Rip Torn

Rip Torn Headshot

Actor

Birth Name: Elmore Rual Torn Jr.

Birth Date: February 6, 1931

Death Date: July 9, 2019

Birth Place: Temple, Texas

Spouses: Geraldine Page

Actor Rip Torn enjoyed two distinctly diverse periods of fame in his career - he was a gifted if volatile presence on Broadway and in episodic television during the 1960s and 1970s, and as a sly, Emmy-winning comic talent in such '90s-era series as "The Larry Sanders Show" (HBO, 1992-1998) and films like "Men in Black" (1997).

Born Elmore Rual Torn, Jr., on February 6, 1931 in Temple, Texas, he adopted his unusual stage name from a nickname shared between all of the male members of his family. He initially intended to follow in the footsteps of his father, a noted agriculturalist and economist, and study agriculture at Texas A&M University, but found his true calling in acting, which he studied at the University of Texas. After graduation, he served as a military policeman in the United States Army before heading west to try his hand in Hollywood.

It proved less than successful, with Torn finding more work as as a dishwasher than actor, which spurred him to head for New York. Once there, studies at the Actors Studio under Lee Strasberg coincided with his first television and film appearances, which included an uncredited turn in Elia Kazan's "Baby Doll" (1956). That same year, Torn made his Broadway debut as Brick, the tortured protagonist of Tennessee Williams' "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," and later earned a Tony nomination for Williams' "Sweet Bird of Youth."

He would follow the production's leads-Paul Newman and Geraldine Page-to Hollywood to appear in Kazan's 1962 feature film version; he and Page would be married a year later and became one of the theater world's most eclectic and well-regarded couples until her death in 1987. Though theater was perhaps his most celebrated showcase, Torn also maintained steady work and features and television: he had played Judas Iscariot in George Stevens' Biblical epic "King of Kings" (1961) and was frequently cast as rough-hewn, even dangerous men in numerous television episodes and in films like "The Cincinnati Kid" (1966) and Cornel Wilde's surreal WWII film "Beach Red" (1967).

Torn shouldered a reputation for being difficult off-screen and -stage as well: he was fired from the London production of James Baldwin's "Blues for Mr. Charlie" for reportedly insulting both the author and the production, and exited "Easy Rider" (1969) after claiming that co-director Dennis Hopper had threatened him with a knife. Perhaps the most infamous incident came during the production of Norman Mailer's experimental feature "Maidstone" (1970); while improvising a scene, Torn struck Mailer, who was also starring in the film, with a hammer, resulting in a fight between the two actors that culminated in Mailer biting Torn's ear.

Torn's reputation for being difficult would eventually let out the ballast from his film career - though he would claim that this was more due to his anti-war, anti-bigotry politics - and for much of the '70s, he kept to episodic television and the New York stage, including a 1975 revival of "The Glass Menagerie" with Maureen Stapleton. But after receiving solid reviews for his turn as a craven country star in the little-seen "Payday" (1973), a scientist aiding alien David Bowie in "The Man Who Fell to Earth" (1976) and back-to-back performances as Walt Whitman in the CBS miniseries "The American Parade" and as Richard Nixon in "Blind Ambition" (CBS, 1979), Torn began to slowly rebuild his standing in Hollywood. His performance as a hard-drinking bayou resident in "Cross Creek" (1983) earned him an Oscar nomination, while his turn as Big Daddy in a Showtime production of "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" brought a CableACE Award nod.

But it was a comic role - a cheerful litigator for the recently deceased in the afterlife - in Albert Brooks' "Defending Your Life" (1991) that led to his true career renaissance. Garry Shandling was reportedly inspired by that performance to cast Torn as Artie, the menacing but unwaveringly loyal talk show producer on his acclaimed "Larry Sanders Show," a project that would earn Torn six Emmy nominations and one win in 1996. More importantly, it recast Torn as a rascally comic presence, which he would play, in varying capacities, for the next decade. He was the goateed head of a secret agency pressed with halting alien invasions in Barry Sonnenfeld's hit "Men in Black" (1997) and its 2002 sequel; a self-impressed author in Curtis Hanson's "Wonder Boys" (2000); the wheelchair-bound, wrench-tossing dodgeball coach in the Ben Stiller comedy "Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story" (2004), and King Louis XV in Sofia Coppola's "Marie Antoinette" (2006).

But by the mid-2000s, Torn's ornery side had caught up with him; a string of arrests for driving while intoxicated culminated in a 2010 incident in which an inebriated Torn attempted to break into a bank office branch in Connecticut, which he believed to be his home residence. He pled guilty to reckless endangerment and received a two-and-a-half-year suspended sentence, but the damage to his career couldn't be undone: Torn worked largely in independent films and in voice-over roles until 2016, when he logged his final screen work in the animated comedy series "TripTank" (Comedy Central, 2014-2016). He remained largely out of sight until his death at the age of 88 at his home in Lakeville, Connecticut on July 9, 2019.

