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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in The Jack Benny Program's LiveJournal:

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    Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010
    4:25 am
    [queenmeshi]
    OTR Comedy Podcast!
    Hi gang! I've started a podcast for old time radio comedy, and the first podcast focuses on Jack Benny and Fred Allen's rivalry. Hoping for some feedback about the format of the show - if not, hope you enjoy listening to these guys squabble like the children they are. :)

    http://otrcomedy.podomatic.com/entry/2010-02-23T00_58_01-08_00
    Thursday, January 21st, 2010
    7:30 pm
    [wheelerwoolsey]
    Copyright Status
    Laura Leff of the International Jack Benny Fan Club has some facts about the copyright status of the Jack Benny shows.

    If you'd like to see it, please go to www.jackbenny.org and click on the "Copyright status" link under Featured Items.
    Tuesday, January 19th, 2010
    7:10 pm
    [wheelerwoolsey]
    Message From IJBFC President
    A note from Laura Leff, President of the International Jack Benny Fan Club:

    Hello again,

    I'm happy to say that a lot of energy has been generated around the recent news of CBS refusing access to their television masters. Here are links to several recent press stories:


    http://www.nypost.com/p/entertainment/tv/cbs_benches_jack_benny_n7b76Pou9inaGa1S9JqDxM
    http://www.boingboing.net/2010/01/18/cbs-uncovers-rare-ja.html

    http://themoderatevoice.com/59065/killing-comedic-heritage-cbs-reportedly-seals-some-classic-jack-benny-show-comedy-masters/

    http://www.tvweek.com/blogs/tvbizwire/2010/01/cbs-nixes-unearthed-jack-benny.php
    And also, here's a Facebook petition on the issue:
    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Tell-Les-Moonves-to-preserve-The-Jack-Benny-Benny-Program-masters/287864780538?ref=mf

    My thanks to everyone who has taken this in various directions to help communicate our desire to preserve Jack's contribution to our cultural heritage! I have also posted additional information about the shows and how to contact CBS at www.jackbenny.org; click on the CBS link under Featured Items on the home page.

    --Laura Leff
    President, IJBFC
    www.jackbenny.org
    12:29 am
    [paularubia]
    JACK BENNY EPISODES DISCOVERED
    "CBS Uncovers Rare Jack Benny Treasures, Puts Them Back and Tosses Out the Key"

    http://www.boingboing.net/2010/01/18/cbs-uncovers-rare-ja.html
    Friday, November 21st, 2008
    6:33 pm
    [wheelerwoolsey]
    Jack In Life
    Life is in the process of putting their photo archive online. (They currently have about 20% of their library online; the rest will become available in the coming months.)
    Just a few great Jack Benny photos found here: http://images.google.com/hosted/life


    Jack and Mary, March, 1948.


    The Benny cast, 1947. From left: Sara Berner (one of Jack's telephone operators), Artie Auerbach ("Mr. Kitzel"), Frank Nelson, Mel Blanc, Dennis Day, Eddie "Rochester" Anderson, Jack, Mary, Phil Harris, Don Wilson, Bea Benadaret (as the other telephone operator.)


    The Bennys and Burnses. From left: George Burns, Mary, Gracie, Jack and Ronnie Burns.


    Jack and Mary.


    Jack's "40th" birthday in 1958. In front you can see his daughter Joan and Mary with him. Also I can see Dennis Day, Phil Harris, and Mel Blanc....
    Tuesday, September 16th, 2008
    4:33 pm
    [wheelerwoolsey]
    To Be Or Not To Be
    The 1942 Jack Benny-Carole Lombard film "To Be or Not To Be" has been turned into a Broadway show. From Playbill: http://www.playbill.com/news/article/121325.html

    To Be or Not To Be, About Troupers in a Time of Terror, Begins Broadway Run Sept. 16

    By Kenneth Jones
    16 Sep 2008

    Ernst Lubitsch's 1942 film comedy about Polish theatre troupers outsmarting the Nazis finds its way onto the Broadway stage Sept. 16 in To Be or Not To Be, an adaptation by Nick Whitby at Manhattan Theatre Club's Samuel J. Friedman Theatre.

