Dennis James was an American television personality, actor, and announcer. He is credited as the host of television’s first game show, the DuMont Network’s Cash and Carry in 1946. James was the first person to ever host a telethon and even the first person to do a TV commercial.
Born Demi James Sposa in Jersey City, New Jersey, he began his career in radio with WNEW and moved to television in 1938, working for the soon-to-become-DuMont Television Network station WABD, which is now WNYW. James became the host of a few game shows, such as the ABC version of Chance of a Lifetime and served as commentator for DuMont’s wrestling and boxing shows. He essentially worked as a utility announcer for DuMont.
James also hosted the DuMont daytime variety show Okay, Mother. James often addressed the TV audience as “Mother”, a practice he had begun when discussing the finer points of wrestling during his sports broadcasts. He feared that men in the audience would be insulted by the implication that they didn’t already know the rules, but would accept that James was merely explaining things for the benefit of women viewers. During the late 1940s James was also an announcer for Paramount News, announcing newsreels ranging from hard news to sports.
James gained his greatest fame as the host of numerous game shows from 1946?1977, including the NBC daytime revival of Name That Tune and his last game show, the weekly syndicated nighttime version of The Price is Right. James and producer Mark Goodson co-hosted a promotional film, selling stations on the 1972 revival of Price, which was originally hosted by James’ fellow TV pioneer Bill Cullen. He also appeared with Bill Leyden in the 1962-1964 NBC quiz program Your First Impression.