Sunday, 2 February 2014

Moving Day For Jack

It’s a little contradictory that the Jack Benny radio character was incredibly cheap, yet lived in a mansion in Beverly Hills. Then again, he took in laundry from his neighbours, had a cigarette machine in the living room and took in boarders on occasion.

The mansion was based on reality. Benny had a lovely home 1002 North Roxbury Drive. He moved in because of his wife, Mary Livingstone. She wanted a place just like George Burns and Gracie Allen’s—except better. So she had one built in 1938. Jack’s daughter Joan recalled in their book Saturday Nights at Seven that her father adored the house, but Mary wanted to move. And Jack pretty much gave into Mary’s every wish. So in 1965 they moved into a penthouse where Mary got the biggest rooms and Jack got a parcel “the size of a maid’s quarters.”

Jack’s move was the hook that Bob Thomas of the Associated Press hung a story which was more about the fact that “The Jack Benny Show” wasn’t on the fall schedule. This column ran October 16, 1965.

AP Movie-Television Writer

HOLLYWOOD (AP)—“Oh, my goodness, what am I going to do about the vault?”
This was Jack Benny in a bit of whimsy prefaced on the fact that he has put his Beverly Hills mansion up for sale. You know the vault. That mythical underground depository of treasure that even Goldfinger wouldn’t try to steal. He wouldn’t have a chance, not with good old Ed guarding the inner door with his musket.
House, grounds, pool and vault — if there is a vault outside of the imaginations of Benny’s writers — will be going to some moneyed purchaser After 28 years at the same address, Jack and Mary Benny are moving a couple of miles south to occupy a penthouse apartment.
“It’s just too big a house to keep up, what with the help and all,” said Jack. “And we’re so seldom there, anyway. We’ll be spending about six months each year at our place in Palm Springs. The rest of the time I’ll be on the road. So who needs the big house?”
Jack’s life is changing in more than residence. This is the first season in 33 years that he has not appeared on a weekly show in radio or television.
How does it feel?
“Great!” he declared. “At last I can do the things I've always wanted to do, without being tied down. I do concerts. I appear at fairs. I play night clubs. I’m taking Mary to London in November on vacation, although there’s a chance I may do a show there.
“I may end up doing a Broadway play, which is about the only thing in show business I’ve never done. I had a good play offered to me — ‘The Impossible Years.’ I said I would take it if they could wait until next season when I would be free of commitments. They couldn’t wait and now Alan King is doing it: he should be great.”
The Benny humor still will be seen on television this season, and not only with the reruns that crowd the CBS air weekdays and on Friday evenings. NBC has signed him for a pair of specials in color. The first, with the Beach Boys and Elke Sommer as guests, will appear Nov. 3. What does he think of the new, Benny-less season on television?
“Tell you the truth. I haven’t seen much of it,” he said. “I never have been much of a television watcher, although I do try to catch the Dick Van Dyke show: it makes sense.
“I’m too busy to watch television. There are too many things I like to be doing.”

The Bennys lasted in the penthouse for two years. One wonders if it was not a big enough status symbol for Mary Livingstone, as she began looking for a new mansion within two years. And, once she got it, she again had far bigger living quarters than her husband. He didn’t appear to mind, though he missed the old Roxbury home for the rest of his life.

1 comment:

  1. Mary seemed to want to keep up with the Burnses from the 1930s through the 50s (including following Gracie into retirement at the end of 1958). Not much reason to do that anymore by 1965, with Gracie's death the previous year, which may explain the desire to relocate from Beverly Hills.