Tag Archives: Jack Benny

15 April: A presidential farewell and an exposition of horror

FDR's radio friendliness is repaid abundantly upon his death and interment. (Photo: The National Archives.)

FDR’s radio friendliness is repaid abundantly upon his death and interment. (Photo: The National Archives.)

Until Franklin D. Roosevelt, network broadcasting has yet to address the death of a sitting President of the United States. As Edward R. Murrow would say of the United States a decade later, radio comes into its full inheritance at a tender age as it is, but World War II and the death of FDR have combined to tax that inheritance powerfully. It’s to radio’s credit that it has responded to both as powerfully, as effectively, and as memorably as few might have expected when network radio began taking its full shape a decade earlier.

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8 March: Uncanned feud

Benny (left) and Allen, the friendly feud that wouldn't quit until Allen's retirement as a full-time radio host. (Photo: CBS.)

Benny and Allen, the friendly feud that wouldn’t quit until Allen’s retirement as a full-time radio host. (Photo: CBS.)

How would the two protagonists (who were actually good friends off the air) remember the origin of the Jack Benny-Fred Allen feud, by anyone’s measure the greatest dialogic running gag in network radio, enduring right up to the moment Fred Allen leaves network radio as a full-time host in 1949? (The greatest sound-effect running gag has to be Fibber McGee’s closet, of course.)

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4 March: Miss Brooks’s measured climb

Eve Arden (center) rehearses with Richard Crenna (left) and Gale Gordon (right). (Photo: CBS.)

Eve Arden (center) rehearses with Richard Crenna (left) and Gale Gordon (right). (Photo: CBS.)

It’s not that anyone is going to complain, mind you. But maybe, just maybe, network radio’s most beloved high school English teacher might be even more of a hit—even allowing that television is now cutting radio ratings severely—with a slightly more advantageous scheduling.

Since luring Amos ‘n’ Andy and Jack Benny from NBC, CBS has built a formidable Sunday night lineup. Putting Eve Arden’s cheerfully sardonic but hopelessly romantic English teacher on Sunday night at 6:30 p.m. after Our Miss Brooks spent 1948 rounding into shape didn’t exactly get her suspended from school—she finished 1949-50 with an 11.0 Hooper, enough to secure her seventh place on Sunday night—but CBS could have provided her a powerful choice of lead-ins.

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2 January: Betting big on Benny . . .

Benny proved worth Paley's big gamble. (Photo: CBS.)

Jack Benny proved better than merely being worth Bill Paley’s big gamble. (Photo: CBS.)

So Jack Benny has made the jump—and caused quite a stir in the bargain—from NBC to CBS, after contract negotiations with the senior network turned grotesque, in Benny’s view, when a former prosecutor who’d humiliated him needlessly in an unlikely court case turned up on the NBC negotiating team.

The question before the house is whether the jump will prove a bonanza or a bust.

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7 November: Maxwell’s house

Jack Benny (left), Eddie (Rochester) Anderson, and the Maxwell . . . (Photo: NBC.)

Jack Benny (left), Eddie (Rochester) Anderson, and the Maxwell . . . (Photo: NBC.)

Few radio running gags are more prevalent than Jack Benny’s aging Maxwell automobile. It barely breaks five miles an hour (and that’s pushing it), and it breaks down every five miles (if that far) with a wheezily sputtering phat-phat-bang! It carries Benny along on his way to becoming radio’s rarely-challenged king.

Benny’s skinflint radio self, of course, bought his Maxwell cheap from a used car dealer referenced on the air as as the Smiling Pilgrim. The real Maxwell Motor Company has a slightly more interesting story of its own to tell.

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