Allen Ludden

Allen Ludden (born Allen Packard Ellsworth; October 5, 1917 – June 9, 1981) was an American television personality, actor, emcee and game show host. He hosted various incarnations of the game show Password between 1961 and 1980.

Allen Ludden
Allen Ludden Stumpers 1976.jpg
Ludden on the game show Stumpers!, 1976
Allen Packard Ellsworth

(1917-10-05)October 5, 1917
DiedJune 9, 1981(1981-06-09) (aged 63)
Resting placeGraceland Cemetery, Mineral Point, Wisconsin
Alma materUniversity of Texas
OccupationGame show host, television personality, actor, singer
Years active1949–1981
Margaret McGloin
(m. 1943; died 1961)

(m. 1963)

Early yearsEdit

Ludden was the first child of Elmer Ellsworth, a Nebraska native living in Mineral Point, Wisconsin, and working as an ice dealer; and his wife Leila M. Allen, a Wisconsin native and housewife. Elmer Ellsworth died the next winter at age 26, a victim of the Spanish flu, on January 6, 1919.[1]

When Ludden was about five years old, his mother remarried, to 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 Ludden. The family lived briefly in the Wisconsin cities of Janesville, Elkhorn, Antigo and Waupaca, Wisconsin before moving to Texas when Ludden was nine years old.[2]

Education and careerEdit

An English and dramatics major at the University of Texas (now known as the University of Texas at Austin), 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 United States Army as officer in charge of entertainment in the Pacific theater, received a Bronze Star Medal, and was discharged with the rank of captain in 1946.[3] 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 an honorable mention Peabody Award in 1950.[4]

Ludden hosted many game shows, including the 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.[5]

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. 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.

At the request of the publishers Dodd, Mead & Co., Ludden wrote and published four books of "Plain Talk" advice, plus a youth novel, Roger Thomas, Actor (1959), all for young readers. He received the 1961 Horatio Alger Award.[6] He released an album called Allen Ludden Sings His Favorite Songs on RCA Records in 1964.


Ludden with wife Betty White (1963)

Ludden married Margaret McGloin on October 11, 1943. She died of cancer on October 30, 1961. They had a son, David, and two daughters, Martha and Sarah.

He proposed to twice-divorced Betty White, whom he had met on Password, at least twice before she accepted.[7] Their romance blossomed when they played summer stock theatre together, in the play Critic's Choice in 1962. They also appeared together in the romantic comedy Janus in 1963.[8][9] They were married on June 14, 1963, and remained together until Ludden's death. They appeared together in an episode of The Odd Couple in which Felix and Oscar appeared on Password and also as a couple on a season 4 episode of The Love Boat.


After Ludden was diagnosed with stomach cancer in early 1980, he took a month-long leave of absence from Password Plus for chemotherapy treatment, with Bill Cullen filling in as host. On October 7, 1980, he slipped into a coma while on vacation in Monterey, California.[10] It was initially reported that he had suffered a stroke, but the coma was actually caused by high levels of calcium from medication taken to help fight the cancer. Tom Kennedy assumed duties as host of Password Plus, and although Ludden hoped to return to the show, his cancer grew worse and he never returned. Ludden died in Los Angeles on June 9, 1981, at age 63.[3] Ludden was buried beside his father in the Ellsworth family plot in Graceland Cemetery in his hometown of Mineral Point, Wisconsin.


A walkway at the Los Angeles Zoo was named in his memory (Betty White is a board member at the Zoo), and an artificial lake in Mineral Point was named Ludden Lake in his honor.[11] Betty White also donated a Labrador Retriever named "Ludden" to Guide Dogs for the Blind in San Rafael, California, in memory of her late husband.[12]

Ludden's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is located on North side of the 6700 block of Hollywood Boulevard, next to Betty White's star.[13] White accepted Ludden's posthumously awarded star on 19 April 1987 during an appearance on This Is Your Life.[14] The star was formally unveiled in a ceremony on 31 March 1988.[15]

In an interview on Larry King Live, when asked whether or not she would remarry, Betty White replied by saying, "Once you've had the best, who needs the rest?"[16]


The Allen Ludden Papers collection is located at the Free Public Library in his native Mineral Point, Wisconsin. The items include letters written or received by Ludden, typed radio scripts, newspaper and magazine clippings by or about Ludden, publicity photographs and personal photographs, and a broken pair of horn-rimmed glasses. The collection was donated by his widow, Betty White.[17]


  1. ^ "Elmer Dale Ellsworth (Obituary)". Iowa County Democrat. Mineral Point. January 9, 1919. p. 1.
  2. ^ "Ludden Finds 'Password' to Success". Green Bay Press Gazette. July 8, 1962. p. 44. Retrieved April 19, 2018 – via 
  3. ^ a b "Allen Ludden, TV Host, Is Dead; On 'College Bowl' and 'Password'". The New York Times. June 10, 1981. p. B6.
  4. ^ "Mind Your Manners". The Peabody Awards. Retrieved 24 August 2018.
  5. ^ White, Betty (October 12, 2010). Here We Go Again: My Life In Television 1949-1995. New York City: Scribner. ISBN 978-1451614268. Retrieved August 24, 2018. Hi doll.
  6. ^ "Members". Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans. Retrieved August 24, 2018.
  7. ^ White, Betty. Here We Go Again: My Life In Television 1949-1995. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 1995.
  8. ^ King, Susan (June 17, 2009). "Betty White keeps saying yes to life's proposal". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 6, 2017.
  9. ^ "Production History". Cape Playhouse. Archived from the original on February 6, 2017. Retrieved February 6, 2017.
  10. ^ Daily Variety; October 9, 1980; Page 19
  11. ^ Bechen, Brooke (June 20, 2013). "Local men pay tribute to Allen Ludden by cleaning tombstone". Dodgeville Chronicle. Retrieved August 24, 2018.
  12. ^ "Stories: Shelley Rhodes". Guide Dogs for the Blind. Archived from the original on 2016-03-04.
  13. ^ Townsend, Dorothy. "Allen Ludden". Retrieved 3 April 2021.
  14. ^ Gowers, Bruce (19 April 1987). "Betty White". Retrieved 3 April 2021.
  15. ^ "Allen Ludden gets posthumous star on Walk of Fame". UPI. Retrieved 3 April 2021.
  16. ^ Weiss, Shari (April 9, 2011). "Betty White: Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan are 'ungrateful' actors who 'abuse' their fame". New York Daily News. Retrieved January 18, 2014.
  17. ^ "The Mineral Point Archives". Mineral Point Public Library. Archived from the original on 2008-05-14.

External linksEdit

Preceded by
Host, College Bowl
Succeeded by
Robert Earle
Preceded by
Host, Password, Password Plus
1961-1967, 1971-1975, 1979-1980 (interrupted by Bill Cullen in 1980)
Succeeded by
Tom Kennedy
Preceded by
Peter Marshall
Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Game Show Host
Succeeded by
Bert Convy