Monday, May 5, 2008
OK, MR. BENNY!
My introduction to Jack Benny may have been when Radar did an impression of him on “M*A*S*H”. The episode, ‘Movie Tonight’ from Season 5, originally aired in 1977. I probably saw it then, having to watch what dad or my brothers wanted to watch, or in the reruns as ubiquitous in my own life as they have been on television. Or maybe it was on local public radio station WVXU, which had a daily block of old-time radio shows for many years, and currently carries the syndicated program When Radio Was, but I don’t remember ever making a habit of it.
For awhile there in my early teens, I was interested in a line of old time radio shows on cassette (yes, I've been weird a long,long time). They came on a spinner rack that would turn up in an odd store here or there. One of those I had was a Jack Benny show. Benny's radio show was so popular that his personality quirks became instant laughs when even hinted at. He was notoriously stingy with money, was never older than 39 and fashioned himself a violin virtuoso (all the while playing up the screeches and miscues). Benny's comic legend was in his timing. He turned pausing into an art form, garnering howls for saying nothing.
writing all of this purple prose because a local PBS affiliate here is currently running episodes of his TV series, "The Jack Benny Program" from the mid-1950s as "The Best of the Jack Benny Show". I'm not sure how they're choosing which shows to run. The handful so far have been from 1955. This is about the time he's transitioned fully from his radio show (1932 - 1955) to his television show (1950 - 1965).
I guess I was just thinking about all the people who have no idea who Jack Benny is...and that bothers me. I was heartened by the blog of an apparently young woman who's crazy about Benny's fellow radio/TV pioneers, Fibber McGee & Molly. Here are a couple of examples of his show from YouTube.
First up, Benny disguises himself to win cash from Groucho Marx on "You Bet Your Life"...
next, Benny with series regular (and cartoon voice legend) Mel Blanc.