December 17, 2003 by

Rita Bell


Categories: Media, Musicians

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.”

72 Responses to Rita Bell

  1. Kay McCorry

    For: Aunt Rita
    From: Your Loving Niece – Kay
    I just want everyone to know what a wonderful person my aunt was. I will always love her and will keep her spirit in my heart forever. I will miss her always.

  2. Julie

    I was looking for the old George Perriot shows and found this tribute to Rita Bell. I grew up with Rita,George and Bill. Every week end at my grandparents house we would watch all three programs together. She always had great movies and She always had a happy face. She will be missed.

  3. Oriole Adams

    Sad news indeed about Rita Bell’s passing. Her prize movie was always a must-see for me when I was home sick from school. I have to say, though, in all that time I *never* saw anyone correctly name the song and win a prize!
    Condolences to her family.

  4. Kevin

    I remember watching many of her movies — it must have been during vacation from school, sick days, and during the summer. She was truly a “lovely” woman.

  5. Lesli Parisot w

    Hi, I was saddened to find out that Rita BELL PASSED away. I remember so much Her shows in the morning right here in michigan. i grew up in Detroit, My Mother always had Her show on every morning, and I began watching it. i still remember thinking what a sweet lady and she always had a smile on her face, she just made you feel happy. may God looked upon her and take care of Her.

  6. Tom McCorry

    Hi,my wife Ann,myself and my 13years old daughter Nancy were shocked of my AuntRitasDEATH. We Had lost track of her,was not aware she was sick. Will always remember Starlet Starway, Talent town too.

  7. Gerald

    She was a wonderful woman. I remember as a child pretending to be sick so I could stay home and watch her ring her bell and play the song in the morning. Then there was the one time my mother won and she never got her dishes…it was never the same watching it after that. She will be missed.


    I also grew up with rita and I went to school with her son Mike at Metatall jr High school back in 1963 between 7 and 8 mile rd. I remember being over at his house when Rita (his mother) came home from work. Mike would say ” this is my mom Rita Bell on tv shes a star. Mike! where ever you are do you remember those days? remember Tom Vickers our friend? God Bless Rita and her family

  9. Jim Ramey

    I am sooo sad right now just finding out about the passing of Miss Bell, she was truly a nice and classy representative of those times we all enjoyed with her. I pray that she is in a peaceful and blessed place.

  10. Harriet Schwartz Rockwood

    I too grew up with Rita Bell and was friends with her son Mike from Mettatal and continuing on to Henry Ford High. I don’t know what made me think to look her up today but I truly am sorry to read about her passing. She was a lovely lady.

  11. Linda Czado

    Hi, I am really sad to hear of Rita’s passing. I too had the pleasure of watching Rita Bell’s movies when I was young. My mother watched her all the time. I guess that is why I watch the old time movies today. Movies back then had so much class. The movie stars were absolutely beautiful and without makeup! I am a big fan of the older movies. They were truly genuine. No comparison to today. I’m glad my children are grown, because I wouldn’t want to raise my children in today’s world. No morals! Do you have any pictures of Rita Bell from her younger days and some before she passed on to the Lord? Thank you, and GOD BLESS YOU. Linda

  12. Will Nettles

    I was just thinking about Rita Bell’s Prize Movie. I wonder what the great film critic Elvis Mitchell would say. Rita Bell, may she rest in peace, had to be one of his earliest movie experiences too while he was growing up in Detroit. Would I have ever known Barbara Stanwyck were it not for Rita Bell?
    Rita Bell, George Perroit and John Sinclair were my early Detroit cultural influences (as well as Motown and the factory culture)
    I sort of met my wife watching movies in Detroit–wasn’t on Rita Bell though– because it happened while watching the late movie at my Babushka’s house in Hamtramck. They were running the “King and I”. Near the beginning whent he all the kid princes and princesses parade out Bush said “Aren’t those Oriental kids cute?” I thought so too. Later I moved to Los Angeles and married a woman who turned out to be the little girl who gave Deborah Kerr the flower.
    Its like I stepped through the Looking Glass of Rita Bell’s Prize Movie. I never guessed the song, but I’m think I’m living first prize. And I never stopped watching ‘old’ movies.
    Thanks Rita.

