Jack Benny

Birthday: Feb 14, 1894
Birthplace: Not Available
Though born in a Chicago hospital, entertainer Jack Benny was a Waukegan boy through and through. The son of a Polish immigrant haberdasher, Benny studied the violin from an early age (he really could play, though he was certainly no virtuoso), and managed to find work in local theatre orchestras. As a teenager, Benny gave vaudeville a try with a musical act in partnership with pianist Cora Salisbury, but this first fling at show business was only fitfully successful. During World War I, Benny was assigned to the Great Lakes Naval Training Center, where, while appearing in camp shows, he first began telling jokes in between violin selections. Benny returned to vaudeville with a comedy act, slowly building himself up into a headliner. He made his first radio appearance on Ed Sullivan's interview show on March 29, 1932; within a year he had his own show, which would evolve over the next two decades into one of radio's most popular programs. He met with equal success when he moved into television in 1950. There are few comedy fans in existence who aren't familiar with the character Benny played on the air: The vain, tone-deaf, penny-pinching, eternal 39-year-old who spent his life being flustered and humiliated by his supporting cast (Mary Livingstone, Eddie "Rochester" Anderson, Dennis Day, Frank Nelson, Mel Blanc, Don Wilson et. al.); nor need his fans be reminded that this character developed gradually, rather than springing full-blown upon the world way back in 1932. What is usually de-emphasized in the many accounts of Benny's life and career is his sizeable body of movie work. Benny himself insisted that most of his films were no good, and many casual viewers have been willing to accept his word on this. Actually, Benny's films, while not all classics, were by and large moneymakers, and never anything to be truly ashamed of. His first feature appearance was as the wisecracking emcee of MGM's The Hollywood Revue of 1929. He followed this with a comic-relief role in Chasing Rainbows (1930) and an uncharacteristic straight part in the low-budget The Medicine Man (1930). He was a perfectly acceptable semicomic romantic lead in It's in the Air (1935), Artists and Models (1936), Artists and Models Abroad (1936), and in his appearances in Paramount's College and Big Broadcast series. Whenever Benny expressed displeasure over his film career, he was usually alluding to those pictures that insisted upon casting him as Benny the Famous Radio Comedian rather than a wholly different screen character. Transatlantic Merry-Go-Round (1934), Man About Town (1939) and Buck Benny Rides Again (1940), though enjoyable, are totally reliant upon Benny's pre-established radio character and "schtick" for their laughs, and as such aren't nearly as effective as his actual radio appearances. His most disappointing movie vehicle was Love Thy Neighbor (1940), designed to cash in on his phony feud with fellow radio humorist Fred Allen. Not only was the film uninspired, but also outdated, since the feud's full comic value had pretty much peaked by 1937. Many of Benny's best films were made during his last four years in Hollywood. 1941's Charley's Aunt was a lively adaptation of the old Brandon Thomas theatrical chestnut (though it did have to work overtime in explaining why a man in his forties was still an Oxford undergraduate!); 1942's George Washington Slept Here, likewise adapted from a stage play (by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart), was a reasonably funny comedy of frustration; and yet another stage derivation, 1943's The Meanest Man in the World (based on a George M. Cohan farce), allowed Benny to go far afield from his truculent radio persona by playing a man who is too nice for his own good. Benny's finest film, bar none, was the Ernst Lubitsch-directed To Be or Not to Be (1942), in which the comedian was superbly cast as "that great, great Polish actor" Joseph Tura. Benny's final starring feature, the much maligned Horn Blows at Midnight (1945),

Highest Rated Movies

Filmography

MOVIES

CREDIT
No Score Yet TV Mania Too! Actor 2008
No Score Yet The Legendary Crooners: Frank, Dean, Bing, Nat and Perry Actor 2007
100% That's Entertainment! III Actor 1994
No Score Yet The Man Himself 1972
57% A Guide for the Married Man Technical Advisor 1967
71% It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World Man on Road 1963
69% Gypsy Himself 1962
No Score Yet Beau James Guest 1957
50% Susan Slept Here Guest 1954
No Score Yet Somebody Loves Me Himself 1952
No Score Yet Without Reservations Himself 1946
89% The Horn Blows at Midnight Athanael 1945
No Score Yet It's in the Bag Himself 1945
No Score Yet Hollywood Canteen Himself 1944
No Score Yet The Meanest Man in the World Richard Clark 1943
No Score Yet George Washington Slept Here Bill Fuller 1942
98% To Be or Not to Be Joseph Tura 1942
No Score Yet Charley's Aunt Babbs Babberley 1941
No Score Yet Love Thy Neighbor Jack Benny 1940
No Score Yet Buck Benny Rides Again Jack Benny 1940
No Score Yet Man About Town Actor 1939
No Score Yet Artists and Models Abroad Buck Boswell 1938
No Score Yet Artists and Models Mac Brewster 1937
No Score Yet The Big Broadcast of 1937 Jack Carson 1937
No Score Yet College Holiday J. Davis Bowster 1936
88% Broadway Melody of 1936 Bert Keeler 1935
No Score Yet Transatlantic Merry-Go-Round Chad Denby 1934
No Score Yet The Medicine Man Dr. John Harvey 1930
No Score Yet Chasing Rainbows Eddie Rock 1930
40% The Hollywood Revue of 1929 Himself 1929

TV

CREDIT
No Score Yet The Flip Wilson Show
1970-1974
Guest
  • 1972

QUOTES FROM Jack Benny CHARACTERS