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The Jack Benny Program
|The Jack Benny Program, starring Jack Benny, is a radio-TV comedy series that ran for more than three decades and is generally regarded as a high-water mark in 20th-century American comedy.
Jack Benny first appeared on radio as a guest of Ed Sullivan in 1932. He was then given his own show later that year, with Canada Dry Ginger Ale as a sponsor —The Canada Dry Ginger Ale Program, beginning May 2, 1932, on the NBC Blue Network and continuing there for six months until October 26, moving the show to CBS on October 30. With Ted Weems leading the band, Benny stayed on CBS until January 26, 1933.
Arriving at NBC on March 17, Benny did The Chevrolet Program until April 1, 1934 with Frank Black leading the band. He continued with The General Tire Revue for the rest of that season, and in the fall of 1934, for General Foods as The Jell-O Program Starring Jack Benny (1934–42) and, when sales of Jell-O were affected by sugar rationing during World War II, The Grape Nuts Flakes Program Starring Jack Benny (Later the Grape Nuts and Grape Nuts Flakes Program) (1942–44). On October 1, 1944, the show became The Lucky Strike Program Starring Jack Benny, when American Tobacco's Lucky Strike cigarettes took over as his radio sponsor, through the mid-1950s. By that time, the practice of using the sponsor's name as the title began to fade. The show returned to CBS on January 2, 1949, as part of CBS president William S. Paley's notorious "raid" of NBC talent in 1948-49. There it stayed for the remainder of its radio run, which ended on May 22, 1955. CBS aired repeats of previous 1953-55 radio episodes from 1956 to 1958 as The Best of Benny for State Farm Insurance, who later sponsored his television program from 1960 through 1965.
Although Eddie Anderson's Rochester may be considered a stereotype by some, his attitudes were unusually sardonic for such a role, and Benny treated him as an equal, not as a servant. In many routines, Rochester gets the better of Benny, often pricking his boss' ego, or simply outwitting him. The show's portrayal of black characters could be seen as advanced for its time; in a 1956 episode, African-American actor Roy Glenn plays a friend of Rochester, and he is portrayed as a well-educated, articulate man not as the typical "darkie stereotype" seen in many films of the time. Glenn's role was a recurring one on the series, where he was often portrayed as having to support two people on one unemployment check (i.e., himself and Rochester). Black talent was also showcased, with several guest appearances by The Ink Spots and others.
|Jack Benny (born Benjamin Kubelsky; February 14, 1894 – December 26, 1974) was an American comedian, vaudevillian, radio, television and film actor, and violinist. Recognized as a leading American entertainer of the 20th century, Benny portrayed his character as a miser, playing his violin badly. In character, he would claim to be 39 years of age, regardless of his actual age.
Benny was known for comic timing and the ability to cause laughter with a pregnant pause or a single expression, such as his signature exasperated "Well!" His radio and television programs, popular from 1932 until his death in 1974, were a major influence on the sitcom genre.
Benny was born in Chicago, Illinois, and grew up in nearby Waukegan, Illinois.:6 He was the son of Meyer Kubelsky and Emma Sachs Kubelsky. His parents were Jewish. Meyer was a saloon owner and later a haberdasher who had emigrated to America from Poland. Emma had emigrated from Lithuania. Benny began studying violin, an instrument that became his trademark, at the age of 6, his parents hoping for him to become a professional violinist. He loved the instrument, but hated practice.
At 14, Benny was playing in dance bands and his high school orchestra. He was a dreamer and poor at his studies, and was ultimately expelled from high school. He did poorly in business school later and at attempts to join his father's business. In 1911, he began playing the violin in local vaudeville theaters for $7.50 a week.:11 He was joined by Ned Miller, a young composer and singer, on the circuit.
That same year, Benny was playing in the same theater as the young Marx Brothers. Minnie, their mother, enjoyed Benny's violin playing and invited him to accompany her boys in their act. Benny's parents refused to let their son go on the road at 17, but it was the beginning of his long friendship with the Marx Brothers, especially Zeppo Marx.
In 1921, Benny accompanied Zeppo Marx to a Passover seder in Vancouver at the residence where he met 14-year-old Sadie Marks. Their first meeting did not go well when he tried to leave during Sadie's violin performance.:30–31 They met again in 1926. Jack had not remembered their earlier meeting and instantly fell for her.:31 They married in 1927. She was working in the hosiery section of the Hollywood Boulevard branch of the May Company, where Benny courted her.:32 Called on to fill in for the "dumb girl" part in a Benny routine, Sadie proved to be a natural comedienne. Adopting the stage name Mary Livingstone, Sadie collaborated with Benny throughout most of his career. They later adopted a daughter, Joan.
In 1932, after a four-week nightclub run, he was invited onto Ed Sullivan's radio program, uttering his first radio spiel "This is Jack Benny talking. There will be a slight pause while you say, 'Who cares?'...":40