Molly Tyler, actress, comedian, and ventriloquist died Wednesday at the Hale House, a retirement home for entertainment industry professionals. She was 91.
Though Tyler had many small movie roles while under contract with RKO studios in the 1930’s and 40’s she became famous in the 1950’s as the host of “Tell It To Sweeney,” a television game show on which adult contestants told stories to a panel of school children who tried to determine if the adult was lying or telling the truth. The show was hosted by Tyler and a large, floppy, smart aleck lamb puppet named Sweeny, who sat on Tyler’s lap. The show’s popularity was due to segments where Tyler and Sweeny interviewed the participants at length. Because the interviews were largely ad-libbed, Tyler was praised as a comic genius and audiences were particularly fond of her ability to make the children on the panel laugh uncontrollably. The show ran for eight years and then Tyler toured the country performing with Sweeny until her retirement in the 1980’s.
Tyler made several attempts at developing an act that did not include the puppet but audiences would always ask, “Where’s Sweeny?” Her many movie cameos always included Sweeny. She once told Johnny Carson, “That damn lamb will follow me into the grave.” In 1976 a situation comedy based on life with her constant companion called “Sweeny and Me” ran for three seasons. Although Tyler did not appear in the show, she received producer and writer credits. Sweeny did appear in the show as himself.
Despite her regular complaints about being “typecast as a lamb’s companion” friends say she treated Sweeny like a member of the family, though she did specify in her will that he was to be buried in a separate grave.
Molly is survived by seven ex-husbands, her sister Sarah (87) and no children.