Sunday, 15 February 2015

A Fake/Real Jack Benny Show

Once upon a time, there was such a thing as a summer replacement programme. It dated its origin in radio, where a star would work 39 weeks and then (s)he’d take the summer off, with a different programme substituting for the next 13 weeks. Reruns didn’t exist; the networks (until the late ‘40s) steadfastly broadcast only live programming.

A fan magazine came up with a stroke of genius. Radio Mirror decided—at least, I presume the magazine’s publishers made the decision—to present a Jack Benny radio programme over the summer, printing a script made from a composite of previous Benny programmes. The first one appeared in the September 1937 edition.

The 1936-37 season was marked by several things. Phil Harris replaced Johnny Green as the orchestra leader (Green went to work for Fred Astaire). Eddie Anderson was added to the show as Rochester but was not a regular. The Benny-Allen feud over “The Bee” began that season. So did the Buck Benny sketches.

I haven’t hunted around for the origins of all of the various parts used to create the “show” below. The play was rewritten from the May 3, 1936 broadcast; it featured Frank Parker and Don Bester guesting while the “script” omits them. Maw was played on the radio by the versatile Blanche Stewart. The Don-vs-Insurance Salesman portion is reworked from the Nov. 10, 1935 programme with Pat C. Flick as the salesman. The traffic cop appeared on Oct. 27, 1935; the actor was someone named Bennett. Recordings of these show don’t exist so this is the closest you’ll get to hearing them. Both of those programmes were written by Harry W. Conn, the writer who felt he was the brains behind Jack Benny’s success and quit in April 1936. History has shown us Conn was sadly mistaken.

No Maxwell yet. Jack drives a Whippet. They existed from 1926-31, so there should have been some on the streets at the time this was written. There’s a reference to Mary Livingstones real-life brother Hilliard Marks, who later produced the show. The script has the NBC chimes at the quarter-hour mark; the network did that until...hmm, I don’t actually know. It had certainly stopped by 1937. Jack isn’t And General Foods must have been ecstatic about the free plugs for Jell-O in the script (maybe it’s equally happy today that we’ve transcribed it).


EDITOR’S NOTE: Here is a new idea — Radio Mirror’s own READIO-broadcast. You can’t hear it, but you can read it, and get thirty minutes of the same fun you have when you tune in America’s number one comedian. On these pages you will find some of the best laughs and playlets that have made Jack Benny’s program the most popular in the past three years. It’s all based on material furnished by Jack Benny himself, and skilfully blended to make a perfect program — Jack’s “Vacation Broadcast.” Watch for his second READIO-broadcast next month.

THOUGH Jack Benny’s off the air, Radio Mirror magazine is bringing you a full Benny program! All you have to do is lean back in your favorite easy-chair and tune in to this magazine. The reception is good — the dials are set just right — are you ready? Then imagine that it’s Sunday evening. If you live in New York the time is seven o’clock. If you live in a daze, it’s seven o’clock anyway. There go the chimes, and the announcer saying, "This is the National Broadcasting Company". Another voice, hearty, robust — it’s Don Wilson:

“The Jell-O program! Starring Jack Benny, with Mary Livingstone and Phil Harris and his orchestra. The orchestra opens the program with “September in the Rain.”
(Close your eyes and listen a minute. Sure enough, it’s Phil Harris leading his men in the charming music of “September in the Rain.”)
DON: Tonight, ladies and gentlemen. Jack, Mary, and all the rest of us are sailing for Europe on our summer vacation. We’re all here on board the good ship Jelloa, which is due to get up steam and start out any minute. And now we bring you your friend, my friend, and Jack Benny’s friend — as fine a fellow as ever stooped to pick up a cigar butt — Jack Benny! . . . Uh, where is Jack, anyway?
PHIL: Jack just called up, Don. He said he and Mary were on their way over to the ship now. They ought to be here any minute. (. . . Listen. There’s the sound of an automobile motor and an auto horn. Somebody’s in an awful hurry. Now they’re talking. Remember that high-pitched voice of Mary’s, and that worried one of Jack’s?)
MARY: Watch out, Jack. You nearly hit that dog.
JACK: Mary, I’m driving this car, and I’ve got to step on it. We’re late.
MARY: Watch out! You nearly hit that bakery truck.
JACK: Hey, you big palooka, why didn’t you put your hand out?
TRUCK DRIVER: If I did, I’d put it on yer jaw.
JACK: Oh yeah?
JACK: (He starts the car again). Oh well, it’s a good thing for that mugg I’m in a hurry.
MARY: It’s a good thing for you, too. Careful, Jack, you’re on the sidewalk.
JACK: How did I get up here? A fine place for the city to put up sidewalks.
MARY: Oh look. Jack, a fellow wants you to stop here.
JACK: Who is it?
MARY: He’s got a uniform on and he doesn’t look like a sailor.
JACK: Well. I can’t stop now. (We hear a police whistle).
MARY: Look, Jack, he’s running after us and he’s got a motorcycle under him.
JACK: Oh, that’s different.
THE COP: Hey, you, pull over there to the curb!
(We hear the car and the motorcycle slow up and stop)

