Benny’s Sidekick: Don Wilson
Today is the birthday of Don Wilson (1900-1982). A college football player in his youth, he worked his way into radio as a sportscaster and a singer in the 1920s. Gradually he became an announcer and commercial pitchman, anchoring the shows of Alan Young, Bing Crosby, Baby Snooks (Fanny Brice) and most famously, Jack Benny, with whom he was to remain (between the radio and tv versions of the show) from 1932 through 1965.
Though he was technically the announcer of Benny’s show, like everyone else on his show, Wilson got drawn into the cast, often factoring into the plots. His hearty, good-natured presence also allowed for much fun to be made of his enormous girth on the program, an easy target for comedy writers. Though he was no thespian, Wilson’s fame from the Benny program also meant that he was occasionally cast in movies and tv shows, usually as some version of himself. His last such role was on appearance on Batman (1966).
To learn more about the history of show business, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.
And please check out my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc