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Queen For A Day was a “sympathy” contest, hosted by Jack Bailey. It appeared on NBC during the daytime between 1956 and 1960 and then on ABC from 1960 to 1964.
The show was derived from a radio show originally called Queen For Today which began in 1945 and continued until 1957.
It was not really a quiz show as there were no questions. It was primarily designed to bring tears to the eyes and prizes to the winner.
Problem-plagued housewives chosen from the studio audience told sob stories of their hardships, need, misery and sorrow.
Audience members would then select the most deserving of the five contestants using an applause meter (which was really a volume unit indicator, or VU Meter), and the lucky woman would be crowned “Queen for a Day” and receive the prizes she most needed and some bonus prizes too – such as a tour of Hollywood, a dishwasher, and a freezer stocked with frozen dinners. Presumably, the others went away with token gifts.
It was really a kind of maudlin, emotional gladiator spectacle, with the crowd turning thumbs up or down at the end.
Producer Howard Blake recalled in 1966; “Sure, Queen for a Day was vulgar and sleazy and filled with bathos and bad taste. That was why it was so successful; it was exactly what the general public wanted.”
Broadcast from the Moulin Rouge, a theatre-restaurant at 6230 Sunset Boulevard near Vine Street in Hollywood, the show also featured a daily fashion show with commentary by Jeanne Cagney, sister of actor James Cagney.
A syndicated version of the show was attempted in 1970 with host Dick Curtis.