Archive for the Jack Benny Category

Coming Soon: A Jack Benny Christmas Carol!

Posted in Comedy, Jack Benny, PLUGS, Radio (Old Time Radio) with tags , , , on December 27, 2015 by travsd

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Two Jack Benny Films Tomorrow

Posted in Comedy, Hollywood (History), Jack Benny, Movies with tags , , , , on September 19, 2014 by travsd

Tomorrow morning on Turner Classic Movies, two comedy classic starring Jack Benny. 

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7:00am (EST): The Horn Blows at Midnight (1945)

The Horn Blows at Midnight (1945) was Jack Benny’s last feature film, and was so legendarily bad that Benny immortalized it as such in his own comedy routines for years. Now’s a rare chance to evaluate for yourself whether or not it deserves that reputation. A master of radio, television and vaudeville, Benny’s movie career, which began in 1930 can at best be called sort of so-so. I thought he was woefully miscast in Charley’s Aunt (1941) and too overbearing in George Washington Slept Here (1942), although those movies fared alright in their day. And he’s pretty damn perfect in To Be or Not To Be (1942). All in all, he was a fine comedy star, but for whatever reason, he never had the box office of the nearest person he can be compared to, Bob Hope. He was successful enough in other arenas, so he just stopped making films. And he continued to profit from The Horn Blows at Midnight by making fun of it for the rest of his life. But look! The poster tells us it’s “Very Funny!”

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8:30am (EST): George Washington Slept Here (1942) 

An adaptation of Kaufman and Hart’s stage hit, it’s a prime example of a hackneyed genre, unfortunately —  the “darnedest house ever” genre. The whole plot: a family of city folk buy a broken down Revolutionary War era house and struggle with the resulting complications of roughing it. The film version is somewhat different from the play. First of all, since it’s a Jack Benny vehicle, they reverse the sexes from the Broadway version so that it’s his wife (Ann Sheridan) who takes the house so that Benny can have all the funny lines. All things remaining the same, I think it’s a funnier play if the woman gets the snide lines. It’s too scary and boorish to have a man yelling all the time. But because Benny is so ineffectual and whiny it’s almost as funny.

To learn more about comedy film history please check out my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Mediaalso available from amazon.com etc etc etc

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To learn about the history of vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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The Hollywood Revue of 1929

Posted in Comedy, Hollywood (History), Jack Benny, Laurel and Hardy, Movies with tags , , , on January 19, 2014 by travsd

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As today is the birthday of Albertina Rasch (see full post here) and I just saw her in this movie, and I’ve been bursting to spread the news about this terrific movie anyway, well here we are.

What if I told you there was a musical comedy film starring Jack Benny, Laurel and Hardy, and Buster Keaton PLUS the original version of “Singing in the Rain”, performed by Cliff Edwards a.k.a Ukulele Ike (best known as Jiminy Cricket), PLUS Joan Crawford doing a song and dance number, PLUS Marion Davies, Marie DresslerPolly Moran and Bessie Love, plus the Brox Sisters, PLUS Gus Edwards (an important man in vaudeville) plus the Albertina Rasch Dancers plus Norma Shearer and John Gilbert doing scenes from Romeo and Juliet, plus numerous others I haven’t mentioned yet. On and on. Lionel Barrymore, Anita Page, Conrad Nagel, etc etc. This exists!

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While modeled on the Broadway revues of the time, the film is as close as you can get I think to experiencing a big time vaudeville show of the day as well (vaudeville still had a few years left at this stage.). This was MGM’s 2nd musical, and a clear attempt to show off its talent roster and their vocal abilities. It is much more entertaining (and less strange) than Warner Brothers similar The Show of Shows, released later that year. The art deco sets and costumes are amazing; and several of the scenes are in two strip technicolor. There is a full chorus throughout the show, with several numbers staged with the huge ensemble, including a historically interesting minstrel number.

Other cool aspects:

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* the young Jack Benny as m.c. hasn’t yet discovered the persona he began to be loved for on radio in the ’30s. Here, he is a more or less conventional comic (though funny nonetheless).

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* And it is glorious to see Keaton cutting up in this revue, still in the full blaze of his confidence as a star. MGM employed him correctly here and he picked up the ball and ran with it. Within a few short months, that fire would be gone from his eyes. His turn here also gives a pretty good idea of the sort of thing he might have pulled in The Passing Show of 1917, the Broadway show he was booked for before being recruited by Fatty Arbuckle for the movies.

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* Laurel and Hardy do a hilariously inept magic act.

This is on our DVR but I really need to own it. I want to watch it again and again and again.

 

]To find out more about  the history of vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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And don’t miss 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

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New Year’s Eve with Jack Benny

Posted in Comedy, Jack Benny, Radio (Old Time Radio), Sit Coms, Television with tags , , , on December 31, 2013 by travsd

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We’re ringing out the old year with a slew of old timey New Year’s episodes…and this is the last of ’em!

Here is a New Year’s Eve episodes from the Jack Benny Program. From the radio show from 1938:

For more on the immortal Benny see my full article here. 

To find out more about the variety arts past and presentconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famousavailable at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold. 

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And don’t  miss 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

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Three Vintage Day-After-Christmas Shows

Posted in Christmas, Comedy, HOLIDAYS/ FESTIVALS/ MEMORIALS/ PARADES, Jack Benny, Radio (Old Time Radio), Sit Coms, Television with tags , , , , , , on December 26, 2013 by travsd

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Today is December 26, known variously abroad as Boxing Day, St. Stephens Day, and Second Christmas Day. Apparently the U.S. is the only western country that hasn’t figured out what to do with this date on the calendar. It has occasionally found its way into our sit-coms and variety programs however. Here are three vintage shows which take place on the Day after Christmas, two on radio, one on golden age television.

From Red Skelton’s radio show from 1951:

Jack Benny’s radio show from 1954, in which Dennis Day catches a cold:

And a 1956 episode of Ozzie and Harriet:

For more on show business historyconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famousavailable at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold. 

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And don’t  miss 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

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A Jack Benny Christmas

Posted in Christmas, Comedy, HOLIDAYS/ FESTIVALS/ MEMORIALS/ PARADES, Jack Benny, Radio (Old Time Radio) with tags , , on December 8, 2013 by travsd

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Continuing our series of Christmas themed posts. This 1947 Christmas episode of Jack Benny’s radio program returns us to the recurring Benny theme of last minute holiday shopping. Nothing says “Christmas” like Lucky Strikes! For more info on the great Jack Benny go here

To learn more about show business history consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famousavailable at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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And don’t miss 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

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A Jack Benny Christmas (tv)

Posted in Christmas, Comedy, HOLIDAYS/ FESTIVALS/ MEMORIALS/ PARADES, Jack Benny, Sit Coms, Television with tags , , on December 4, 2013 by travsd
Jack drives the store clerk insane with his picky Christmas shopping

Jack drives the store clerk insane with his picky Christmas shopping

Another in our series of Christmas themed posts…

This is one of many episodes of The Jack Benny Program (both the radio and tv editions) in which Benny drives the store clerk crazy with his penny-pinching and persnickety ways. Christmas shopping is a special sub-set of this thematic thread. For more on Benny and his vaudeville origins go here. 

For more on classic comedy, don’t miss 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

chain%20of%20fools%20cvr%20front%20only-500x500

For more about show business history consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famousavailable at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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