    Tony Award nominee Jan Maxwell (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Coram Boy) and David Rasche (MTC's Last Dance, Five by Tenn, Moonlight and Magnolias) assume the roles of showbiz husband-and-wife Maria and Joseph Tura, originated by Carole Lombard and Jack Benny in the picture of the same name. The dark comedy was later remade in a color picture that starred Mel Brooks and Ann Bancroft (they were called the Bronskis in the 1983 film, which was also called "To Be or Not To Be").

    According to MTC, "At the Polski Theatre in 1939 Warsaw, Josef (Rasche) and Maria Tura (Maxwell) are about to open yet another smash with their theatrical troupe. As the German invasion gets underway, the theatre is closed by the censors, forcing the troupe to face desperate times. But when a handsome young bomber pilot enlists their help to catch a spy, what is a group of actors to do? This hilarious black comedy is an ingenious commentary on the World War II era and an inspired tribute to the timeless joys of the theatre."

    MTC's To Be or Not To Be opens Oct. 14. The production, which was originally scheduled to begin previews on Sept. 11, and then Sept. 13, now begins previews 7 PM Sept. 16. The limited engagement plays to Nov. 23. There were two principal cast changes since rehearsals began, necessitating extra rehearsal time.

    The production, directed by Tony Award nominee Casey Nicholaw (The Drowsy Chaperone, Monty Python's Spamalot), also features Peter Benson, Robert Dorfman, Steve Kazee, Peter Maloney, Maxwell, Michael McCarty, Kristine Nielsen, Brandon Perler, Rasche, Rocco Sisto, Jimmy Smagula and Marina Squerciati.

    Whitby's plays, seen in England, include Bolivia, The Devil's Dancing Hour, Dirty Dishes and To the Green Fields Beyond.

    The creative team for To Be or Not To Be includes Anna Louizos (scenic design), Gregg Barnes (costume design), Howell Binkley (lighting design), Darron L. West (sound design), Wendall and Zach (projection design) and Josh Marquette (hair design).

    The 1942 film's writing credits are Melchior Lengyel (story), Edwin Justus Mayer (screenplay) and Ernst Lubitsch (uncredited for the story). Lubitsch also directed and produced. Lubitsch is known for his light comedies "Heaven Can Wait," "The Shop Around the Corner," "Ninotchka," "That Uncertain Feeling" and more. Critics often refer to "the Lubitsch touch" — a light, charming, comic and ultimately human approach to his characters.

    The Friedman, formerly the Biltmore, is located at 261 West 47th Street. This is MTC's Broadway home. The not-for-profit also presents Off-Broadway at New York City Center Stage I and II.

    For more information visit www.ManhattanTheatreClub.com.
    Monday, September 8th, 2008
    11:11 pm
    [newdadin09]
    Sunday, August 10th, 2008
    9:25 pm
    [infidelbookworm]
    Monday, March 17th, 2008
    9:59 pm
    [rusted_guitar]
    Calling all Ronald Colman Fans.


    Come join the only Ronald Colman community on livejournal!

    ronald_colman


    If this post goes against community rules, feel free to delete it.
    Thursday, February 14th, 2008
    12:10 pm
    [wheelerwoolsey]
    Jack and Rochester
    Milt Josefsberg in his book The Jack Benny Show on the Jack-Rochester relationship:

    Rochester's appearance on The Jack Benny Show was relished by the great majority of his race, and in almost direct proportion it was resented by those southerners who were still fighting the Civil War. What they probably resented was his characterization which Time magazine (January 6, 1975) dismissed with the brief line "Rochester, the sardonic Negro valet, is the granddaddy of all the servants, black or white, who have hilariously put down their employers since the invention of the vacuum tube."

    And that's exactly what Rochester did--he put Jack down. He was Jack's valet, chauffeur, and general handyman--but when the humor was analyzed, Rochester almost seemed to be the boss and Benny the employee. And in those pre-civil rights days, when almost all other Negroes appearing in any of the media were caricatures rather than characters, this relationship was the cause of many complaints.

    Rochester was never disrespectful to Jack by word, deed, or attitude, yet somehow he always bested him in all exchanges. For instance, Rochester was going to a party one night. As he left, Jack admonished him, "Rochester, be sure to come home at a reasonable hour." Rochester politely answered, "Yes sir. Your reasonable or my reasonable?"

    Jack once insisted that his Maxwell looked dirty and suggested that Rochester clean it, a task which Rochester immediately exited to perform. Later in the show Jack figured that Rochester had had more than sufficient time to clean the car, so he went out to see what was happening. He was surprised to see Rochester only about halfway through with his chore, and the reason for the snail's pace was because he was daintily going over the surface of the Maxwell with a damp sponge. Angrily, Jack yelled at him, "For heaven's sake, Rochester, why don't you use the garden hose on it?" Rochester answered, "Don't you remember the last time I used the hose on it, Boss? The fenders fell off."


    11:22 am
    [wheelerwoolsey]
    Jack's Walk
    From the Milt Josefesberg book The Jack Benny Show, Milt talks about Jack's walk:

    Jack Benny's mincing walk occasionally caused people to question his basic fundamentals. In a town that spawns scandal via hundreds of press agents, and that at one time supported more gossip columnists than any other city in the world, anything that deviates from the accepted, supposedly normal pattern is suspect. And because of his walk, I've been asked occasional questions about Jack's virility.

    The rumors about the possibility of Jack being gay--and they were just that, rumors--were initially induced by his walk, and were spread widely by Jack himself who always joked about his seemingly feminine gait....


    Milt goes on to tell the story of Phil Harris once saying "Put a dress on that guy and take him anywhere" and then tells a story of writing a gag based on Jack's walk for a Lucille Ball show in the early 1970s:

    Jack did countless gags about his walk, and the only time he turned thumbs down on them was when he thought they weren't funny. I wrote one joke for him on a Lucille Ball program in the early 1970s which he read, laughed at, and then predicted, "They're going to beat us to this one, Milt." (Jack meant by that expression that the audience would anticipate the joke and laugh before we got to the punch line.)

    It was a very simple bit and frequently done in many forms. Lucy was supposed to show Jack something that was in another room. She was to start to exit and say, "Walk this way," and as she walked away from him in a ladylike way, Jack was supposed to reply, "I always do."

    Jack was one hundred percent correct--his usual batting average on intuitive instinctual comedy. Lucy said, "Walk this way," and started to precede Jack out of the room, in her ultra-feminine walk. A split second after she said her line, the audience screamed...and screamed....and screamed...and Jack waited....and waited...and waited...until finally he ad-libbed an apologetic shrug to the audience, and said, "I always do," which got a bigger laugh from the audience, and then he started to walk, mincing a mite more than usual, and this got the biggest laugh and even applause at his exit.




    Jack, Lucy and Mary, 1970.
    11:07 am
    [wheelerwoolsey]
    Happy Birthday Jack!
    On the 75th anniversary of Jack's 39th birthday, I'm going to post a few anecdotes about Jack by those who knew him best.

    First--his best friend, George Burns from the book Gracie: A Love Story:

    I was always doing little things that broke him up. I'd be driving a car and I'd see him, so I'd stop and roll down the window and call him over--as soon as he came over I'd roll up the window and drive away. That gag worked so well I only did it to him eight times. Whenever we were speaking on the telephone, I'd hang up on him in midsentence. One night we were at the Friars Club and I noticed he had a small piece of white string on his tuxedo jacket. "I'm sorry, Jack," I said as I took it off his jacket and put it on mine, "but I left my piece of white string at home. You don't mind if I borrow yours, do you?" I wore it for the rest of the night, and every time he looked at me I'd point to the string proudly and he'd burst out laughing. The next morning I put the piece of string in a little box and had it gift-wrapped, and then I returned it to him with a thank-you note.
    Jack pounded his own floor.



    Friday, January 25th, 2008
    10:32 am
    [wheelerwoolsey]
    Article on Mel Blanc
    From:
    http://canberra.yourguide.com.au/detail.asp?class=lifestyle%20news&subclass=news%20extra&story_id=1154709&category=news%20extra

    09 January 2008 - 5:00AM

    Not quite all, folks
    Rosslyn Beeby


    On January 24, 1961, Warner Brothers voice actor Mel Blanc was seriously injured in a head-on car accident at a notoriously dangerous intersection on Hollywood's Sunset Boulevard. Fans swamped the hospital with more than 15,000 get-well cards, many simply addressed to "Bugs Bunny, Hollywood USA".
    But contrary to Blanc's famous Looney Tunes cartoon sign-off, that wasn't all, folks. The near-fatal collision left Blanc with broken legs, a fractured pelvis and severe head injuries that resulted in the 52-year-old actor lingering in a coma for almost three weeks. Years later in his autobiography, Blanc wrote that a quick-thinking brain surgeon saved his life by talking to him as Bugs Bunny, when all other attempts to establish a response from the comatose Blanc had failed.

