|Born||Ivan Lawrence Blieden
June 23, 1925
Houston, Texas, U.S.
|Died||June 6, 1975 (aged 49)
|Occupation||Actor/Game show host|
|Years active||1950 – 1975|
|Spouse(s)||Carol Haney (1955-1962)|
Born Ivan Lawrence Blieden in Houston, Texas, Blyden died in an automobile accident in Morocco seventeen days before he would have reached the age of 50. A practitioner of the Jewish faith, he was married to actress and dancer Carol Haney (1925-1964) between 1955 and 1962. The couple had 2 children, Joshua, born in 1957, and Ellen, born in 1960.
Blyden's career had three distinct phases. For most of his career, he was known as both a good, solid character actor on television and a highly in-demand Broadway actor. Other television work he did included his starring in one situation comedy, Harry's Girls, which ran on NBC for fifteen episodes from 1963-1964. In this adaptation of the Robert E. Sherwood play Idiot's Delight, Blyden starred as Harry, a vaudeville style performer constantly getting into trouble and falling in love. Blyden also did many guest performances on such dramatic anthology shows as Playhouse 90, Omnibus, and The Loretta Young Show along with The Twilight Zone and other non-anthology dramatic programs. Although he was generally cast as a nice guy, his two Twilight Zone episodes display an impressive range as he acted out two very different characters, both with dysfunctional personalities: the tough-talking hood who dies and finds the afterlife a little too pleasant in the classic episode "A Nice Place to Visit," and the titular vain, cowardly cowboy star in the comedic episode "Showdown with Rance McGrew."
Blyden was an in-demand Broadway and off-Broadway actor. He starred in shows such as Mister Roberts, where he replaced David Wayne in the role of Ensign Frank Pulver, which Jack Lemmon later acted out in the film version, Harold, Foxy, The Apple Tree, You Know I Can't Hear You When the Water's Running, and a revival of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, which he helped produce and for which he won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for the role of Hysterium, a slave. His performance in Flower Drum Song as Sammy Fong also was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical.
Late in his career, he became a game-show presenter and "emcee," or master of ceremonies, starting with Personality in 1967. He also hosted You're Putting Me On, The Movie Game, and finally and most successfully, What's My Line?
Blyden also had a brief, and rather uneventful, film career. He played secondary parts in the films Kiss Them For Me and The Bachelor Party, both of which were released in 1957, and the film version of On A Clear Day You Can See Forever, released in 1970.
In 1974, Blyden appeared in a play in New Haven, CT with the Yale Repertory Theatre. A musical comedy named The Frogs, by Burt Shevelove, and freely based on a play written by Aristophanes in 405 B.C., its music had been composed, and its lyrics written, by Stephen Sondheim. Blyden played Dionysos. One of his fellow castmates, Michael Vale, who acted out the role of Xanthias, would later become Fred the Baker in a long-running series of commercials for Dunkin' Donuts. Notable in the chorus of this production of The Frogs were a young Meryl Streep and Sigourney Weaver, both of whom were then students at the Yale School of Drama. The choreographer, who also appeared as a Hand Maiden and as the Innkeeper's Wife, was Carmen de Lavallade.
On May 24, 1975 Blyden hosted a pilot for the Mark Goodson-Bill Todman program Showoffs. Soon after, he took a vacation to Morocco. While driving to Tan-Tan to shop for native jewelry, his rental car went off the road and overturned, knocking him unconscious.
Blyden died on June 6, 1975 at the age of 49. Bobby Van eventually took over the hosting duties for Showoffs.
Host of What's My Line?