Human Interest


Do you remember the name John Beresford Tipton? If you do, you’re as old as I am, or maybe older. This morning, that name came to me as I was daydreaming in my favorite chair. Thoughts like that come to me now and then, and inspire me to do some investigating. And that’s exactly what I did.

If you remember that distinguished-sounding name, and even if you don’t, I’ll remind you Mr. Tipton was the fictional character who every week, on TV, gave to some complete stranger, one million dollars, tax free. He was the man whose face you never saw, but whose voice you heard at the beginning of the program, “The Millionaire.” From January, 1955, to July, 1960, 207 episodes of “The Millionaire” aired on CBS. 

Each episode of “The Millionaire” began with Mr. Tipton’s executive Secretary, Michael Anthony, played very convincingly by Marvin Miller, being called to meet with Tipton and learn who this week’s recipient of one million tax-free dollars would be. Mr. Beresford Tipton was a dignified philanthropist with many hobbies and interests and enough money to share it weekly. He wanted to see the effect sudden wealth had on people with various life experiences. The only glimpse we ever had of Tipton was of his back or his arm handing Mr. Anthony the cashier’s check, and his voice heard giving him instructions about the recipient. Not showing Mr. Tipton had the desired effect of him seeming to be a real person who wanted to remain anonymous, plus, it added intrigue to the situation. I always wanted to see what John Beresford Tipton looked like but never did.

To my knowledge, there has never been a similar theme in any show since. Probably, if I had enough time to think about it or researched it, I could find one with a similar bent, but I’m declaring this a unique entertainment concept. Obviously, the show left an impression on me. How many times have I wished I could be one of those lucky folks Mr. Tipton chose? I think that was the whole point. That, plus a study of how wealth affects people both positively and negatively. 

“The Millionaire” was produced by a married couple, Don and Tido Fedderson. Interestingly enough, Don Fedderson was born in Beresford, South Dakota, and Tido in Tipton, Missouri. Thus we now know the origin of the name, John Beresford Tipton. Tipton lived on a fictional 60,000-acre estate and was a naturalist with many interests. Foremost among those was studying human nature which he did every week. He never met his recipients, but somehow knew their past and learned how a million dollars changed their lives. 

Needless to say, this program and the name John Beresford Tipton have been recurring memories of mine for 65-70 years. It’s amazing how an event, a program, or a name remains so clear in one’s memory. It certainly has in mine. I’m sure psychologists or psychoanalysts could take those memories and decide what makes most of us behave the way we do. Money is one of the more influential factors in our lives. It affects relationships, events, and our thoughts. “The Millionaire” and John Beresford Tipton were two names that tackled the subject and showed the many ways human nature is affected by it. They showed very clearly how too much of it can be just as harmful as not enough.


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