Allen Ludden, born Allen Packard Ellsworth, was an American television personality, emcee and game show host, perhaps most well-known for hosting various incarnations of the game show Password between 1961 and 1980.
Allen Packard Ellsworth was born on October 5, 1917, in Mineral Point, Wisconsin, the first child of Elmer Ellsworth, 25, a Nebraska native living in Mineral Point and working as an ice dealer; and his wife Leila M. Allen, age 22, a Wisconsin native and housewife. Tragically, Elmer Ellsworth died the next winter at age 26, a victim of the worldwide influenza epidemic, on January 6, 1919. When Allen was about five years old, Leila Ellsworth married Homer Ludden Jr., an electrical engineer and the son of H.D. Ludden, the town physician, a Chicago native who had practiced in Mineral Point since 1906. Allen was given his adoptive father’s name and became Allen E. Ludden. The family lived briefly in the small Wisconsin towns of Janesville, Elkhorn, Antigo and Waupaca before moving to Texas when Allen was still a small child.
An English and dramatics major at the University of Texas, Ludden graduated with Phi Beta Kappa honors in 1940 and received his Master of Arts in English from the same university in 1941. He served in the U.S. Army, received a Bronze Star, and was discharged with the rank of captain in 1946. During the late 1940s and early 1950s he carved out a career as an adviser for youth in teen magazine columns and on radio. His radio show for teenagers, Mind Your Manners, received a Peabody Award in 1950.
Ludden hosted many game shows, including the GE College Bowl, but he was most well-known for hosting both the daytime and prime time versions of Password on CBS and ABC between 1961 and 1975. His opening TV catch phrase, “Hi doll,” was directed toward his beloved real-life mother-in-law, Tess White, mother of Betty White. He ended Password with a “password of the day,” and then “So long, see you tomorrow, I hope.” Ludden began hosting an updated version of the game, Password Plus, on NBC, in 1979, but chemotherapy treatments for stomach cancer forced him off the show in late October 1980. Tom Kennedy filled in as host during this time. Other shows hosted by Ludden include Liar’s Club, Win With the Stars, and Stumpers! He also hosted the original pilot for The Joker’s Wild and hosted a talk-variety show, Allen Ludden’s Gallery.