Art Baker (born Arthur Appleton Shank; January 7, 1898 – August 26, 1966) was an American film, television and radio actor of the 1920s 1930s, 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.
Baker was born January 7, 1898, in New York City. He initially planned to be a singer, and during World War I he was a song leader while serving in the United States Army. During his time on the Army, Art's hair turned prematurely white and would later serve as his trademark look. His post-war occupations included touring with traveling evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson, founder of the Foursquare Church, and operating an appliance store in Glendale, California.
Baker's radio career began as an announcer on KFSG. Art was later employed at Forest Lawn Memorial Park as a tour guide. When it began a radio program, Tapestries of Life, Baker was chosen to be the narrator. He went on to work on as many as 22 shows per week. The show aired on KFI and would become syndicated nationally. Tapestries of Life aired for 2 decades. In 1956, Time Magazine would feature an article on Art Baker titled “Radio: The Voice from Forest Lawn.”
In 1936 General Mills cast Art as Captain Bob Baker the Bisquick Maker to host the CBS show “Hollywood in Person.” The show was a first of its kind tabloid show where a “studio on wheels” mobile production trailer would arrive at set locations to conduct candid interviews with celebrities about their gossip and rumors. The show was co-hosted by Miss Louise Roberts (Lois Collier) and ran for 2 years.
On September 8, 1938, Baker created "Art Baker's Notebook" on Los Angeles' KFI radio station, which lasted for two decades. The program was syndicated in over 57 markets via electrical transcription. The show would air uninterrupted for over 2,000 episodes. An innovative and widely successful publicity stunt was performed in 1947 on Art Baker’s Notebook when Art interviewed Jimmy Stewart about his upcoming film “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Art offered listeners a free transcript of the show and photo of him with Jimmy Stewart. The show received nearly 50,000 letters in the first week.
In the 1930s and 1940s Art’s voice could be heard in all major markets in the US and he was a part of as many as 22 different aired shows, commercials, or productions a week.
Baker appeared in more than 40 films. His tall, slim frame, snow white hair, smooth slightly nasal voice and genial nature made him a natural choice to play business executives, doctors, and senators in film.
In 1939 Art narrated a historical documentary on the City of Glendale, California called “Glendale on Parade.” Glendale on Parade became the only documentary of its kind for the city and featured many historical landmarks and achievements in Glendale history. It also served as a time capsule capturing the everyday life of an emerging city in the 1930s.
In 1943, Art Baker narrated the Academy Award Nominated, Walt Disney produced, propaganda documentary “Victory through Air Power”. This film was created to catch the attention of government officials and to build public morale among the U.S. and Allied powers. The film played a significant role for the Disney Corporation because it was the beginning of their entry into educational films in which their cartoon characters were used as marketing tools.
In 1945 Art Baker was cast as Detective Lt. Cooley in Alfred Hitchcock’s critically acclaimed and Oscar Nominated film “Spellbound” starring Gregory Peck and Ingrid Bergman.
In 1947 Art Baker worked with Loretta Young in “The Farmer’s Daughter.” Young would win the Oscar for Best Actress for her role as Katrin Holstrom.
In 1949 Art Baker would get title card credit in “Cover Up” starring William Bendix, Dennis O’Keefe and Barbara Britton.
Baker hosted many television shows in his career but is best known for his work on a series he created in 1950 titled You Asked For It (for which he became affectionately dubbed, the "genie with the light, white hair"). The show debuted under the title of “The Art Baker Show” and aired on the DuMont Television Network. The style was a write-in format that allowed viewers to make requests as to what they would like to see. The show would travel the world fulfilling the requests of its viewers. In 1951 the shows name was changed to “You Asked for It” and was moved to ABC. It aired until 1959 and became the longest running show if its kind and established the format for future travel/variety shows. The show would become one of Art’s greatest achievements and solidify his place in television history. During the last 20 months of the show, Baker was replaced by Jack Smith.
From 1939-41 he worked on The Hedda Hopper Show sponsored by Sunkist.
In 1941 Art Baker became the announcer for Bob Hope’s “The Pepsodent Show.”
“People Are Funny” debuted on NBC on April 10, 1942 with Art Baker as host. The program’s stunts and audience participation were calculated to reveal the humorous side of human nature. “People Are Funny” was the first game show to air repeats. Art Baker would be replaced by Art Linkletter in 1943.
Also in 1943, he hosted the CBS show “Meet Joe Public” where studio audience members would voice views on current events.
Another Baker TV program, End of the Rainbow, debuted January 11, 1958. The program helped unsuspecting people "who are in need of a push to make a success of their dreams, such as a chance to regain a sound footing in business..." The show was co-hosted by Bob Barker.
Hollywood Walk of Fame
Baker has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his work in radio and TV. The star, at 6509 Hollywood Boulevard, was dedicated on February 8, 1960.
In 1920 Baker married Marian Hill and had four children, Virginia, who died of TB, Arthur (Bart), Robert and Dorothy. They divorced in the late 1920s.
In 1930 Arthur married Maida Sarah Waters (Aimee Semple Mcpherson’s secretary) . They had one child, Diane, who attended Hoover High School in Glendale, CA. They divorced in 1945.
Art married Broadway actress Alice Weaver in 1948 and they divorced in 1956.
On August 11, 1957 Art Baker married his 4th wife, famed magician Gerri Larsen, in London. Their marriage was featured on the cover of Geni Magazine. Gerri Larsen’s sons, Milt and Bill were the founders of The Magic Castle in Hollywood in 1963. Art became the host of “It’s Magic” a stage show credited with rejuvenating interest in magic in America.
Art Baker lived in Glendale, CA for most of his career and would later move to Palm Springs, CA.
Baker died of a heart attack at a bank in Los Angeles August 26, 1966. He was survived by his wife, a daughter, and two stepsons.
He is interned in the Great Mausoleum at Forest Lawn Glendale, in the same hall where he began his famed career.
- Spellbound (1945)
- The Farmer's Daughter (1947)
- A Southern Yankee (1948)
- State of the Union (1948)
- Cover Up (1949)
- Any Number Can Play (1949)
- Illegal Entry (1949)
- Take One False Step (1949)
- The Underworld Story (1950)