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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:||Cast ... comedian actor vaudevillian violinist|
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.
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