  13. Gregory Scott

    went i was a kid growing up in flint,mich i remenber watching rita bell she is cne lady with class think you rita ball i will alway miss you and you sweet sweet voice of your may jesus be with you and hold you in his hand
    Gregory Scott

  14. harold lawson

    just wanted to say i enjoyed the rita bell show and missed when it ended. rita bell was a classy lady and will always remembered as such. harold lawson 5/30/05

  15. Ken

    I will always remember watching Rita Bell and her giving away those prizes as well as money to the big winner! I remember reading that her favorite place to eat when back in Detroit was the Bone Yard..(did she ver try Famous Dave’s). She will always be remembered fondly by me as starting me on a lifelong fascination with trivia!

  16. Michelle

    I’m African-Americnan from Detroit, however I have not lived there for many many years. Quite often when I’m speaking with other Detroit transplants about growing up in Detroit, Rita Bell always comes up. I remember being home from school with a cold and runny nose, but happy to be in bed watching the Rita Bell Prize Movie. If ya talking about growing up in Detroit, ya gotta mention Rita Bell.

  17. Gary Fricke

    I WELL REMEMBER watching Rita Bell’s Prize Movie with my mother sometimes when out of school for the summer in the 60’s & 70’s, but ESPECIALLY how it relaxed me and made me feel lots better as I laid on the couch when home sick. Thank You Rita, & MAY GOD BE WITH YOU ALWAYS!!!

  18. Christy

    Rita Bell brings back some of the only memories I have of my mom healthy. Now that my mom has passed, I remember watching the Rita Bell movies with her. Mom would tell me all about the movies and gave me a love for some of the old one’s that you can only see on cable t.v. today. Rita Bell was a “home sick from school” treat…my mom and me…when life was simpler. Thank you Rita for the good memories.
    Christy Evans (Soullier)

  19. Janice

    It was the $7 thing! You would win $7 if you could guess the tune, then it went up after that. I remember when I was little, it was a Beatles tune that none of the “oldsters” knew… “I’ll Follow the Sun”. She was cool, but I liked the movie more than listening to her 🙂

  20. Mark Sisto

    I loved her show, I dont mean any disrepect,
    But for me as a nine year old she was quite a sex symbol too me(In a Doris day kind of way),
    Fare well Rita, Thank You May God welcome your spirit, You were very well liked.

  21. Sheri

    I remember watching Rita Bell with my mom every day. She’d have the ironing board out and tune in every single day. She knew alot of the songs, but never called in. I don’t remember much about the movies she showed, but I would imagine that between her and my mom, that’s where I get my love of old movies. I think I was really too young to remember much, I do remember the phone dials behind her spinning around through….that’s one thing that always sticks out in my mind and whenever I ask someone about her, that’s how I describe her show. I hope she is in a better place.

  22. phil

    when i was a kid in detroit i saw rita bell and bill kenedy i am sad to see them go .there was nobody else like them. those were good days to remember.

  23. M J Gray

    I was greatly saddened to hear about the passing of Rita Bell. Though she never knew it, she was an integral part of my childhood. You see, when I was a child in the early 60’s there wasn’t such a thing as ‘daycare.’ So my mother, (having 5 children and wanting to make the most of whatever time she had while the older 4 were at school), would happily let me sit in front of the TV to eat my cereal in the morning, watching first Capt. Kangaroo which was then followed by Rita Bell’s Prize Movie. I know it is not ‘politically correct’ to do this sort of thing now but I can really see no harm from having a childhood filled with Esther Williams, Errol Flynn, Ma and Pa Kettle, The Thin Man, musicals too numerous to mention and so many other classic films I still love to this day. I credit Rita Bell, Bill Kennedy and other ‘film hosts’ with introducing me at a very early age to a celluloid world I otherwise wouldn’t have been familiar with and came to love. I am sorry to hear of Ms. Bell’s passing and send my belated condolences to her family.

  24. Ruth Ann Leaym

    Was saddened to hear about Ms Rita Bells Death. When I was a kid like just about like everyone else, I also enjoyed watching the Rita Bell Prize Movie. I can remember my favorite week that I was home sick from grade school with the Flu and it was “Elvis” all week. I even got my cassette tape player out and taped the music from the TV. Rita Bell was a Woman to be looked up to and am proud to say I admire her and the Morals she showed. It is just ashame that we have let those times slip away. I enjoy the old movies and shows of the old times and prefer to watch them over today’s JUNK! I thank God for people like Rita Bell and Bill Kennedy because they knew what life was about and the Good things it needed. I pray that we come back to such a time as that!! God Bless All that read this and most of all God Bless America, my Home Sweet Home. If it weren’t for those that have gone before us, where would we be!! Thanks be to Jesus! Rita you will always be remembered!!

