use elements

Conditions governing access

The collection is open to researchers.

Physical access

Technical access

Conditions governing reproduction

Some materials may be subject to copyright. No part of the materials protected by copyright may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without written permission from the copyright holder. Researchers are required to seek permission from the copyright holder to reproduce and/or publish materials under copyright.

Languages of the material

  • English

Scripts of the material

Language and script notes

Finding aids

Acquisition and appraisal elements

Custodial history


Additional materials were donated and added to the collection by Howard Murray in 2012.

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