    "They say that while I was unconscious, the doctor would come into my room each day and ask me how I was and, nothing," he told a television show host.

    "So one day he comes into my room, and he says, 'Hey, Bugs Bunny! How are you?' And they say I answered back in Bugs' voice. 'Ehh, just fine, Doc. How are you?' The doctor then said, 'And Porky Pig! How are you feeling?' and I said, 'J-j-j-just fine, th-th-th-thanks.' So you see, I actually live these characters."

    Next year marks Mel Blanc's centenary and fans will be hoping for a cartoon fiesta in his honour, not to mention a fitting tribute at the Oscars. It's been a bone of contention among animators that the Academy Awards fails to acknowledge the multiplicity of skills involved in animated films.

    Animation historians have suggested it would be a fitting tribute to Blanc known as the man of 1000 voices (actually his son Noel counted 1500 voices) for the academy to name a new animation award in his honour.

    Born in San Francisco on May 30, 1908, Melvin Jerome Blanc started his showbusiness career as an orchestral musician and conductor in Portland, Oregon. He became a voice actor on local radio stations, hosting a daily one-hour show called Cobwebs and Nuts, with his wife Estelle. Management refused to hire actors, so the vocally versatile Blanc "invented an entire repertory company".

    Moving to Los Angeles in 1935, he got bit-parts on radio shows then became a regular on The Jack Benny Program playing comedian Jack Benny's temperamental car, a violin teacher and a polar bear called Carmichael, among others.

    When he approached Warner Brothers, he was turned down and was told the studio had "all the voices it needed". A year later he was re-auditioned.

    "Leon [Schlesinger, Warner's animation head] asked me if I could do a pig a fine thing to ask a Jewish kid. The guy they were using had a stutter and used up yards of film. But I could stutter and ad lib in rhythm," Blanc recalled in a later interview

    In a career spanning 60 years, Blanc helped develop almost 400 cartoon characters and provided a mix of voices for 3000 animated cartoons. He was the voice of Porky Pig, Sylvester and Tweety, Barney Rubble, Yosemite Sam ("Great hornytoads! A trespasser! Gettin' footyprints all over my desert!"), Foghorn Leghorn, Daffy Duck, the Tasmanian Devil (he visited Tasmania to get an idea of the right voice), Pepe le Pew, Woody Woodpecker, the Road Runner, Speedy Gonzales and Secret Squirrel.

    He became the voice of America's favourite "wascally wabbit" in 1940, when Bugs emerged from a rabbit hole, to casually ask a gun-toting Elmer Fudd, "Eh, what's up, Doc?"

    The character had made a brief appearance two years earlier in a cartoon called "Porky's Hare Hunt", with the catchphrase "Jiggers, fellas".

    In 1939, the rabbit re-emerged as a magician's assistant bailed up by two rogue dogs in "Prest-O, Change-O" (the only cartoon where the "wascally one" is out-tricked), and later in "Hare-um Scare-um" a cartoon in which a family of rabbits outwits a posse of hunters.

    The character didn't have a name but was referred to by animators at Termite Terrace (the nickname for the Warner Brothers' cartoon division) as Happy Rabbit. The rabbit finally got a more memorable name and a cartoon career when animator Charlie Thorson, creator of Elmer Fudd, scribbled "Bugs' bunny" on a model sheet, indicating it had been drawn by storyboard artist Ben "Bugs" Hardaway.

    Noel Blanc said the rabbit was originally drawn with over-large protruding front teeth, which made voicing the character difficult. His father asked animator Friz Freleng, "Can't we bring the teeth in so I can talk like a regular rabbit?"

    Blanc wanted a tough-talking rabbit and came up with a voice that was a meld of Bronx and Brooklyn accents and artist Hardaway's penchant for cool, snappy phrases. "He'd say things like, 'Hey, what's cookin?' I said, 'Let's use it. It's modern.' That became "What's up, Doc?"

