Monty Hall, the genial TV game show host whose long-running “Let’s Make a Deal” traded on love of money and merchandise and the mystery of which door had the car behind it, died Sept. 30 at his home in Beverly Hills, Calif. He was 96.
His daughter, Sharon Hall, attributed his death to a heart ailment.
“Let’s Make a Deal,” which Mr. Hall co-created, debuted as a daytime show on NBC in 1963 and became a TV staple. Through the next four decades, it also aired in prime time, in syndication and, in two brief outings, with other hosts at the helm.
An episode of “The Odd Couple” in the 1970s featured Felix Unger (Tony Randall) and Oscar Madison (Jack Klugman) as bickering guests on Mr. Hall’s program.
Contestants were chosen from the studio audience — outlandishly dressed as animals, clowns or cartoon characters to attract the host’s attention — and would start the game by trading an item of their own for a prize. After that, it was matter of swapping the prize in hand for others hidden behind doors or curtains or in boxes, presided over by the leggy, smiling Carol Merrill.
The query “Do you want Door No. 1, No. 2 or No. 3?” became a popular catchphrase and the chance of winning a new car a matter of primal urgency. Prizes could be a car or a mink coat or a worthless item dubbed a “zonk.”
The energetic, quick-thinking Mr. Hall, often clad in colorful sport coats, was deemed the perfect host in Alex McNeil’s reference book “Total Television.”
“Monty kept the show moving while he treated the outrageously garbed and occasionally greedy contestants courteously,” McNeil wrote. “It is hard to imagine anyone else but Hall working the trading area as smoothly.”
For Mr. Hall, the interaction was easy.
“I’m a people person,” he said on the PBS documentary series “Pioneers of Television.” “And so I don’t care if they jump on me, and I don’t care if they yell and they fainted — those are my people.”
The game show gave rise to an academic exercise in which students were asked to weigh this question: In guessing which of three doors might conceal a prize car, and after one is eliminated as a possibility, should you switch your choice to the one you didn’t pick?
The puzzle sparked heated exchanges in Marilyn vos Savant’s Parade magazine column. (The answer to the Monty Hall Problem, Mr. Hall and others said, was: Yes, take the switch — but only if the contest is set up so the host cannot skew the results by offering some guests the chance to switch doors and not giving others the same option.)
After five years on NBC, “Let’s Make a Deal” moved to ABC in 1968 and aired on the network through 1976, including prime-time stints. It went into syndication in the 1970s and 1980s, returning to NBC in 1990-91 and again in 2003.
Mr. Hall’s name and his show remain part of the language of pop culture. He also guest-starred in sitcoms and appeared in TV commercials.
With the wealth that the game show brought him, Mr. Hall became a noted philanthropist and fundraiser for charitable causes. His daughter Sharon Hall estimated that he had raised nearly $1 billion for charity over his lifetime.
Another daughter, Joanna Gleason, is a longtime Broadway and television actress. She won a Tony in 1988 for best actress in a musical for “Into the Woods” and was nominated for Tonys two other times.
Monte Halparin was born Aug. 25, 1921, in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He was a manual laborer in 1942, when a stranger offered to pay for his college education on the condition that he repay the money, got top grades, kept his benefactor’s name anonymous and agreed to help someone else.
It was decades before Mr. Hall revealed the name of his early supporter, Max Freed.
Mr. Hall graduated from the University of Manitoba with the goal of becoming a physician. He was denied entry to medical school, he later said, because of quotas on Jewish students.
Instead, he turned to entertainment. He first tested his skills on radio and, after moving to New York in 1955 and later to Los Angeles, began working on a variety of television shows. Among the programs he hosted were “Cowboy Theater” in 1957, “Keep Talking” in 1958 and “Video Village” in 1960.
He joined with writer-producer Stefan Hatos to create “Let’s Make a Deal.”
The show’s roots could be found in “The Auctioneer,” a game show Mr. Hall hosted in Toronto in the 1950s. “The Auctioneer” was a “pretty pedestrian” program until the concluding 10 minutes, when he would barter with audience members, Mr. Hall told the Daily Herald of suburban Chicago in 2000.
“It was much more exciting than the first 20 minutes of the show,” he recalled.
Besides Mr. Hall, other hosts of “Let’s Make a Deal” were Bob Hilton (1990) and Billy Bush (2003).
Mr. Hall married Marilyn Plottel in 1947. She died earlier this year.
In addition to his daughters, survivors include a son, Richard Hall; a brother; and five grandchildren.
At age 7, Mr. Hall was severely burned by a pot of boiling water and endured a lengthy recovery.
“When you’ve been that sick, spent a year out of school, you identify with people who have these ailments and sicknesses,” he told the Palm Beach (Fla.) Post in 2003. “And when you grow up poor, you identify with people in need.”
Mr. Hall was repeatedly honored for his charitable efforts, and wards at hospitals, including Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto and Hahnemann University Hospital in Philadelphia, are named in his honor.
But it was as “TV’s big dealer” that Mr. Hall was forever identified.
When a People magazine interviewer suggested in 1996 that “Let’s Make a Deal” would be his epitaph, Mr. Hall replied, with a wince: “You put that on my tombstone, and I’ll kill you.”
— Associated Press