Merv Griffin, the longtime host of The Merv Griffin Show who created the enduring game shows Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune, died Sunday of prostate cancer. He was 82.
Griffin, who battled prostate cancer a decade ago, was admitted to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center last month after the illness returned. According to the Associated Press, his son, Tony, said that Griffin had been at work on his forthcoming first-run game show, Let’s Play Crosswords, set to premiere this fall.
Born July 6, 1925, in San Mateo, Calif., Mervyn Edward Griffin Jr. began his career in entertainment as a radio singer for band leader Freddy Martin in 1948. After several small film and stage roles, he began hosting TV game shows in the late 1950s and early 60s. An occasional substitute host for Jack Paar on the Tonight show, he was considered as a successor when Paar retired in 1962 but lost to Johnny Carson.
In 1964, he created the quiz show Jeopardy!, for which he also wrote the theme song.The following year, he began hosting The Merv Griffin Show, a syndicated talk show that ran until 1986. He created Wheel in 1975 and late sold the rights to both Wheel and Jeopardy! to Columbia Pictures Television for $250 million in 1986, according to the AP.
A lifelong fan of crosswords, Griffin was preparing to rollout his new game show in September in a partnership between distributor Program Partners and his production company Merv Griffin Entertainment.