  25. Marty

    I was very sad to learn of the Rita Bell’s passing. I watched Rita Bell a lot when I was small. She seemed to me, at the time, the very pinnacle of beauty and glamour. Too bad we can’t get tapes of her hosting to enjoy her beauty once more.

  26. sheila allen

    How sad to hear that such a great part of my childhood has passed away. Like so many other’s my Mother would allow me to be sick when there was a good movie on Prize Movie’s or on Bill Kennedy. Thank you Rita.

  27. Michael Quinn

    When I was a boy, growning up outside Detroit, Michigan (Northville area) my mother would turn on ‘Rita Bell’s Prize Movie’…I can still remember the dials that moved on the wall behind her when she made a call. This was a great part of Detroit television. Every time I was sick and home from school…there was Rita Bell on the television. She was wholesome, classy and fun. I’ve been out of television news for about 2 1/2 years…but, the excitement of watching Channel 7 Action News, as well as Rita Bell’s Prize Movie, were some of the reasons why I went into broadcasting. To this day, I am ‘Wowed’ by television. Rest in peace, Rita Bell, you made this little boy feel better when he was home from school. 🙂

  28. David Mazia

    I REMEMBER Rita Bell (still). I just signed on and thought, “oh… the INTERNET, type in her name.” Here I am. I am with sorry for her family and friends.
    When I would watch her, as a child, she gave me “warm-fuzzies”. Rarely do I find a LADY to be placed with such a high thought in my heart as “LOVELY”, that’s what she was. LOVELY and most certainly a LADY.
    Rita, in your Heaven above… this young gentle-man STILL has a fondness for you, remembers you and had a sweet boy-crush for you, as my LOVELY metro-Detroit area “Friend.”
    I find YOU amazing, as now I am 41 and have CONTINUED to have you on my mind. WOW, that’s someONE, RITA BELL… to have purpose to remember.
    I’ll see you when I get UP “There” too. What movie will we watch together? (warm grin)
    Your long-time friend of your art… your HEART and that lovely SMILE. I’ve missed you so.
    David MAZIA (Originally from Michigan too).
    You are beloved!!!

  29. John Dawson

    Back in the 60’s, I not only saw her on TV, but since my father, Ralph Dawson, was the commercial tape division director, I would meet Rita around the TV station on my visits to see my dad. Rita would come to our house too when my parents were entertaining. i was probably 5 years old and had a hard time saying Rita, and instead would call her “Ring-a Bell”. It was neat seeing Bill Bonds, Dave Dials, and the rest… awesome memories!

  30. Kirk Davis

    We were just talking about Rita at work today. I found this blog via google. I am sad to hear she is no longer with us. I remember many times as a kid sitting on the living room floor watching her and enjoying her presence. Taking phone calls and just her pleasant nature. May she rest in peace forever in Gods arms.

  31. Michael

    I found this blog the same way others have, Just thinking about my Detoit childhood and when your home sick from school, you watched Rita Bell. I remeber the loving kindness in her voice. I will alwyas have found memories of Rita. A life well lived.

  32. Mark

    For some reason Rita’s name came into my head the other day so I thought I would google it to see if I could find anything about her. Much to my surprise and sadness I see she has passed. To any of her family if you read this, I fondly remember Rita Bell prize movie time growing up in the midwest. Between Rita and Bill Kennedy I would take Rita she always had a lovely smile and reminded me of the “neighbor next door look” She will be greatly missed, but we all enjoyed here while she was with us. I too rarely remember anyone correctly naming songs on her show.
    Mark Wubbena

  33. Diane Bielski (Tercha)

    Rita Bell, “ring my bell” with the big face of a phone dial hanging behind her on the wall. The phone would ring and she would talk to people to win prizes. I was only 3 or 4 years old at the time. Very cool to reminisce of the past. Brings back memories of how we had to dial the phone back then too. Using “prescott” as PR#-#### or “lafayette” LA#-####… that is why we have letter on our phone pads; because at the “time” we would use the letters and numbers.
    No more dial pads; it is all touch tone and cell phones.

