Charles John O'Donnell
August 12, 1932
|Died||November 1, 2010 (aged 78)|
|Jane Ryan 1952-1984 (Her death) Ellen Lerner 1990-2010 (His death)|
|Children||4 (including Dennis O'Donnell, Patricia O'Donnell-Rough, Michael O'Donnell, Bridgid O'Donnell)|
Charles John O'Donnell (August 12, 1932 - November 1, 2010) was an American radio and television announcer, primarily known for his work on game shows. Among them, he was best known for Wheel of Fortune, where he worked from 1975 to 1980, and again from 1989 until his death.
O'Donnell, was a Philadelphia native. He began his career as a teenager at WCHA in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. In 1956, he worked as program director at WHAT, a 250-watt R&B station in Philadelphia, where he discovered and launched the career of future Philadelphia radio personality Hy Lit. When WIBG became top-40 in 1957, O'Donnell was named news director. In 1958, he became the sidekick of Dick Clark on WFIL-TV's afternoon dance program, American Bandstand.
This led to several stints as a disc jockey on Los Angeles radio (most notably on Pasadena station KRLA, 1964-67), and later as news anchorman and staff announcer on Los Angeles television station KCOP-TV, where he performed double duty and often introduced his own newscasts with the self-referential cue "and now Charlie O'Donnell with the news." Additionally, Barry & Enright Productions taped The Joker's Wild and Tic-Tac-Dough at KCOP during its initial syndicated runs, which O'Donnell announced for. It was also in this period that he voiced the newscaster on the Simon & Garfunkel recording "7 O'Clock News/Silent Night."
He made a full-time career as an announcer on many television shows throughout the decades, with such series as The Joker's Wild, Tic-Tac-Dough, Bullseye and The $100,000 Pyramid (again working with Dick Clark). He also served as announcer for the American Music Awards, the Emmy Awards, and the Academy Awards.
O'Donnell was perhaps best known as the announcer of the game show Wheel of Fortune. He filled this role from 1975 to 1980 (including two unaired pilots hosted by 77 Sunset Strip actor Edd Byrnes), acted as a substitute for his successor, Jack Clark, and returned to the show permanently several months after Clark's death in 1988. Between Clark's death and O'Donnell's return, disc jockey M.G. Kelly announced the show for most of its 1988-89 season.
Among the game show companies O'Donnell worked for as a primary announcer were Merv Griffin Enterprises/Sony Pictures Television (1975-87 and 1989-2010), Barry & Enright Productions (1981-86), and Barris Industries/The Guber-Peters Entertainment Company (1986-89) He also announced game shows for Mark Goodson-Bill Todman Productions (including Card Sharks, Trivia Trap, To Tell the Truth); Bob Stewart Productions (The $100,000 Pyramid); Hill-Eubanks Group's All Star Secrets and The Guinness Game; and Scotti Bros.-Syd Vinnedge's Wordplay.
He and John Harlan filled in for Rod Roddy on different occasions on Press Your Luck. He also announced on the game show version of Monopoly, and re-voiced the credits tags for episodes of Jeopardy!, Wheel and Headline Chasers (and several other library game shows acquired by Sony) airing on Game Show Network produced before 1994, when Columbia-TriStar Television became the new name of what is now Sony Pictures Television, and their new closing credits card replaced those of Coca-Cola Television, Columbia Pictures Television, and King World Productions (now CBS Television Distribution). He also performed voice acting and host duties off-screen on most of the Wheel of Fortune video games which came out after 1992, either along with Vanna White, or entirely by himself, as Pat Sajak would not participate in any of the video games until his children were grown.
After his death, the show began rotating announcing duties among several guest announcers, including Jeopardy! announcer Johnny Gilbert.Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak described O'Donnell as "the perfect voice of the show." O'Donnell's last announced episode aired on October 29, 2010, three days before his death. O'Donnell was succeeded by veteran LA radio announcer Jim Thornton.
The Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia posthumously inducted O'Donnell into their Hall of Fame in 2011.