Almanac: "The Millionaire"

Marvin Miller as Michael Anthony, executive secretary for the "fabulously wealthy" John Beresford Tipton, delivers a cashier's check for $1,000,000 to yet another gob-smacked individual in the 1950s series, "The Millionaire." CBS

And now a page from our "Sunday Morning" Almanac: January 19th, 1955, 59 years ago today . . . a day that made TV viewers feel like a million bucks, however briefly.

For it was on that evening that the series "The Millionaire" debuted on CBS.

Portrayed by Marvin Miller, Michael Anthony was the executive secretary to John Beresford Tipton, a reclusive billionaire on a huge estate who pursued strange hobbies  ...

… the strangest of which was his habit of giving away to total strangers the anonymous gift of one million dollars - tax-free!

Week after week, the mysterious Mr. Tipton handed a check to Michael Anthony, who then dutifully delivered it to the lucky recipient, whose wise (or not-so-wise) handling of the windfall formed the remainder of the plot.

Millionaire Paul Frees 244.jpg
CBS

The show ran for five years and 206 episodes -- that's 206 newly-minted millionaires!

Through it all, we never actually SAW the face of John Beresford Tipton; we only HEARD him.

He was voiced by Paul Frees (left), known in show business circles as the "Man of a Thousand Voices."

His was the voice of Boris Badenov, the bumbling spy in the "Rocky and Bullwinkle" cartoons, not to mention John AND George in "The Beatles" TV cartoon show . . . and even the Pillsbury Doughboy.

Both Paul Frees and Marvin Miller are long gone now.

And a million dollars isn't what it used to be. Thanks to inflation, a million today is the equivalent of just $116,000 in 1955.

Even so, a million dollars is nothing to sneeze at . . . and millionaires are still relatively rare.

A study out this past week reports that only about five percent of American households have at least a million dollars in investable assets.

Which leaves the other 95 percent waiting for a modern-day Michael Anthony to come knocking at their doors.

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