  34. brenda

    Today I mentioned to my now 80 year old father how I missed watching Rita Bell’s Prize Movie. He didn’t remember the program as he was always working and going to school in the 1960’s. My mom and I got to have some “girl time” with Rita on those rare days when we were both home in the morning. Thank you for the memories.

  35. Joan

    What a wonderful lady, and wonderful time for all of us to have lived through! I can still see her humming a few bars, with a big smile, before going back to the movie or station break. Yes.. and like the rest, being home sick from school and laying on the couch watching Rita, and whatever great old movie was being shown that day. What a shame the quality of movies have declined to the degree they have. Thank-you, Rita, for the beautiful memories! May God bless your dear soul. Joan




    I will forever remember the wonderful Rita Bell.
    Like so many who also pay tribute here I too grew up watching her on prize movie and am left with fond memories of days gone by.
    It is not by wealth that a person is judged but rather by how many friends one has.
    Rita…you are rich!
    God Bless You.


    I stand here in 2008 at 48 years old and I wish to extend my condolences. Rita Bell was truly a fine classy lady who was always there fr me whenever I had to miss a day of school. No, I didn’t know her and yet I feel I did because Rita had a way of making you feel that she knew each and every viewer. Ladies with her style are truly rare. God Bless You Rita and thank you.

  39. Renee

    My husband and I were talking today about TV shows we remembered as kids, the first show we both remembered clearly was Rita Bell and her movies. Then he told me about a TV commercial he and Rita made together for WXYZ TV when he was a teenager about school dropouts. It was a great experience for him! Thanks Rita for all the memories.

  40. Dan

    I remember seeing Rita on days off, sick days, etc. Very classy lady! She came to our High School senior play in 1976 and plugged the male lead on her show the next day.
    As someone else previously said, She, Sonny Elliot, Bill Kennedy, (and Ernie Harwell and George Kell) were all special parts of my childhood!
    May God bless her!

  41. margaret

    The only time I got to see Rita Bell was when our family visited Grandma in Detroit. We lived in Canada and had one tv station. Grandma had 10 or 12 which was my idea of cosmopolitan. Rita Bell, such a beauty, was my idea of Americans – elegant, exciting, exotic.
    Reading the above comments, you realize how much impact one lovely person can have.

  42. karla

    I remember my mom watched Rita Bell’s Show. I was very young at the time and I remember she called in with the correct answer and she won a large clock(she was jumping up and down with joy)…in the shape of a tree, but not a full tree just the sagittal cut, where you could see the rings of the tree and it had several coats of lacquer and it was beautiful and two smaller decorative pieces along with it. My mom died in ’95 and I didn’t know Rita Belle was still alive and I was shocked to find out she passed away in 2003. My prayers go out to Rita Belle and her Family.

  43. DEBBIE


  44. David Odom

    Yesterday I watched a movie that I hadn’t seen in over 40 years. It was the “Song of Bernadette”. Thinking back to when I first saw the film, it was on Rita Bell’s Prize Movie. I was a young child growing up in Detroit and watched her show almost every morning. She was a sweet lady who showed films of substance and good moral fiber that helped shape my character today. Googling her name I see that she died in 2003 and wanted to take this moment to say “thank you”.

  45. Jim Watson

    While I never had the chance to meet Rita, (she was a friend of my aunt’s) I used to love to watch her movies growing up in Livonia. Like many other people on here I used to watch her movies when I was home from school sick, or was out of school for the summer. She will truly be missed. It’s funny how out here in CA I would still think of her show every so often. Rest in Peace Rita!!!

  46. Lorraine Hamilton

    Rita Bell brings back fond memories of my childhood. When I was sick from school, my mom and I would watch Prize Movie together. I felt so good especially in the cold winter days. I can still remember some of the movies we watched. There was one where a little girl did not not who her mother was. Her uncle drew her mother’s picture and it was a woman in the little girl’s life. She called out “mama” to the woman at the end. My mom and I both cried. This happened 45 years ago. Does anyone know the name of this black and white classic?