THE COP: What’s your hurry and where’s your driver’s license?
JACK: Why, officer, it isn’t at all necessary. I’m Jack Benny.
THE COP: So what? What make car is this?
JACK: A late Whippet.
THE COP: Whaddaya mean a late Whippet?
MARY: He’s always late in it.
THE COP: Who owns it?
JACK: The finance company.
THE COP: Well, I’ll have to give you a ticket. What did you say your name was?
JACK: Jack Benny.
THE COP: Not the Jack Benny of the Jell-O program — with six delicious flavors?
JACK: Yep, that’s me.
THE COP: Well, whaddaya know about that? Gee, the wife and kids will be surprised when I tell ‘em I met you two. We get a great kick out of you on the air.
JACK: Well, thanks, officer. (We hear him mutter to Mary, but the cop doesn’t.) I got him now, Mary.
THE COP: Are you on your way to a broadcast now?
JACK: Yes, we’re going to Europe and we’re going to broadcast from the ship. We’re late now.
THE COP: That’s too bad. I certainly hope you get there in time. I want to listen in.
JACK: Thank you, officer. Here’s a cigar.
THE COP: Thank you. Mr. Benny. Here’s your ticket.
JACK: Play, Phil!
(There’s the music of Phil Harris orchestra again, and darned if it isn’t playing your favorite piece. “There’s a Lull in My Life.” When it finishes, we hear Jack Benny again — and what’s he saying? Listen:)
JACK: Jell-O, again, folks. This is Jack Benny, the Ancient Mariner — you see we finally caught the ship and here we are, broadcasting an exclusive summer program on station R-A-D-I-O M-I-R-R-O-R—brought to you through the courtesy of the editor of Radio Mirror
DON: Who comes in six delicious flavors—Strawberry, Raspberry, Cherry—
JACK: Quiet, Don! That was Don Wilson, folks, scrambling sponsors. We’re broadcasting direct from the drawing room of the S. S. Jelloa, on our way to Europe. Say, Don, I meant to ask you before — how much is this trip going to — er —
DON: Oh, I think we can do it easily for ten thousand dollars — not more than eleven, anyway. Not bad, is it?
JACK: (He makes a noise that sounds something like a strangled seal) Ten thou — Oh, no, not at all — not at all bad. But — I was just thinking, Don. Why can’t we all go second class instead of first? So many of my friends tell me it’s much more fun second class.
DON: It’s cheaper, too.
JACK: (Innocently) Oh, is it? Well, I hear there’s very little difference between first and second class.
DON: No, that’s wrong. Jack. For one thing, second class has no swimming pool.
JACK: Well, good heavens, Don, who needs a swimming pool? You got the whole ocean. That’s ridiculous!
MARY: And besides. Jack can’t swim.
DON: All right, we’ll ask Phil and all the boys if they’d rather go second class. (He shouts) How about it?
JACK: Oh, all right, but you’re making a great mistake.
PHIL: Jack, there’s a man just came in and he wants to see you.
JACK: Oh, I suppose it’s somebody wanting me to appear in the ship’s concert. And I was hoping I’d get a vacation! Well, I suppose I must.
THE SALESMAN: Mr. Benny, now is the time to take advantage of our liberal offer.
JACK: Oh! What are you selling?
THE SALESMAN: Life insurance. I represent the Here-Today-and-Gone Tomorrow Insurance Company. How old are you?
JACK: Well, a man is as old as he feels.
THE SALESMAN: And how are you feeling today?
JACK: I never felt better in my life.
THE SALESMAN: That’s good, but how long can it last? How do you know what will be in your hamburger steak tonight?
JACK: I don’t eat hamburger.
THE SALESMAN: What do you eat?
JACK: Hash.
THE SALESMAN: Our policy covers that too.
JACK: No, thanks, I don’t want any.
THE SALESMAN: Well, how about an annuity?
JACK: What kind have you?
THE SALESMAN: What kind, he’s asking! You pay us all the money you got until you’re seventy.
JACK: And then?
THE SALESMAN: After that, then we are the suckers.
JACK: But suppose I live until I’m ninety?
THE SALESMAN: There’s a clause here — you can’t do it.
JACK: Well, tell me how much do I need for an annuity policy?
THE SALESMAN: You give me a hundred thousand dollars now, and the minute you’re seventy years old, Pacific Standard Time, we pay you fifty bucks a week.
JACK: Well, I don’t happen to have that much change with me.
THE SALESMAN: Make it fifty thousand dollars and enjoy twenty-five dollars a week.
JACK: I’m a little embarrassed. I only have ten dollars with me.
THE SALESMAN: Well, give me that and we’ll send you a cigar every week.
JACK: No, thanks — but maybe Wilson wants some insurance. Hey, Don, you talk to him awhile, won’t you?
THE SALESMAN: Mr. Wilson, let me tell you about our policies with our liberal offer —
DON: Let me tell you about Jell-O, with its six delicious flavors —
THE SALESMAN: We have annuities, endowments, straight life and accident policies —
DON: We have Strawberry, Raspberry, Cherry, Orange, Lemon and Lime —
JACK: Boys! Boys!
THE SALESMAN: But I’m selling insurance.
DON: And I’m selling Jell-O. Look for the big red letters on the box!
THE SALESMAN: (He’s licked now:) Six million programs on the air and I had to come here. . . Play, Phil!
(Phil and the Boys play “Sailing, Sailing, Over the Bounding Main.” When they’re through, we hear two long blasts of a ship’s whistle.)
JACK: (He’s yawning, and you can almost see him stretching.) Ho-hum, only the second day out, and already I feel like a million dollars, only lazier. Sea air does make you lazy, doesn’t it, Mary?
MARY: It’s not what makes you lazy.
JACK: Just think, Mary — all that ocean is filled with fish.
MARY: Yeah — did you ever hear the one about the racketeer sardine?
MARY: He wound up in the can.
JACK: Mary, next time you pass my deck chair, pass my deck chair.
PHIL: Hello, Jack!
Jack: Hello, Phil. Haven’t seen you since we sailed. Where’ve you been?
PHIL: Oh, around. We ought to get together for dinner some evening.
JACK: Which is your stateroom?
PHIL: Four-B What’s yours?
JACK: Why, I’m in Four-B too. That must be you in the next twin bed. I was wondering who it was. Well, I’m certainly glad to know that . . . Hello, Don. Funny, Phil and I just found out we’re in the same stateroom, and we never even knew it. What’s your stateroom.
DON: Four-B.
JACK: Four-B — Hey, wait a minute. Phil and I are in there. We didn’t see you.
DON: I’m in the Murphy bed you can’t let down.
MESSENGER BOY: Jellogram for Jack Benny!
JACK: Right here, son, and stick to your own racket.
DON: Who’s it from, Jack?
JACK: Wait until I open it. (There is a loud ripping noise.) Hey, what is this, a cheese cloth envelope?
MARY: Better get glasses— that was your shirt.
JACK: Oh! Say, fellows, here’s a lovely radiogram from New York. It says, “Here’s wishing you and your gang a very happy vacation trip,” signed Fred Allen, Phil Baker, Stoopnagle and Bud, Jessica Dragonette, Rubinoff and his violin, the Easy Aces, Kate Smith, Lanny Ross and the Hall Johnson Choir. Isn’t that sweet? They must have all chipped in to send the wire.
DON: Yeah.
MARY: I wonder who swung the deal.
JACK: I’m surprised Jack Pearl didn’t get his name in.
MARY: He didn’t have to. You just mentioned it.
JACK: That’s right. I did.
MARY: That reminds me, Jack, I got a letter from my mother just before we sailed.
JACK: You did, eh? Well, read it to us, your mother’s always good for a laugh.
MARY: Okay, you know she had a birthday last week. “Plainfield, New Jersey. My dear daughter Mary—”
JACK: Huh, no laughs yet.
MARY: Well, it takes Ma a little time to get going. “Just a line to let you know that we are all well. I had a wonderful birthday. I got a lot of beautiful presents. Your father gave me a washing machine with a built-in radio. Isn’t he thoughtful? Right now I am waltzing through your father’s underwear, while Bing Crosby is singing, ‘Soap Gets in Your Eyes.’”
