Jack Benny

Jack Benny (born Benjamin Kubelsky, February 14, 1894 – December 26, 1974) was a comedian, vaudeville performer, film actor, and one of the most prominent early stars of American radio and television. Often cited for his impeccable comic timing, Benny was an influential comedy innovator, a major architect of the modern forms of standup comedy and situation comedy.

Jack Benny

Early career

Benny grew up in Chicago and Waukegan, Illinois. He began studying the violin, an instrument that would become his trademark, when he was six. By fourteen he was playing in local dance bands, as well as in his high school orchestra, until he failed school and left for a career in vaudeville. In 1911, he was playing in the same theater as the young Marx Brothers, whose mother was so enchanted with Benny that she invited him to be their permanent accompanist. The plan was foiled by Benny's parents, who refused to let their son, then seventeen, go on the road, but it was the beginning of his long friendship with Zeppo Marx.

The following year, Benny formed a vaudeville musical duo with pianist Cora Salisbury. This provoked famous violinist Jan Kubelik, who thought that the young vaudeville entertainer with a similar name (Kubelsky) would damage his reputation. Finally, Bejamin Kubelsky agreed to change his name to Ben K. Benny (sometimes spelled Bennie). He also found a new pianist, Lyman Wood. He left show business briefly in 1917 to join the Navy during World War I, but even then, he often entertained the troops. One evening, he was booed by the troops, so he began telling Navy jokes on stage. He was a big hit, earning himself a reputation as a comedian as well as a musician.

After the war, Benny returned to vaudeville and changed his first name to Jack. He had several romantic encounters, including with a dancer, Mary Kelly, whose devoutly Catholic family forced her to turn down Benny's proposal because he was Jewish. In 1922, he accompanied Zeppo Marx to a Passover seder in Vancouver, where he met Sadie Marks, whom he eventually married in 1927. As Mary Livingstone, she was his collaborator throughout much of his career.

Radio

Benny had been only a minor vaudeville star, but he became an enormously successful national figure with The Jack Benny Program, a weekly radio show which ran from 1932 to 1955, and was consistantly among the most highly-rated programs during most of that run. Benny's program centered around a fictional version of himself: a successful comedian who was cheap, petty, and vain. The program introduced a stable of colorful characters who made Benny their foil. Staples on the show were Eddie Anderson, who played Benny's African-American valet, "Rochester Van Jones" (and who became nearly as popular as Benny himself); rotund announcer Don Wilson, the butt of endless "fat" jokes; Mary Livingstone, Benny's real-life wife, who played his wisecracking lady friend on the show; bandleader Phil Harris, whose tales of drinking and womanizing were risqúe for the time (although in reality, the band was led by Malohn Merrick); and tenor singer Dennis Day, who portrayed a naïve, sheltered young man. Other cast members included Frank Nelson and the remarkably versatile Mel Blanc, who provided several characters' voices, as well as the famous sound of Benny's aging auto, an early century Maxwell that always seemed on the verge of collapse.

The show featured sketch-like "situations" from the fictional Benny's life (Jack hosts a party, Jack and Mary go Christmas shopping, and so on), with Harris and Day providing musical interludes. The program, which had been broadcast from New York, moved to Los Angeles in 1936, and its new show-biz locale allowed for frequent guest appearances by Benny's celebrity colleagues, including Frank Sinatra, James Stewart, Barbara Stanwyck, Bing Crosby and many others. Orson Welles guest hosted several episodes when Benny was unavailable. Ronald Colman and his wife Benita appeared frequently in the 1940s as Benny's neighbors.

In the early days of radio, the airtime was owned by the sponsor, and Benny made a point of incorporating the commercials into the body of the show; the sponsors were often the butt of jokes. His sponsors included Canada Dry Ginger Ale from 1932 to 1933, Chevrolet from 1933 to 1934, General Tire in 1934, Jell-O from 1934 to 1942 (Benny is largely credited for making "Jello" a household name), Grape Nuts from 1942 to 1944, and Lucky Strike from 1944 to 1955.

Benny was notable for employing a small group of writers, most of whom stayed with him for many years. This was very much in contrast to other successful radio or television comedians, such as Bob Hope, who would change writers frequently. Historical accounts (like those by longtime Benny writer Milt Josephson) indicate that Benny's role that was essentially that of both head writer and director of his radio programs, though he was not credited in either capacity.

