George Burns played practical jokes on Benny for years. Benny put up with it because he and Burns were old friends and Burns could make him laugh uncontrollably. But there was at least one occasion where Benny wasn’t on the receiving end of a Burns’ stunt.
Benny Rubin was one of the top people in vaudeville; he emceed at the Palace in New York when that still meant something. When vaudeville died, Rubin’s career took a long slide. He starred in some two-reelers in the ‘30s but never really made it in movies. Perhaps it’s unfair to say Jack Benny rescued him, but Benny did put him in his ‘B’ team who supported him on radio and TV when the occasion arose. Rubin—and I wish I could remember where I read this—once blamed his own ego for his career washout. You can read more about Rubin in this excellent post here.
Rubin was one of Burns’ victims in a story relayed in a column by the National Enterprise Association’s man in Hollywood, Paul Harrison. It was one of several little tales. I’ve included the whole column. It’s from August 28, 1937.
George Burns Has Pet Joke for Those Who Call Him Long Distance, but it Had Kickback When Played on Benny Rubin
By PAUL HARRISON
HOLLYWOOD (NEA) With tongue in cheek they're telling this one about a wealthy movie-maker. He recently moved into an exceptionally fine new home which was built by a distinguished architect and exquisitely furnished by the most expensive firm of decorators. One of the interesting item—a magnificent canopied bed brought from France. Scores of Hollywood people have dropped in to see the house, so the owner removed the canopy from the bed and has substituted a marquee advertising his latest picture.
It may not be your idea of a screamingly funny gag but George Burns likes it when people telephone him long distance, he hangs up on em. The longer the distance the funnier it seems to Burns. This has been going on for years and everybody in show business knows about it.
And Joke Kicks Back
"Jack wins the bet!" said Burns, and chuckled as he hung up.
Soon the telephone rang again. New York calling. "Hello, George—this is Rubin! Listen, you ZX&lb&ffi!, (lb&)lb&lb—
THIS ONE IS ON ME!" And he smashed down the receiver.
Among the better-known Hollywood agents is an astute fellow named Lyons. One of his prominent actor-clients approached him said, "I'm going to ask your advice about something, a rather difficult and delicate matter, but I believe you're the shrewdest agent in the business and maybe you can help me."
Lyons said he certainly would do whatever he could.
He Was Accomodating
"Okay," said the actor. "I want you to figure out a way for me to break my contract with you!" Bo the agent thought of a way and the client broke the contract. There is no particular point to this story, unless it helps to prove that anything can happen in Talkie-town.
An actor and his wife were going to a dinner party and he disapproved the evening gown she had bought for the affair. "Men really don't like to see a woman in anything as revealing as that," he said. She said. "I didn't buy this to please the men. I chose it to the other women."