Peter Marshall

Active - 1950 - 2017  |   Born - Mar 30, 1927   |   Genres - Comedy, Musical

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Biography by Bruce Eder

Peter Marshall has been best-known, since the mid-'60s, as the popular host of The Hollywood Squares game show for 15 years. Audience members are, thus, surprised when they learn that Marshall was a legitimate actor for more than 15 years before he ever set foot on the set of The Hollywood Squares and came from a family that counts several well-known figures among its members.

Born Pierre LaCock (or la Cocque) in 1927 in Huntington, WV, he was the son of a pharmacist and the younger brother of Joanne la Cocque, who moved from being a successful model to a movie star in the 1940s and 1950s under the name Joanne Dru. He began singing in big bands as a teenager during the 1940s, then took a job as a page at NBC, and moved through different varieties of employment before finding himself broke and in Los Angeles in 1949. He hooked up with a slightly older contemporary, Tommy Noonan, in a comedy duo called Noonan & Marshall; the duo made several appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show and got cast in a handful of films at the outset of the 1950s. Marshall's obvious talent for comedy was augmented by his good looks and he had a sporadically successful, busy career over the next 15 years as an actor, working in a variety of stage and film vehicles, among them a London production of Bye Bye Birdie and the abortive Warner Bros. sequel to Mister Roberts, Ensign Pulver. Perhaps his best performance was as the young officer trapped underground with a group of allied and enemy troops in Edgar G. Ulmer's World War II drama The Cavern. That film, made in 1965, was the last screen performance that Marshall was able to give as an anonymous working actor.

In 1966, NBC and the sponsors were looking for a host for a new program called The Hollywood Squares, in which well-known actors and comedians were invited to give comical (and often comically wrong answers) to leading, sometimes double-entendre questions. Somebody at the network noticed Marshall's photograph on top of a pile of publicity materials, liked what they saw and the fact that he'd acted and had also done comedy, and called him in. Starting in October 1966, and lasting until 1981, he was the host of the extraordinarily popular program, which became a kind of pop culture fixture for decades. He ceased his career as a working actor, although he did co-write the screenplay for (and appear in) Maury Dexter's notorious 1968 anti-marijuana drama Maryjane, starring an overage Fabian. He also hosted a syndicated variety show during the 1970s and was a frequent guest as a host, singer, or dancer, on programs like The People's Choice Awards. Since The Hollywood Squares, he has appeared onscreen (usually as a game show host) and done comedy in films such as Annie, and poked fun at his own image on the Fox network comedy series In Living Color. He also has a recording career, and starred in HMS Pinafore with the London Symphony Orchestra. Marshall remains busy in his seventies and his son, Pete LaCock, is a well-known major league baseball player.

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