    One of the myths that grew up around Blanc's characterisation of Bugs was that the actor was allergic to carrots so he needed a "spittoon" at the ready for the chunks he needed to quickly spit out, while continuing to talk as the carrot-chomping character. The truth was more prosaic. It was hard to keep voicing Bugs with a mouthful of carrot, so Blanc quickly spat the chunks into a wastepaper basket.

    As for Bugs' carrot-munching, animators Chuck Jones and Friz Freleng based it on a scene from the 1934 Frank Capra comedy It Happened One Night, in which Clark Gable, playing a louche reporter, leans against a fence eating carrots while talking to a snobbish socialite.

    When Blanc died in 1989 aged 81, he had received numerous awards for his philanthropic work and was honorary mayor of Pacific Palisades in California. His work was included in the US entertainment history collection of the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History and he also received the French Legion of Honour. He and Bugs had their own stars on Hollywood's Walk of Fame on Hollywood Boulevard.

    But the most versatile voice actor never received an Academy Award for his lifetime contribution to film, although Bugs, Sylvester and Tweety all won Oscars for various cartoon producers. Bugs has even been deemed "culturally significant" by the US Library of Congress.

    "He's a little stinker. That's why people love him. He does what most people would like to do but don't have the guts to do," was Blanc's assessment of the "wabbit's" universal appeal. Asked by television host David Letterman if any of his 1000 voices were similar, Blanc simply, and succinctly, answered, "No."

    As Jack Benny quipped, "There are only five real people in Hollywood. Everybody else is Mel Blanc."
    Tuesday, October 2nd, 2007
    8:43 pm
    [wheelerwoolsey]
    Oh Don! Don!
    Jack goes Christmas shopping:



    And Mel Blanc causes Jack to lose character and nearly break down in laughter:

    Wednesday, February 28th, 2007
    9:23 am
    [wheelerwoolsey]
    Rochester's Anniversary
    Today marks 30 years since Eddie "Rochester" Anderson passed away at the age of 71.

    A brief timeline of the life of Eddie "Rochester" Anderson:

    1905, Sep. 18-- Born to Edmund and Maude Anderson in Oakland, California

    1918--Began his dancing career with Edith Sterling and her husband in a wild west show.

    1922--Cast in a show titled "Struttin' Along"

    1937--Makes his debut on the Jack Benny Program. He would continue on the show both on radio and television until 1965.

    1939, June--Eddie is married to Mamie Wiggins Nelson

    1940s-- Owned and operated a parachute company that provided the U.S. Government quality parachutes during World War II.

    1946, Feb. --Rescued after being adrift in a boat off of Catalina Island for 2 days. His press agent had sent his obituary to the newspapers by the time of his rescue

    1954, Aug.-- Eddie's wife Mamie dies after an illness of 2 years. She was 42. At the time of her death, her son Billy (whom Eddie had adopted) was playing professional
    football for the Chicago Bears.

    1955?-- Married to model Eva Simon. They have 3 children together

    1977, Feb. 28--Dies at age 71



    Saturday, February 17th, 2007
    1:37 pm
    [wheelerwoolsey]
    George Burns on Jack
    From All My Best Friends by George Burns:

    Jack Benny made a fortune by being cheap. He was so cheap, for example, that when Mary asked for diamonds for her birthday he bought her two of them--the eight and the Queen. He was so cheap that when he worked in a nightclub he'd insist Mary stand up and take a bow, explaining, "Now I can deduct the dress. If you'd wave your hand I could deduct the ring too." And he was so cheap that he once gave Gracie a coupon for a year's subscription to a magazine as a gift--and all she had to do was fill it out and send it in with a check.

    That Jack Benny was one of the greatest characters ever created. And it proved what a good actor he was, because one thing he wasn't in real life was cheap. Mary made sure of that.

    The truth is that Mary provided Jack with an awful lot; a lot of bills for clothes, a lot of bills for furs, a lot of bills for jewelry....The real truth is that Jack did buy Mary a lot of jewelry--he knew he bought it for her because when she showed it to him she always said, "Look what you bought me today." Maybe the most expensive piece of jewelry she had was a large diamond ring that she wore all the time. My son Ronnie used to warn her about that. "Aunt Mary," he told her, "you shouldn't wear that ring in public, because somebody's going to hit you over the head and take it." And Ronnie knew what he was talking about because one day Mary was held up in her suite in the Pierre Hotel and her jewels were stolen. Jack was on an airplane when it happened, but as soon as he heard about it he tried to get Mary on the phone. She wasn't in the suite, so he kept calling and calling. Finally she answered. "I've been worried about you," he said, "where've you been?"