In 1937 Benny began his famous radio "feud" with rival comedian Fred Allen, who complained about the way Benny played violin. In fact, the two were close friends. A typical Benny and Allen episode, in this case on Fred's radio show, was a satire of "Queen for a Day" re-titled "King for a Day". In it, Allen plays host and eventually showers Benny with a ton of worthless prizes in honor of him being named King for a Day. The grand prize is a pants pressing from a local dry cleaning company. The hilarity builds as Jack's shirt is being taken off. Then, his pants are pulled off to the shock of the audience. The laughter was so loud and chaotic at the chain of events that Fred's announcer, Kenny Delmar, was cut off the air amidst the wild laughter while trying to read the credits—Fred's show had ran over-time yet again!

Benny was famous for his carefully timed pauses; one of the most famous laughs in radio came when he was accosted by a robber who demanded, "Your money or your life!" After an extended pause, the gunman reiterated the threat. Benny, ever the cheapskate, snapped, "I'm thinking it over!"

During his early radio show, Benny adopted a medley of "Yankee Doodle Boy" and "Love in Bloom" as his theme song, opening every show. The song later became the theme of his television show as well.

Television

The Jack Benny Show ran on television from October 28, 1950 to 1965. The show appeared infrequently during its first two years on TV, then ran every fourth week for the next two years. From 1955 to 1960 it appeared every other week, and from 1960 to 1965 it was seen weekly. When Benny moved to television, audiences learned that his verbal talent was matched by his assortment of facial expressions and physical gestures. The program was similar to the radio show—many radio scripts were recycled for TV—with the addition of visual gags.

CBS dropped his show in 1964, and he went to NBC in the Fall, only to be out-rated by Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. on CBS. NBC dropped his show at the end of the season, though he continued to make periodic TV specials into the 1970s.

Benny also acted in movies, including the Academy Award-winning The Hollywood Revue of 1929 and notably, Charley's Aunt (1941) and To Be or Not to Be (1942). The failure of one Benny vehicle, The Horn Blows at Midnight, became a running gag on his program.

Toward the end of his career, Benny returned to film, appearing in It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World in (1963). He also continued to perform live as a stand-up comedian. He was cast in the film version of Neil Simon's The Sunshine Boys, but was forced to give up the role (ultimately played by Benny's close friend George Burns), when he was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. He died in 1974. He was interred in the Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery in Culver City, California.


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He was interred in the Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery in Culver City, California. On October 16, 2003, a controversy surfaced over alleged abusive behaviour by Cantinflas’s son towards Cantinflas. He died in 1974. The Real Academia Española has included the verb cantinflear in its dictionary . He was cast in the film version of Neil Simon's The Sunshine Boys, but was forced to give up the role (ultimately played by Benny's close friend George Burns), when he was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. This manner of talking became known as Cantinfleada, and it became common parlance for Spanish speakers to say ¡estas cantinfleando! (loosely translated as you're pulling a 'Cantinflas'! or you're 'Cantinflassing'!) whenever someone became hard to understand in conversation. He also continued to perform live as a stand-up comedian. Among the things that endeared him to his public was his comic use of language in his films: his characters, like El Barrendero, loved to strike up a normal conversation with anyone in the movie, and then complicate the conversation to the point where no one understood what they were talking about.

Toward the end of his career, Benny returned to film, appearing in It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World in (1963). Cantinflas has a star in the Hollywood Walk of Fame and when he died in 1993, the US Senate held a minute of silence to honor his memory. The failure of one Benny vehicle, The Horn Blows at Midnight, became a running gag on his program. Cantinflas was so fond of bullfighting that he played his torero scenes himself . Benny also acted in movies, including the Academy Award-winning The Hollywood Revue of 1929 and notably, Charley's Aunt (1941) and To Be or Not to Be (1942). He invested his earnings in real estate and in the sport of bullfighting. NBC dropped his show at the end of the season, though he continued to make periodic TV specials into the 1970s. Later, Cantinflas became President of the Mexican actors' union as well as Secretary of their filmworkers' union.

CBS dropped his show in 1964, and he went to NBC in the Fall, only to be out-rated by Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. on CBS. Cantinflas went to Hollywood in the 1950s, making two popular movies in English, Around the World in Eighty Days and Pepe. The program was similar to the radio show—many radio scripts were recycled for TV—with the addition of visual gags. From there on, Cantinflas went on to make more than 50 feature films, becoming a widely known entertainer and legendary comic all over Latin America and in Spain. When Benny moved to television, audiences learned that his verbal talent was matched by his assortment of facial expressions and physical gestures. The phrase that gave that movie its name became a Cantinflas catch phrase for the rest of his career. From 1955 to 1960 it appeared every other week, and from 1960 to 1965 it was seen weekly. He also appeared in a few movies during that time, but it was in 1940, that Cantinflas finally became a movie star, after shooting Ahí está el detalle.