JACK: Well, well.
MARY: “Sunday night I am going to wash Father’s socks and listen to Jack.”
JACK: That’s nice, but she might have mentioned me before the socks.
MARY: Quiet. “There has been a lot of excitement at the house lately. Your Uncle Herman was here to spend the Fourth. He arrived December 24th. Your Brother Hilliard is home for the summer from Barber College, and last night while your Uncle Herman was asleep, he shaved off his mustache and upper lip.”
MARY: “Your Uncle Herman says that as soon as Hilliard comes down from the flagpole he is going to give him a once-over with a baseball bat.”
JACK: I don’t blame him.
MARY: “I forgot to tell you in my last letter that Junior had to stop taking piano lessons. The teacher couldn’t tell when his fingers were on the black keys. No more news at present, except that your father just came in and wants me to tell Don Wilson not to worry as we have Jell-O every night. Your father always asks for the big red letters on the box even though he can’t read.”
JACK: That’s a very nice letter. Mary . . . Say — er — I’ve been wondering. Don’t they have a ship’s concert on this boat?
DON: I don’t know — why?
JACK: Oh, just wondering. I hope they don’t, because if they do they’re sure to want me to be in it, and I’m just too tired.
PHIL: Oh, sure, they’re going to have a ship’s concert tonight. I just saw the captain a few minutes ago and he asked me to sing.
JACK: He did, did he? That shows how much he knows about singing. Well, listen, Phil, you didn’t tell him I could play the violin, did you?
MARY: You can’t.
JACK: Is that so? Well, I certainly can. I could even play “The Bee” when I was ten years old— a very difficult number. And I can prove it. I’ve got a photograph of myself right here, taken when I was ten, playing “The Bee”.
MARY: I’m glad it’s not a sound picture.
DON: But, Jack, how can we tell what number you’re playing?
JACK: If you were a musician, you’d know. Let me tell you something! I played violin in concert halls long before I knew anything about Strawberry, Cherry, Orange, Lemon and Lime.
DON: You left out Raspberry.
MARY: I’ll bet the audience didn’t.
PHIL: Let me see that picture a minute, will you Jack?
JACK: Yeah, look at it, Phil, you’re a musician. That picture proves conclusively that I’m an artist.
PHIL: Well, Jack, anybody can have a picture taken with a violin.
JACK: Yes, Phil, but can’t you tell from the way I’m holding it that I can play?
PHIL: You’re holding it upside down.
JACK: Well, it’s much harder that way. Besides, I had a small chin and I couldn’t put the fiddle under it.
MARY: Now you can put a cello under it.
JACK: Is that so? Well, I’ll just prove I can play the violin. Phil, you go see that captain and tell him that as a great favor to him I’ll play the violin at the ship’s concert.
PHIL: Here he comes now. Ask him yourself — I should stick my neck out for trouble.
JACK: Oh, good morning, Captain I understand you’re arranging a ship’s concert.
THE CAPTAIN: That’s right, Mr. Benny.
JACK: Of course I’m on my vacation, but I thought, just to be a good fellow and give the passengers something really good — I’m willing to offer my services playing my violin.
THE CAPTAIN: (Terribly embarrassed) Why— as a matter of fact— Mr. Heifetz is on board, and we’d already asked him to play, so—
JACK: Oh, of course, I wouldn’t want to show him up. After all, it’s his livelihood, isn’t it? Well, perhaps you’d like to have me sing?
JACK: Or do some card tricks?
JACK: I could take tickets.
DON: Why don’t we do a play, and then we would all be in it?
JACK: (Disgusted) Oh, all right, if that’s the way you feel about it!