    She told him that she had been at Harry Winston's jewelry store looking at diamond rings.

    Jack couldn't believe it. "You were robbed four hours ago and you're already looking at another diamond?"

    "I have to, doll," she said. "It's like when you fall off a horse, if you don't get right back on, you might never do it again."

    Mary really didn't have any concept of money. Once, for example, she decided she was going to have a garage sale. She put all her old dresses on racks and invited the secretaries at CBS, the women who worked in Dr. Kennamer's office and some of the girls from Flo Haley's beauty salon, then marked her dresses down as low as $2,000 apiece!

    Of course, Jack didn't have any concept of money either. I think that as far as he was concerned, the most important thing his money did for him was keep Mary happy. I remember when he showed up at the club after signing a $2,000,000 deal with CBS. He was as excited as I've ever seen him. "Congratulations, Jack," I said, "you really look excited."

    "I am, Natty," he said. "You know what I just found out? Did you know that if you drive up Wilshire Boulevard at exactly twenty-eight miles an hour you miss every red light?"

    "What's the matter with you, Jack?" I asked him. "I'm talking about the contract with CBS. Aren't you excited about that?"

    "Of course I am," he said. "If it wasn't for that I never would have driven up Wilshire Boulevard."



    Jack and Mary with George and Gracie.
    Wednesday, February 14th, 2007
    12:51 pm
    [wheelerwoolsey]
    Some of Jack's Favorite Gags
    Continuing the celebration of Jack Benny's birthday.....some of Jack's favorite gags....

    As quoted in the book Sunday Nights At Seven:

    Rochester is baking a cake. "Boss," he calls out from the kitchen, "we're fresh out of flour."
    "I'll go over to the Colmans' and borrow a cup," I said. (Benita and Ronald Colman played my next-door neighbors.) You hear me getting a cup, leaving the house, walking across, then clink-clink, coins dropping in the cup. "Thank you," I say gratefuly and continue walking. You hear a bicycle. A Western Union messenger hands me a telegam. You hear a bill crackling.
    "Oh boy, a dollar, gee thanks a lot, Mr. Benny," the messenger says. He returns a few seconds later. "Oh, Mr. Benny, I forgot my bicycle."
    "You didn't forget it--I BOUGHT IT...I sure hate people who make deals and don't stick by them."



    Driving home from the country club, I look morose. "Rochester!"
    "Yes, boss."
    "Maybe we ought to go back to that golf course and look for my ball some more."
    "We ain't never gonna find it. Why don't you give up?"
    "Give up? Give up? Rochester, suppose Columbus gave up? He never would have discovered America. Then what would have happened?"
    "We'd be looking for that ball in Spain, boss."





    On Christmas, Rochester was shopping for a tie to give me. "Here is one," the salesman said. "It might be a little too plain for your employer though. Is he a young man?"
    "No," said Rochester.
    "Is he middle-aged?"
    "No."
    "Is he elderly?"
    "Wrap it up!"


    The following Christmas, Rochester decided to give me cuff links. "What type of man is your boss?" the salesman asked.
    "Well he's medium tall, medium weight and rather conservative."
    "By conservative, do you mean he's penurious?"
    "Well...."
    "Parsimonious?"
    "Well...."
    "Frugal?"
    "Well...."
    "Thrifty?"
    "You're headed in the right direction, but there's a long, long trail a-winding."
    11:17 am
    [wheelerwoolsey]
    Jell-O
    I have read several times that Jack Benny's program single-handedly made Jell-O the #1 gelatin dessert in the country. The book Jack Benny: A Biography by Mary Livingstone and Marcia Borie recalls the early days of Jack's association with Jell-O as his sponsor (1934):

    For the first six months Jack was on the air for Jell-O, then a fairly new product, there were merchandising problems beyond Benny's control. All across America, those six delicious flavors: strawberry, raspberry, cherry, orange, lemon and lime, were just sitting on the shelves--a fact hardly calculated to make a sponsor happy.

    One day, Jack and Mary's agent, Arthur Lyons, showed up at the Benny apartment along with the Jell-O executive responsible to General Foods for the program. After a lengthy discussion, the executive got down to the bottom line. In order to keep the show on the air, General Foods requested that Jack and his entire cast take a cut in salary. Jack said he would discuss the situation and give them an answer within the week.

