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Break the ($250,000) Bank
Genre Game show
Presented by Bert Parks (1948-1957)
Bud Collyer (1948-1953 with Parks, 1953 daytime)
Country of origin  United States
Running time 30 minutes
Original channel ABC (1948-1949, 1954-1956)
NBC (1949-1952, 1953, 1956-1957)
CBS (1952-1953)
Original run October 22, 1948 – January 15, 1957

Break the Bank was a quiz show which aired variously on ABC, CBS and NBC from 1948-1957. It began on radio, and generally had Bert Parks as a host. Bud Collyer co-hosted from 1948 to 1953.


Contestants were drawn from the studio audience and brought up on stage to play a quiz game. The contestant was asked a series of questions worth progressively more money. One wrong answer was permitted, but two wrong answers lost the money to the bank. Question seven was the "Gateway to the Bank" worth $500, and question eight would win the contents of the bank which started at $1,000.


The record bank win was $8,870 until Break the $250,000 Bank was created in response to The $64,000 Question and other big-money shows. Each contestant answered five $100 questions in their subject of expertise. If all of those questions were answered correctly, the contestant answered a $5,000 question. If successful, questions worth $10,000 followed and increased up to $250,000. However, this version ran for only three months (October 9, 1956 to January 15, 1957) and no contestants won anymore than $60,000, won by dentist Harry Duncan.

The most notable contestants during this period were African American actress Ethel Waters, who won $10,000 she said would go toward back taxes, and two escapees from the 1956 Hungarian Revolution who competed in a special category – "Fight for Freedom".

Episode status

Some episodes survive, including three at the UCLA Film and Television Archive (two from 1950, one from 1955). An episode from October 19, 1949 survives at the Paley Center for Media



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