Credits

Big Brother and The Holding Company: Nine Hundred Nights

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2023

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King Looney
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3 Weeks to Daytona

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Sal
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2011

Chatham

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Captain Jerry
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American Cowslip

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Trevor O'Hart
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Happy Tears

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The Afterlight

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Carl
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August

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Mr. Sterling
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Lucky Days

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Bobo
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Lucky Days

Executive Producer
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Bee MovieStream

Voice
Lou Lo Duca
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2007

Three Days to Vegas

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Joe Wallace
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2007

Turn the River

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Quinette
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2007

30 RockStream

Guest Star
Don Geiss
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78%

Marie AntoinetteStream

Actor
Louis XV
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58%

Zoom

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Larraby
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The Sisters

Actor
Dr. Chebrin
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2005

Forty Shades of Blue

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Alan James
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2005

Yours, Mine & OursStream

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6%

Welcome to Mooseport

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Bert Langdon
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2004

Dodgeball: A True Underdog StoryStream

Actor
Patches O'Houlihan
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2004
71%

Eulogy

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Grandpa Collins
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2004

The Lyon's Den

Guest Star
Series
2003
64%

Love Object

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Novak
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2003

Rolling Kansas

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2003

Men in Black IIStream

Actor
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Movie
2002
38%

Law & Order: Criminal IntentStream

Guest Star
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Series
2001

Nine Hundred Nights

Narrator
Movie
2001

Freddy Got Fingered

Actor
Jim Brody
Movie
2001

Soul Food

Guest Star
Series
2000

A Vision of Murder: The Story of Donielle

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Detective Manny Garett
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2000

Wonder BoysStream

Actor
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Movie
2000
81%

Seasons of Love

Actor
Show
1999

Passing Glory

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Father Robert Grant
Movie
1999

Balloon Farm

Actor
Harvey H. Potter
Movie
1999

The Almost Perfect Bank Robbery

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Royce
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1999

The InsiderStream

Actor
John Scanlon
Movie
1999
96%

Will & GraceStream

Guest Star
Lionel Banks
Series
1998

Senseless

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Randall Tyson
Movie
1998

Ghost Stories

Host
Show
1997

Ghost Stories

Host
Show
1997

The Mouse

Actor
Trucker "God"
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1997

Trial and Error

Actor
Benjamin 'Benny' Gibbs
Movie
1997

Men in BlackStream

Actor
MiB Chief Z (Zed)
Movie
1997
91%

HerculesStream

Voice
Zeus
Movie
1997
82%

For Better or Worse

Actor
Captain Cole
Movie
1996

Down PeriscopeStream

Actor
Vice Adm. Dean Winslow
Movie
1996
11%

She Stood Alone: The Tailhook Scandal

Actor
Adm. Snyder
Movie
1995

Canadian Bacon

Actor
General Dick Panzer
Movie
1995

Letter to My Killer

Actor
Russel Vanik
Movie
1995

How to Make an American Quilt

Actor
Arthur Cleary
Movie
1995

Chicago Hope

Guest Star
Series
1994

Heaven and Hell: North and South, Book III

Actor
Adolphus
Show
1994

Heart of a Child

Actor
Dr. Leonard Bailey
Movie
1994

The John Larroquette Show

Guest Star
Series
1993

Where the Rivers Flow North

Actor
Noel Lord
Movie
1993

RoboCop 3Stream

Actor
The CEO
Movie
1993
9%

The Larry Sanders ShowStream

Actor
Arthur
Series
1992
100%

Dolly, Mi Muñeca

Actor
Movie
1992

Dolly Dearest

Actor
Karl Resnick
Movie
1992

T Bone N Weasel

Actor
Happy Sam
Movie
1992

Dead Ahead: The Exxon Valdez Disaster

Actor
Admiral Paul Yost
Movie
1992

Beyond the LawStream

Actor
Deputy Butch Prescott
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1992

Fires of Kuwait

Narrator
Movie
1992

Death Falls

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Dub Farley
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1992

Another Pair of Aces: Three of a Kind

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Captain Jack Parsons
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1991

Defending Your Life

Actor
Bob Diamond
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1991

My Son, Johnny

Actor
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1991

Columbo: Death Hits the Jackpot

Actor
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1991

Pair of Aces

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Capt. Jack Parsons
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1990

By Dawn's Early LightStream

Actor
Colonel Fargo
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1990

Beautiful Dreamers

Actor
Walt Whitman
Movie
1990

Kojak: None So Blind

Actor
Gideon Hogarth
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1990

Nómina Mortal

Actor
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1989

Hit List

Actor
Vic Luca
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1989

Cold Feet

Actor
Sheriff
Movie
1989

Silence Like Glass

Actor
Dr. Markowitz
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1989

Sweet Bird of Youth

Actor
Boss Finley
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1989

Equivocación Fatal

Actor
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1989

The Telephone

Director
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1988

April MorningStream

Actor
Solomon Chandler
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1988

Nadine

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Buford Pope
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1987

Laguna Heat

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1987

The King of Love

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Jack Kraft
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1987

Destino América

Actor
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1987

Destination: America

Actor
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1987

J. Edgar Hoover

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Lyndon Baines Johnson
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1987