    As it turned out, everyone agreed to the cut except Mary. Jack was astounded, but Mary stood her ground. Firmly she told him: "I won't allow it to get around town that you've taken a cut in salary. It would be bad for you. I can't let that happen, Jack. It would be so unfair to you..."

    Touched by his wife's fervent loyalty, Jack asked Mary if she had any other solution to the problem.

    Mary nodded. "Let's you and I work without salary until the situation improves," she suggested. "I'd rather we earned nothing than let you accept less than the money you've been getting."

    It was a revolutionary suggestion--but Jack went along with it. The rest of the cast continued to get the same salary they had been making. Mary and Jack worked free out of a sense of pride.

    Two months passed. By then, Benny's show had swept the country. Jell-O was selling so well, grocers couldn't keep the product on their shelves. The sponsors showed their delight by giving Mary and Jack a dinner party to celebrate the good news. But first, the guests gathered at the Bennys' for cocktails.

    One of the General Foods executives toasted them and made a flowery speech about being grateful to Jack, Mary and their whole radio family for doing such a great sales job. Jell-O was a huge hit, and all because of the Benny show. At the end of his speech, the gentleman reached into his pocket and took out a check, which he presented to Mary. It was made out for a very large sum--the combined regular salary which Jack and Mary had given up for a total of eight weeks.

    Meanwhile, in the kitchen, the Benny's maid-cook, Henrietta, had been preparing to serve hors d'oeuvres when there was a knock on the back door. It was a uniformed messenger with a large, specially wrapped gift. Inside the box, she found a huge silver platter--well chilled. On the platter, decorated with fancy garnishes, sat a six-tier mold in the form of a cake--made out of Jell-O. It was so fancy, if she had stuck a tiny bride and groom on the top, it would have been very appropriate for a wedding.

    Because it was not part of the planned menu, she carried the platter into the dining room and said unceremoniously, "Mrs. Benny, what do you want me to do with this crap?"

    The people from General Foods gasped. Jack's face turned the shade of the first three layers--strawberry, raspberry and cherry.



    11:02 am
    [wheelerwoolsey]
    Jack and His Writers
    From the George Burns book All My Best Friends, George describes an example of Jack's dependence on his writing staff:

    Jack depend on his writers completely. And trusted them. And paid them very well. So his writers stayed with him for so long that even after twenty years he was still referring to the youngest of his two writing teams, Hal Goodman and Al Gordon, as "the new writers." Let me tell you how much Jack depended on his writers. One day Jack stopped a rehearsal and asked his whole writing staff to join him in a conference. "Look," he said when the four writers had gathered around. "I want to give Mel Blanc credit. I want a line for the tag of the show that says the part of the violin teacher was played by Mel Blanc." One of the writers took Jack's script and wrote on it, "The part of the violin teacher was played by Mel Blanc."

    Jack read it over. "This is great," he said, "This is exactly what I wanted to say. Gees, thanks guys."

    That was the end of the conference. As the writers went back to their seats one of them said casually, "You know, Jack, I think two of us probably could have handled that job."





    Above: Jack (center) in 1938 with writers Bill Morrow and Ed Beloin who were with him until 1943. Ed Beloin was also the voice of Jack's eccentric boarder, Mr. Billingsley.
    9:47 am
    [wheelerwoolsey]
    Jack's Famous Match Bit
    From George Burns' All My Best Friends:

    No matter whose party Jack Benny and I were attending, I always tried to do something to make him laugh. Believe me, if I thought for one minute that he was really embarrassed by the things I did to him, I certainly would have done a lot more of them. I remember one night we were at a party at writer Norman Krasna's house; there were probably seventy or eighty people there and the party was pretty quiet. I saw Jack walk over the mantelpiece and pick up some matches to light his cigar. "Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention please," I said loudly. Everybody immediately quieted down, and Jack hesitated. "Well, we're really in luck tonight," I said. "Jack Benny is going to honor us by doing his famous match bit. Jack..." Everybody looked at him and waited. Jack didn't know what to do, so he lit his cigar. "Oh," I said, "a new finish!" And Jack started laughing so hard he had to get down on his knees and pound the floor.


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