Jack Benny


Actor, Comedian
Jack Benny

About

Also Known As
Benjamin Kubelsky, Ben K Benny
Birth Place
Waukegan, Illinois, USA
Born
February 14, 1894
Died
December 26, 1974
Cause of Death
Pancreatic Cancer

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 hi...

Photos & Videos

Artists and Models (1937) - Publicity Stills
Artists and Models - Scene Stills
Artists and Models - Movie Posters

Family & Companions

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

Bibliography

"Sunday Nights At Seven: The Jack Benny Story"
Joan Benny, Warner Books (1990)

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.

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 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.

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

That's Entertainment! III (1994)
Entertaining the Troops (1989)
Himself
Going Hollywood: The War Years (1988)
Himself
The Man (1972)
Himself
A Guide for the Married Man (1967)
It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963)
Man on road
Gypsy (1962)
Himself
Who Was That Lady? (1960)
Himself
Beau James (1957)
Himself
Somebody Loves Me (1952)
Himself
Cassino to Korea (1950)
Without Reservations (1946)
Himself
It's in the Bag! (1945)
The Horn Blows at Midnight (1945)
Athanael
Hollywood Canteen (1944)
The Meanest Man in the World (1943)
Richard Clarke
To Be or Not to Be (1942)
Joseph Tura
George Washington Slept Here (1942)
Bill Fuller
Charley's Aunt (1941)
Babbs [Lord Fancourt Babberly]
Buck Benny Rides Again (1940)
Jack Benny
Love Thy Neighbor (1940)
Jack Benny
Man About Town (1939)
Bob Temple
Artists and Models Abroad (1938)
Buck Boswell
Artists and Models (1937)
Mac Brewster
The Big Broadcast of 1937 (1936)
Jack Carson
College Holiday (1936)
J. Davis Bowster
It's in the Air (1935)
Calvin Churchill
Broadway Melody of 1936 (1935)
Bert Keeler
Transatlantic Merry-Go-Round (1934)
Chad Denby
Mr. Broadway (1933)
At the "Hollywood"
The Medicine Man (1930)
Dr. John Harvey
Chasing Rainbows (1930)
Eddie
The Hollywood Revue of 1929 (1929)
Masters of ceremony

Producer (Feature Film)

The Lucky Stiff (1949)
Producer

Music (Feature Film)

Deadpool 2 (2018)
Song Performer

Misc. Crew (Feature Film)

Entertaining the Troops (1989)
Other
Going Hollywood: The War Years (1988)
Other

Cast (Special)

100 Greatest Stand-Ups of All Time (2004)
More of the Best of the Hollywood Palace (1993)
The Television Academy Hall of Fame (1989)
Performer
The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson: 23rd Anniversary (1985)
Swing Out, Sweet Land (1976)
Annie and the Hoods (1974)
Jack Benny's Second Farewell Show (1974)
Host
A Show Business Salute to Milton Berle (1973)
Jack Benny's First Farewell Show (1973)
Host
How to Handle a Woman (1972)
City vs. Country (1971)
Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Jack Benny but Were Afraid to Ask (1971)
Frank Sinatra Jr. With Family and Friends (1969)
The Ann-Margret Show (1968)
Guest
Opening Night (1962)
Remember How Great? (1961)
Host
George Burns in the Big Time (1959)
Jack Benny With Guest Stars (1959)
Host
Time Out For Ginger (1955)
Howard Carol

Cast (Short)

Hollywood Goes to Town (1938)
Himself
The Rounder (1930)
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's The Songwriters' Revue (1930)
Himself

Life Events

1911

Offered $15 a week to tour with the Marx Brothers; mother turned down offer

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"

Photo Collections

Artists and Models (1937) - Publicity Stills
Artists and Models (1937) - Publicity Stills
Artists and Models - Scene Stills
Artists and Models - Scene Stills
Artists and Models - Movie Posters
Artists and Models - Movie Posters
Artists and Models - Lobby Cards
Artists and Models - Lobby Cards
George Washington Slept Here - Lobby Cards
Here are several Lobby Cards from George Washington Slept Here (1942), starring Jack Benny and Ann Sheridan. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.