The show appeared infrequently during its first two years on TV, then ran every fourth week for the next two years. In 1935, he joined the Follies Bergere theater, becoming a popular figure on Mexico's theater scene. The Jack Benny Show ran on television from October 28, 1950 to 1965. Cantinflas started out performing at a circus in the 1930s. The song later became the theme of his television show as well. It is a little known fact that Cantinflas was in the military and later, also a professional boxer before he joined to the entertainment world as a dancer. During his early radio show, Benny adopted a medley of "Yankee Doodle Boy" and "Love in Bloom" as his theme song, opening every show. Cantinflas did not start his professional life as an entertainer.

Benny, ever the cheapskate, snapped, "I'm thinking it over!". Charlie Chaplin once called Cantinflas the 'funniest man in the world'. Benny was famous for his carefully timed pauses; one of the most famous laughs in radio came when he was accosted by a robber who demanded, "Your money or your life!" After an extended pause, the gunman reiterated the threat. Mario Moreno Reyes (August 12, 1911 - April 20, 1993), better known as Cantinflas, was a Mexican actor, circus performer and comedian. The laughter was so loud and chaotic at the chain of events that Fred's announcer, Kenny Delmar, was cut off the air amidst the wild laughter while trying to read the credits—Fred's show had ran over-time yet again!. Cantinflas. Then, his pants are pulled off to the shock of the audience. No te engañes corazón (1936) ...

The hilarity builds as Jack's shirt is being taken off. El Tejón. The grand prize is a pants pressing from a local dry cleaning company. ¡Así es mi tierra! (1937) ... In it, Allen plays host and eventually showers Benny with a ton of worthless prizes in honor of him being named King for a Day. Polito Sol. A typical Benny and Allen episode, in this case on Fred's radio show, was a satire of "Queen for a Day" re-titled "King for a Day". Águila o sol (1937) http://cinemexicano.mty.itesm.mx/peliculas/aguila.html ...

In fact, the two were close friends. Cantinflas. In 1937 Benny began his famous radio "feud" with rival comedian Fred Allen, who complained about the way Benny played violin. El signo de la muerte (1939) ... Historical accounts (like those by longtime Benny writer Milt Josephson) indicate that Benny's role that was essentially that of both head writer and director of his radio programs, though he was not credited in either capacity. Chencho Albondigón (cortometraje publicitario). This was very much in contrast to other successful radio or television comedians, such as Bob Hope, who would change writers frequently. Siempre listo en las tinieblas (1939) ...

Benny was notable for employing a small group of writers, most of whom stayed with him for many years. Bala Fría (cortometraje publicitario). His sponsors included Canada Dry Ginger Ale from 1932 to 1933, Chevrolet from 1933 to 1934, General Tire in 1934, Jell-O from 1934 to 1942 (Benny is largely credited for making "Jello" a household name), Grape Nuts from 1942 to 1944, and Lucky Strike from 1944 to 1955. Jengibre contra dinamita (1939) ... In the early days of radio, the airtime was owned by the sponsor, and Benny made a point of incorporating the commercials into the body of the show; the sponsors were often the butt of jokes. Cantinflas (cortometraje publicitario). Ronald Colman and his wife Benita appeared frequently in the 1940s as Benny's neighbors. Cantinflas en los censos (1940) ...

Orson Welles guest hosted several episodes when Benny was unavailable. Cantinflas (cortometraje publicitario). The program, which had been broadcast from New York, moved to Los Angeles in 1936, and its new show-biz locale allowed for frequent guest appearances by Benny's celebrity colleagues, including Frank Sinatra, James Stewart, Barbara Stanwyck, Bing Crosby and many others. Cantinflas boxeador (1940) ... The show featured sketch-like "situations" from the fictional Benny's life (Jack hosts a party, Jack and Mary go Christmas shopping, and so on), with Harris and Day providing musical interludes. Cantinflas (cortometraje publicitario). Other cast members included Frank Nelson and the remarkably versatile Mel Blanc, who provided several characters' voices, as well as the famous sound of Benny's aging auto, an early century Maxwell that always seemed on the verge of collapse. Cantinflas ruletero (1940) ...

Staples on the show were Eddie Anderson, who played Benny's African-American valet, "Rochester Van Jones" (and who became nearly as popular as Benny himself); rotund announcer Don Wilson, the butt of endless "fat" jokes; Mary Livingstone, Benny's real-life wife, who played his wisecracking lady friend on the show; bandleader Phil Harris, whose tales of drinking and womanizing were risqúe for the time (although in reality, the band was led by Malohn Merrick); and tenor singer Dennis Day, who portrayed a naïve, sheltered young man. Cantinflas (cortometraje). The program introduced a stable of colorful characters who made Benny their foil. Cantinflas y su prima (La prima de Cantinflas) (1940) ... Benny's program centered around a fictional version of himself: a successful comedian who was cheap, petty, and vain. Cantinflas/"Leonardo del Paso". Benny had been only a minor vaudeville star, but he became an enormously successful national figure with The Jack Benny Program, a weekly radio show which ran from 1932 to 1955, and was consistantly among the most highly-rated programs during most of that run. Ahí está el detalle (1940) http://cinemexicano.mty.itesm.mx/peliculas/detalle.html...

