Rita Bell Hansen, one of Detroit’s most popular TV personalities, died on Dec. 16 from cancer. She was 78.
Bell graduated from Marygrove College in Michigan, and became a public relations representative. She also performed with big bands in and around Detroit. One night, the general manager of WXYZ-TV Channel 7 heard Bell sing; he promptly offered her a job as the first female weathercaster in Detroit television history.
At the end of TV’s black-and-white era, Bell stopped announcing snowstorms in order to host Channel 7’s “Prize Movie.” Each weekday morning from 1959 to 1977, she played a song and offered a cash prize to anyone who called in during the show with the correct title. Out of the 6,000 films Bell hosted, her favorite was “Gone With the Wind.”