Ralph Edwards was a pioneer radio and television host and producer who created the landmark audience participation show "Truth or Consequences" and the long-running sentimental favorite "This Is Your Life."
The three-time Emmy Award winner's broadcasting career began on radio when he was a teenager in 1929 and spanned more than seven decades.
Edwards had broken out of the ranks of announcers as the host of "Truth or Consequences," which he created for radio in 1940. As the host, he asked contestants silly, generally tricky questions and made them "pay" the consequences for answering incorrectly by performing unusual and often elaborate stunts.
The program, which became radio's No. 1 audience participation show, aired for 38 consecutive years on radio and television. It was so popular that residents of Hot Springs, N.M., voted in 1950 to rename their small resort town after the show to cash in on the free publicity of the unique name.
The publicity-savvy Edwards had let it be known that he was looking for an American town willing to change its name as a promotion for the radio show's 10th anniversary, and he conducted a live "Truth or Consequences" broadcast from the program's new civic namesake.
"Truth or Consequences," which premiered on TV in 1950 with Edwards as host the first season, is credited with being the first show recorded on 35-millimeter film before a live audience on a regular basis, although it was not the first program filmed using multiple cameras. The three-camera, live-on-film system was later used on "I Love Lucy," which premiered in 1951, and the system is still used for sitcoms.
But the role for which Edwards will no doubt be best remembered is as the genial, smiling host of "This Is Your Life," whose surprised subjects had their life stories highlighted by the voices of long-lost friends and relatives, who then joined Edwards and his guest on stage.
The Saturday Evening Post once called it "the weepiest show on television."
Launched on radio in 1948 as a spinoff of "Truth or Consequences," "This Is Your Life" moved to television in 1952 and ran for nine years on NBC. Edwards hosted a syndicated version that ran from 1971 to 1973, and another syndicated version, hosted by Joseph Campanella, ran from 1983 to 1984. That was followed by several "This Is Your Life" specials.
Although best known for its celebrity guests of honor, "This Is Your Life" also presented the stories of people who had contributed to their communities — "unknown American heroes," Edwards called them.