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Jack Benny

Jack Benny

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Also Known As: Benjamin Kubelsky, Ben K Benny Died: December 26, 1974
Born: February 14, 1894 Cause of Death: pancreatic cancer
Birth Place: Waukegan, Illinois, USA Profession: comedian, actor, vaudevillian, violinist

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Masterful, much-loved comedian and comic actor, an influential yet essentially inimitable staple of radio and later TV for half a century. Benny's star persona was famous for its cynical, worrisome, almost mean nature; its miserliness; and for Benny's insistence on playing the violin (poorly) at social gatherings. (In real life Benny was actually a fairly accomplished violinist--hence his ability to butcher it so well.) Among many comic mannerisms Benny perfected were an effeminate walk and accompanying gestures; a highly deliberate, leisurely paced line delivery; and, best of all, a withering, long-suffering stare at the camera as he endured other characters' many intended or accidental insults. Among the loyal comic company he cultivated were announcer Don Wilson and singer Dennis Day, his real-life wife Mary Livingstone, and most memorable of all, Eddie Anderson as "Rochester", the valet with whom Benny shared a surprisingly intimate and complex relationship. Benny made very occasional films beginning with the coming of sound. He was at his busiest in the 1930s and early 40s, and films ranging from "Chasing Rainbows" (1930) to "Broadway Melody of 1936" (1935), "Artists and Models" (1937), and "The...

Masterful, much-loved comedian and comic actor, an influential yet essentially inimitable staple of radio and later TV for half a century. Benny's star persona was famous for its cynical, worrisome, almost mean nature; its miserliness; and for Benny's insistence on playing the violin (poorly) at social gatherings. (In real life Benny was actually a fairly accomplished violinist--hence his ability to butcher it so well.) Among many comic mannerisms Benny perfected were an effeminate walk and accompanying gestures; a highly deliberate, leisurely paced line delivery; and, best of all, a withering, long-suffering stare at the camera as he endured other characters' many intended or accidental insults. Among the loyal comic company he cultivated were announcer Don Wilson and singer Dennis Day, his real-life wife Mary Livingstone, and most memorable of all, Eddie Anderson as "Rochester", the valet with whom Benny shared a surprisingly intimate and complex relationship.

Benny made very occasional films beginning with the coming of sound. He was at his busiest in the 1930s and early 40s, and films ranging from "Chasing Rainbows" (1930) to "Broadway Melody of 1936" (1935), "Artists and Models" (1937), and "The Meanest Man in the World" (1943) all gave him some good one-liners and comic situations, but somehow Hollywood films never quite suited him. His unique star persona rarely found the right vehicles, and it was up to radio and later TV to showcase him properly. Two memorable exceptions were the cross-dressing farce "Charley's Aunt" (1941) and especially Ernst Lubitsch's hilarious dark satire of Nazism, "To Be or Not to Be" (1942), with Benny in peak form as hammy Polish actor Joseph Tura outwitting the Gestapo.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 That's Entertainment! III (1994) Song Performer
2.
 Entertaining the Troops (1989) Himself
3.
 Going Hollywood: The War Years (1983) Himself (Archival Footage)
4.
 The Man (1972) Himself
6.
 It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963) Man on road
7.
 Gypsy (1962) Himself
8.
 Who Was That Lady? (1960) Himself
9.
 Beau James (1957) Himself
10.
 Somebody Loves Me (1952) Himself
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Learned to play violin; got first job with the pit orchestra in a Waukegan theater
1911:
Offered $15 a week to tour with the Marx Brothers; mother turned down offer
:
Changed name to Ben K Benny because there was a violinist named Jan Kubelik; later changed name to Jack Benny because there was a popular bandleader named Ben Bernie
1917:
Joined Navy and tried to entertain sailors by playing violin; was booed; actor Pat O'Brien suggested he talk to audience instead
1928:
Film acting debut in short, "Jack Benny in Bright Moments"
1929:
Feature film debut in "Hollywood Revue of 1929"
1932:
Starred on own radio show
1949:
Sole film as producer (did not appear in film), "The Lucky Stiff"
:
Ended extensive radio work to concentrate on TV
:
Hosted TV's "The Jack Benny Program"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Waukegan High School: Waukegan , Illinois -

Notes

Posthumously inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 1988.

"George [Burns] didn't have to do anything, and my father would laugh, because he knew he was about to be insulted. It was a Pavlov's dog kind of relationship, the kind that extended to my father's relationship with the audience. He had trained audiences over the years with the miserly character to the point that you only had to mention money, not even tell the joke, and they laughed. They were conditioned." --Joan Benny in New York Post, December 10, 1990.

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Mary Livingstone. Married in January 1927; introduced to Benny by Zeppo Marx; joined Benny's vaudeville act in 1927.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Meyer Kubelsky.
mother:
Emma Kubelsky.
daughter:
Joan Benny. Author. Adopted 1934 at two weeks of age.

Bibliography close complete biography

"Sunday Nights At Seven: The Jack Benny Story" Warner Books

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