The $64,000 Question had its roots in the CBS radio quiz show, Take It or Leave It, which ran from April 20, 1940, to July 27, 1947, hosted first by Bob Hawk and then by Phil Baker. In 1947, the series switched to NBC, hosted at various times by Baker, Garry Moore, Eddie Cantor and Jack Paar. On September 10, 1950, Take It or Leave It changed its title to The $64 Question. With Paar and Baker still on board as hosts, the series continued on NBC radio until June 1, 1952.
On both Take It or Leave It and The $64 Question, contestants were asked questions devised by the series' writer-researcher Edith Oliver. She attempted to make each question slightly more difficult than the preceding one. After answering a question correctly, the contestant had the choice to "take" the prize for that question or "leave it" in favor of a chance at the next question. The first question was worth one dollar, and the value doubled for each successive question, up to the seventh and final question, worth 64 United States dollars.
During the 1940s, "That's the $64 question" became a common catchphrase for a particularly difficult question or problem. In addition to the common phrase, "Take it or leave it," the show also popularized another phrase, widely spoken in the 1940s as a taunt but now mostly forgotten (except in Warner Brothers cartoons). Chanted in unison by the entire audience when someone chose to risk their winnings by going for the $64 prize, it was vocalized with a rising inflection: "You'll be sorrr-REEEE!"