  47. Cindy Anderson

    What a surprise to find that the Rita Bell passed away. I remember all the times I would watch her when I was sick from school or during the summer. Beach movie week was my favorite week. To her family, you have lost a truly a wonderful Woman and thank you for sharing her with the rest of us who grow-up watching Rita on T.V. in the Detroit area.

  48. Cindy Anderson

    What a surprise to find that the Rita Bell passed away. I remember all the times I would watch her when I was sick from school or during the summer. Beach movie week was my favorite week. To her family, you have lost a truly a wonderful Woman and thank you for sharing her with the rest of us who grow-up watching Rita on T.V. in the Detroit area.

  49. Paul Strachan

    I too watched as a kid when home sick from school
    I too had a big crush on that beautiful lady
    I too stumbled on to this site just wondering
    I too miss her and wish I could see the old shows
    My dad was a stagehand and worked at WXYZ over the years. He brought me there in the mid 60’s and showed me the giant phone on her set and some of the other show sets like Johnny Ginger and Big Time Wrestling. What a thrill it was.
    In my first year as a stagehand in Detroit I passed Rita at WXYZ Studio. She was tall and beautiful and I was dumbstruck. I will never forget it.
    God bless you Rita and thank you for all the joy you brought us.

  50. Rick

    God Bless Rita Bell. I remember that my mother would set up the ironing-board in the living-room
    and work away while whatching Rita. My mom would invariably have a smile on her face.

  51. Jerry Fair

    Mike, Although it has been almost six years, I am indeed sad to learn of your mother’s passing. Your mom was always so kind and cheerful when I was at your house.

  52. David

    Like many others we grew up watching “Prize Movie”
    She was so genuine and charming. I remember her wonderful smile.
    Peace to you and God Bless

  53. KIM


  54. Janet Williams

    I’m 56 years of age and I was thinking about the past; and Rita name come to mind. just thinking about her, I did’nt know her what I saw her on T.V. she appear to be a nice women! God Bless her!

  55. Jimmie West

    I love Rita Bell’s prize movie… I watched when home from school and in high school my classes didn’t start until eleven so I could see it then frequently. So sad to hear of her passing. She will always be remembered as a part of my life, showing the most wonderful and classic movies ever. Her sweet spirit and soothing voice made the show. May God bless her family.

  56. Rita Marie Picking

    It was 1959 and I just turned 4 years old. I loved watching the Rita Bell Show and to my delight my singing/dance class from Pattie O’Days was chosen to be on the Amateurs on Parade portion of her show. I worked real hard on my routine because I thought Rita Bell was so wonderful I wanted to impress her. So on Nov 21 1959 Rita Bell introduced The Pattie O’Days Adorables and we sang and danced How Much Is That Doggie In The Window. It has been 50 years but I remember that day like it was yesterday~
    After our routine Rita Bell called us over to ask our names. I ran as fast as I could to the front of the line because I knew she would want to meet me since I had the same first name as she did. She asked me my name I said proudly “Rita” and she said did I hear you Right “Rita?” and I said Rita Marie Picking and she said what a pretty name. She was so sweet in person and it just meant the world to me.
    Then she sang that song “Its papaya in Hawaii and Vanilla in Manila but its Faygo Faygo Faygo in Detroit”
    I still have a copy of the record they gave us that day. I wish I had the video.
    As I side note That Faygo commerical she sang was meaningful to me because I didnt know where Hawaii was or what a papaya was but I sure wanted to go there and try one. That was my dream ~ and it finally came true when I became a flight attendant and moved there for 4 years- I ate lots of papaya, thought of Rita Bell and what a difference she made in one small little girls life.
    Thank you Rita Bell for all the good you did in your life and all the lives you touched.

  57. knight4444

    Rita Bell was a lovely woman and a jewel for Detroit, I remember as a pre teen watching her show and enjoying the movies, Rita will always be a legend here in Michigan

  58. Bob Brodis

    At 61, I still remember Rita Bell. What was the name of the musical theme song at the beginning? Just playing “tortured Memories” with a friend and thought of her, Bill Kennedy, Mr. Greenjeans, Bosco and George Perroit. What “sick day” memories!

  59. marisa frasure

    Dear Blog of Death:
    My mom passed away nine years ago(in 2006): We spent many hours(!) watching Prize movies, also:
    I can’t even recall the countless hours we spent doing so! Too bad the young of today aren’t as lucky.

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