As Mary Livingstone, she was his collaborator throughout much of his career. El Chato/Manuel Márquez "Manolete". In 1922, he accompanied Zeppo Marx to a Passover seder in Vancouver, where he met Sadie Marks, whom he eventually married in 1927. Ni sangre ni arena (1941) ... He had several romantic encounters, including with a dancer, Mary Kelly, whose devoutly Catholic family forced her to turn down Benny's proposal because he was Jewish. Cantinflas, el 777. After the war, Benny returned to vaudeville and changed his first name to Jack. El gendarme desconocido (1941) ...

He was a big hit, earning himself a reputation as a comedian as well as a musician. participación involuntaria. One evening, he was booed by the troops, so he began telling Navy jokes on stage. Carnaval en el trópico (Fiesta en Veracruz) (1941) ... He left show business briefly in 1917 to join the Navy during World War I, but even then, he often entertained the troops. Cantinflas/D'Artagnan. He also found a new pianist, Lyman Wood. Los tres mosqueteros (1942) ...

Benny (sometimes spelled Bennie). el zapatero. Finally, Bejamin Kubelsky agreed to change his name to Ben K. El circo (1942) ... This provoked famous violinist Jan Kubelik, who thought that the young vaudeville entertainer with a similar name (Kubelsky) would damage his reputation. ruletero/Romeo de Montesco. The following year, Benny formed a vaudeville musical duo with pianist Cora Salisbury. Romeo y Julieta (1943) ...

The plan was foiled by Benny's parents, who refused to let their son, then seventeen, go on the road, but it was the beginning of his long friendship with Zeppo Marx. Cantinflas. In 1911, he was playing in the same theater as the young Marx Brothers, whose mother was so enchanted with Benny that she invited him to be their permanent accompanist. Gran Hotel (1944) ... By fourteen he was playing in local dance bands, as well as in his high school orchestra, until he failed school and left for a career in vaudeville. el voceador. He began studying the violin, an instrument that would become his trademark, when he was six. Un día con el diablo (1945) ...

Benny grew up in Chicago and Waukegan, Illinois. Cantinflas. Jack Benny (born Benjamin Kubelsky, February 14, 1894 – December 26, 1974) was a comedian, vaudeville performer, film actor, and one of the most prominent early stars of American radio and television. Often cited for his impeccable comic timing, Benny was an influential comedy innovator, a major architect of the modern forms of standup comedy and situation comedy. Soy un prófugo (1946) ... Cantinflas. ¡A volar joven! (1947) ...

Cantinflas. El supersabio (1948) ... Cantinflas. El mago (1948) ...

Cantinflas. Puerta, joven (El portero) (1949) ... Margarito/El Siete Machos. El Siete Machos (1950) ...

El bombero atómico, el 777. El bombero atómico (1950) ... Cantinflas. Si yo fuera diputado (1951) ...

participación. Lluvia de estrellas (1951) ... Cantinflas. El señor fotógrafo (1952) ...

Cantinflas. Caballero a la medida (1953) ... Cantinflas. Abajo el telón (1954) ...

Cantinflas. El bolero de Raquel (1956) ... Paspartout (producción estadounidense). Around the World in Eighty Days (La vuelta al mundo en ochenta días) (1956) ...

Cantinflas. Ama a tu prójimo (1958) ... Cantinflas. Sube y baja (1958) ...

Pepe (coproducción con los Estados Unidos). Pepe (1960) ... Inocencio Prieto y Calvo. El analfabeto (1960) ...

Rogaciano. El extra (1962) ... Feliciano Calloso. Entrega inmediata (1963) ...

padre Sebastián o Sebas. El padrecito (1964) ... doctor Salvador Medina. El señor doctor (1965) ...

Lopitos. Su excelencia (1966) ... Fidencio Barrenillo. Por mis pistolas (1968) ...

Justo Leal y Aventado. Un Quijote sin mancha (1969) ... Sócrates García. El profe (1970) ...

Sancho Panza (coproducción con España). Don Quijote cabalga de nuevo (1972) ... Úrsulo. Conserje en condominio (1973) ...

Mateo Melgarejo. El ministro y yo (1975) ... Diógenes Bravo. El patrullero 777 (1977) ...

Napoleón. El barrendero (1981) ...

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