Tag Archives: Jack Benny

27 June: Two finales, two transitions, for Jack Benny

Benny knew how to handle unexpected transitions. (Photo: NBC.)

Benny knew how to handle unexpected transitions. (Photo: NBC.)

A pair of season enders eleven years apart tonight, shows Jack Benny in two different kinds of transition.

The 1936-37 season has been a transitional one for Benny as it was. The good news is that he was joined by Phil Harris at the season’s beginning and Eddie Anderson as the irrepressible Rochester near season’s end. The bad news is that he lost his main writer, Harry Conn, before the season began. Conn—who later sues Benny but settles out of court—came to believe he was the number one reason for Benny’s radio success and made contract demands accordingly. The net result was Conn’s head on a plate.

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11 March: Rochester’s enduring stand

Eddie Anderson, the irrepressible Rochester. (Photo: NBC.)

Eddie Anderson, the irrepressible Rochester. (Photo: NBC.)

Eddie Anderson was the son of a minstrel performer and one of the extremely few black high-wire artists. His father objected to his traveling up and down the west coast as a teenage entertainer. But he eventually became the first black performer hired for a permanent radio cast spot and almost as much of a radio institution as the man who hired him in the first place.

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29 January: Canned feud

(l to r) Portland Hoffa, Jack Benny, Fred Allen, and Mary Livingstone have a little wrestle and relaxation. (Photo: NBC.)

(l to r) Portland Hoffa (Mrs. Fred Allen), Jack Benny, Fred Allen, and Mary Livingstone have a little wrestle and relaxation. (Photo: NBC.)

Classic network radio has no better aural running gag than Fibber McGee’s closet, though you could argue that Jack Benny’s subterranean vault alarm might prove a close enough second. For a better verbal running gag, it’s hard to deny the Benny-Fred Allen mock feud. It’s even harder to believe that Fred Allen may actually feared it couldn’t be done in the first place.

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2 January: Jumpin’ Jack’s splash

CBS couldn't wait to put Jack Benny at the head of its Sunday night class. (Photo: CBS.)

CBS couldn’t wait to put Jack Benny at the head of its Sunday night class. (Photo: CBS.)

Now comes the time for Jack Benny and CBS to put Bill Paley’s money where the comedian’s mouth is. The question before the houses of Paley and NBC emperor David Sarnoff is whether the jump proves bonanza or bust.

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30 December: The rivals and their “comebacks”

Benny and Allen enjoy a splendid mutual comeback beginning in 1945. (Photo: NBC.)

Friendly rivals Benny and Allen enjoy a splendid mutual comeback beginning in 1945. (Photo: NBC.)

It might be difficult for a 21st Century fan to believe, if clinging strictly to the general image of the man, but Jack Benny thinks he’s in radio trouble by the 1945-46 season: his Hooper rating has dipped a cumulative 35 percent since 1941, culminating in a tenth-place finish for 1944-45, his lowest rating in a decade.

The good news is that, for all that steady slippage, Benny still has never finished a season shy of a 20 rating. Regardless, the comedian entered the season bent on keeping that bottom line at minimum and getting back near the top of the beanhill at maximum.

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