Videos

Movie Clip

To Be Or Not To Be (1942) - August 1939 Director Ernst Lubitsch's famous opening, Tom Dugan as the German chancellor, stopping traffic in Warsaw, Jack Benny as the Nazi colonel, Charles Halton tangling with actor Felix Bressart, revealing the narrative device, in To Be Or Not To Be, 1942.
To Be Or Not To Be (1942) - I Love My Slippers! Bachelor pilot Stanislav (Robert Stack) on a secret mission back from England, discovered by actor Joseph (Jack Benny) in his apartment in occupied Warsaw, his actress wife Maria (Carole Lombard) returning with news of the suspected traitor, in Ernst Lubitsch's To Be Or Not To Be, 1942.
Broadway Melody Of 1936 (1935) - Got A Feelin' You're Foolin' Broadway news hounds Jack Benny and Sid Silvers spying, Robert Taylor as a young producer tries his luck crooning to wealthy widow June Knight, Nick Long Jr. taking over as her dance partner, tune by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed, high-tech number in MGM's Broadway Melody Of 1936, 1935.
Horn Blows At Midnight, The (1945) - Open, 3rd Trumpet Heavenly trappings in the opening title sequence and Jack Benny (as "Athanael") and Alexis Smith (as "Elizabeth") enduring life in a radio orchestra, from Raoul Walsh's The Horn Blows at Midnight, 1945.
Horn Blows At Midnight, The (1945) - Paradise Coffee Jack Benny (as "Athanael") dozes off during a radio performance and thus finds himself in an enormous heavenly orchestra, beginning the larger story in Raoul Walsh's The Horn Blows at Midnight, 1945.
Horn Blows At Midnight, The (1945) - Earthly Elevator Visiting with Guy Kibbee (as "The Boss") and getting counsel from Alexis Smith (as "Elizabeth"), Jack Benny (as angel "Athanael") gets his earth assignment, in Raoul Walsh's The Horn Blows at Midnight, 1945.
George Washington Slept Here (1942) - Motel For Buzzards Thrown out of their New York apartment, Connie (Ann Sheridan) carefully reveals to Bill (Jack Benny) why she's taken him on a trip to the Pennsylvania countryside, in George Washington Slept Here, 1942, featuring Percy Kilbride, from the hit Broadway play, as "Mr. Kimber."
George Washington Slept Here (1942) - Trapped Like A Rat A missing phone, panicked maid Hester (Hattie McDaniel), sister Madge (Joyce Reynolds), boyfriend Steve (William Tracy), and disgruntled husband Bill (Jack Benny), creating problems for Connie (Ann Sheridan) in her Pennsylvania farmhouse, in George Washington Slept Here, 1942.
George Washington Slept Here (1942) - Roomy Drawers Jack Benny (as "Bill Fuller") arrives home not knowing wife Connie (Ann Sheridan) has, sort of on purpose, gotten them evicted from their Manhattan apartment by landlord Gibney (Franklin Pangborn), early in George Washington Slept Here, 1942, from the Kaufman and Hart play.
Big Broadcast Of 1937, The (1936) - A Trifle Ambiguous Radio director Carson (Jack Benny) hasn’t satisfied his golf-ball dynasty sponsors the Platts (George Burns and daffy Gracie Allen), so agent Bob (Ray Milland) suggests they sample singer Frank Rossman (Frank Forest), with a Robin and Rainger tune, in Paramount’s The Big Broadcast Of 1937, 1936.
Big Broadcast Of 1937, The (1936) - Heigh Ho The Radio! An un-credited act opening with a song by credited composers Leo Robin and Ralph Rainger, for a feature with many big radio stars, first George Burns and Gracie Allen, with Martha Raye, then Jack Benny as the big shot, in Paramount's The Big Broadcast Of 1937, 1936.
To Be Or Not To Be (1942) - While He's Still Young Warsaw stage star Maria Tura (Carole Lombard) with dresser (Maude Eburne), receives a note from a fan, hammy husband Joseph (Jack Benny) beginning his soliloquy, handsome lieutenant Stanislav (Robert Stack) paying his first visit, in Ernst Lubitsch's To Be Or Not To Be, 1942.

Trailer

Family

Meyer Kubelsky
Father
Emma Kubelsky
Mother
Joan Benny
Daughter
Author. Adopted 1934 at two weeks of age.

Companions

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

Bibliography

"Sunday Nights At Seven: The Jack Benny Story"
Joan Benny, Warner Books (1990)

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.