La Vérité cachée

Actor
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1987

J. Edgar Hoover

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1987

Extreme Prejudice

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1987

Dream West

Actor
Show
1986

Manhunt for Claude Dallas

Actor
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1986

The Atlanta Child Murders

Actor
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Show
1985

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Actor
Wilheim Gehbert
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1985

Summer RentalStream

Actor
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Movie
1985
17%

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Actor
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1985

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Actor
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1984

Misunderstood

Actor
Will
Movie
1984

When She Says No

Actor
Stuart Blankfort
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1984

FlashpointStream

Actor
Sheriff Wells
Movie
1984
57%

SongwriterStream

Actor
Dino McLeish
Movie
1984
89%

City HeatStream

Actor
Primo Pitt
Movie
1984
22%

Scarab

Actor
Khepera
Movie
1983

Cross Creek

Actor
Marsh Turner
Movie
1983

A Stranger Is Watching

Actor
Artie Taggart
Movie
1982

Jinxed!

Actor
Harold Benson
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1982

The BeastmasterStream

Actor
Maax
Movie
1982
80%

La Flambeuse

Actor
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1982

Rape and Marriage: The Rideout Case

Actor
Charles Burt
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1980

Sophia Loren: Her Own Story

Actor
Carlo Ponti
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1980

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Actor
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1980

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Actor
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Scooby Goes Hollywood

Voice
Show
1979

Blind Ambition

Actor
Richard M. Nixon
Show
1979

CBS News Sunday Morning

Guest
News
1979

HeartlandStream

Actor
Clyde Stewart
Movie
1979
100%

A Shining Season

Actor
Jack Baker
Movie
1979

The Seduction of Joe Tynan

Actor
Senator Kittner
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1979

Fast Line Fever

Actor
K.W. Hicks
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1978

Los Archivos Privados de J. Edgar Hoover

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1978

The Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover

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Dwight Webb
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1978

Steel Cowboy

Actor
K.W. Hicks
Movie
1978

Betrayal

Actor
Doctor Hartogs
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1978

ComaStream

Actor
Dr. George
Movie
1978
81%

The Man Who Fell to EarthStream

Actor
Nathan Bryce
Movie
1976
80%

Birch Interval

Actor
Thomas
Movie
1976

Nasty Habits

Actor
Father Maximilian
Movie
1976

Attack on Terror: The FBI vs. the Ku Klux Klan

Actor
Glen Tuttle
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1975

Crazy Joe

Actor
Richie
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1974

Al Final del Arcoiris

Actor
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1973

Payday

Actor
Maury Dann
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1973

Cotter

Actor
Roy
Movie
1972

SlaughterStream

Actor
Dominic Hoffo
Movie
1972
17%

ColumboStream

Guest Star
Leon Lamarr
Series
1971
84%

The President's Plane Is Missing

Actor
George Oldenburg
Movie
1971

Tropic of Cancer

Actor
Henry Miller
Movie
1970

One Man Show

Actor
Guest Host
Show
1969

Maidstone

Actor
Raoul Rey O'Houlihan
Movie
1969

Coming Apart

Actor
Joe
Movie
1969

Sólo Matan Solamente Una Vez

Actor
Movie
1968

Sol Madrid

Actor
Dano Villanova
Movie
1968

Beyond the Law

Actor
Popcorn
Movie
1968

Mannix

Guest Star
Victor Roarke
Series
1967

Beach RedStream

Actor
Gunnery Sgt. Ben Honeywell
Movie
1967

One Spy Too Many

Actor
Alexander
Movie
1966

You're a Big Boy Now

Actor
I.H. Chanticleer
Movie
1966

The Cincinnati KidStream

Actor
Slade
Movie
1965
87%

12 O'Clock High

Guest Star
Series
1964

The Lieutenant

Guest Star
Series
1963

Critic's Choice

Actor
Dion Kapakos
Movie
1963

Combat!

Guest Star
Series
1962

Hero's Island

Actor
Nicholas Gates
Movie
1962

Sweet Bird of YouthStream

Actor
Thomas 'Tom' J. Finley, Jr.
Movie
1962
74%

Ben Casey

Guest Star
Paul Vrolic
Series
1961

Dr. Kildare

Guest Star
Series
1961

Twenty-Four Hours in a Woman's Life

Actor
Paul
Movie
1961

King of KingsStream

Actor
Judas
Movie
1961
85%

Route 66Stream

Guest Star
Alvah Clayhorne
Series
1960

ThrillerStream

Actor
Series
1960

The Untouchables

Guest Star
Series
1959

BonanzaStream

Guest Star
Series
1959

RawhideStream

Guest Star
Series
1959

Pork Chop Hill

Actor
Lt. Walter Russel
Movie
1959

The Restless Gun

Guest Star
Jody Gilman
Series
1957

Time Limit

Actor
Lt. George Miller
Movie
1957

The Alcoa Hour

Actor
Kino
Show
1955

Alfred Hitchcock PresentsStream

Actor
Steve Morgan #22
Series
1955

What's My Line?Stream

Guest
Game Show
1950

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