(A few bars of music, and the chimes, then your local station gives its call letters. Even your home-town station gets in on this broadcast. Now we hear Don Wilson again:)
DON: Here we are in the concert hall of the good ship Jelloa, and Jack Benny’s ready to tell you about the play we’re going to do.
JACK: Tonight, folks, we are going to offer something unusual in the line of a play. First, we tried to get “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, but we couldn’t get in touch with the author. Then we tried to get “Rose Marie”, but Rose wasn’t home and Marie wasn’t interested. Then we tried to get “Three Men on a Horse”—
MARY: But the horse complained.
JACK: Quiet! So tonight we are offering an original drama of the backwoods, called “The Code of the Hills.” The locale is the Blue Grass Country, two hundred miles south of Louisville. The action takes place in the home of the Jake Bennys, just within shooting distance of the Bestor-Parker home. And the feud is on. (There’s a burst of gunfire, then a long whistle and a single shot.)
MAW BENNY: Put that gun away, Jake, supper’s a-waitin’, A-shootin’ and a-killin’ . . . a-shootin’ and a-killin’. When is it gonna stop?
JACK: We ain’t a-gonna quit till those Bestor-Parkers are wiped out! By gum and by Jell-O, there ain’t room in these hills for the both of us!
KENNY: You said it, Pappy!
JACK: Git away from that door, Ken.
MAW: Say Paw, what have you-uns got agin the Bestor-Parkers?
JACK: That’s jes’ it, ah never did git the Bestor Parker. Remember when he-uns and we-uns was a-workin’ on the same programmey?
MAW: Yes-uns.
JACK: Well, one night ah asked him how many hairs on a monkey’s face and he sayed: the next time you shave, count ‘em. He knew I couldn’t count. I ain’t keerin’ fer that kind of talk, and ah ain’t never fergittin’!
MAW: Reckon he ain’t neither. But the Bennys and the Bestor-Parkers have been scrappin’ for two hundred yars.
JACK: Yes, Sarah, two hundred yars of a-fightin’ and a-scrotchin’ and a-killin’ each other!
MAW: Looks like it’s leadin’ up to a feud!
JACK: Wouldn’t be surprised. (More gun-shots.) Hey, Ken, barricade that double door!
KENNY: Oooh, Pappy! They got me. Pappy, they got me! (There is the sound of his body hitting the floor)
MAW: What was that, Paw?
JACK: Sarah, they-uns got our boy Ken . . . Shot him right through the door.
KENNY: Oooh, ah’m a-goin’, Pappy . . . G’by, Pappy. . . . g’by, Maw.
JACK And MAW: Good-by.
JACK: You reckon ah ought to take him out and bury him?
MAW: Better have your supper first. It’s a-gittin’ cold.
JACK: So is Ken. Shucks, ah’m so hungry right now ah could eat a horse.
MAW: Well, that’s what we got.
KENNY: Oooh, ah’m a-goin’ Pappy . . . still a-goin’.
JACK: Take your time, son.
KENNY: Shucks, and ah wanted to be President.
JACK: Well, don’t worry, you can be Vice President.
KENNY: What do you mean?
JACK: You’re a Garner.
KENNY: Oooh, that done it. (More gun-shots, and the sound of a breaking bottle)
MAW: Lands-sake, thar goes that jug of corn likker!
JACK: That’s a-goin’ too fur! Thar ain’t nothin’ sacred! {The door opens.)
PHIL: Howdy, Uncle Jake.
JACK: Hullo thar, Phil.
MAW: Where you been? You shouldn’t be a-walkin’ round with your left arm shot up like that.
PHIL: Ah’ve been a-seekin’ some cord to tie it up with. ... It keeps a-fallin’ off.
JACK: You know, Phil, ah don’t like the way that arm of yours keeps a-droppin’ off. It might be ailin’. What’s that you got under your other arm?
PHIL: Mah right leg.
MAW: Oh! Well, put it in the umbrella stand and come to dinner.
JACK: Where’s our daughter Mariah?
MAW: Here she comes now.
MARY: Hullo, Pappy, hullo Maw. Who’s that on the floor?
JACK: That’s your brother Ken. They-uns killed him daid . . yore poor brother.
MARY: Gee, ah’m hungry.
JACK: Don’t take it so hard, Mariah, ah know you loved him.
MARY: Yeah. . . . What have we got for supper, Maw?
MAW: Nothin’ fancy, just a horse.
MARY: Ah hope ah don’t git the leg agin. (More shots.)
MAW: Watch out, Jake.
JACK: They missed me.
MARY: That’s all right, they got Kenny again.
KENNY: Yup, they got me. Pappy, they got me.
JACK: Ah told you we should have buried him. But I’ll make they-uns pay for this or my name ain’t Jake. (Another shot.) Heh heh, missed me again.
MARY: Oh yeah? Where’s your ear?
JACK: Dawggone it, and ah wanted to hear Phil Baker. Hand me that other gun. (There is a rapid burst of shots, finally dwindling away.)
JACK: Well, I guess they-uns a-gittin’ tired, Sarah, they’ve stopped a-shootin’. (A long whistle and a shot.)
MARY: What was that, Paw?
JACK: Just an echo.
MARY: Well, the echo got Phil.
MAW: Feud, feud! Ah’m gittin’ sick of it!
JACK: Why, Sarah!
MAW: Feud only plow the fields — feud only tend the crops — thar wouldn’t be no feud.
DON: And speaking of feuds, you will find that Jell-O is the most delicious feud in the world, and it has that new extra rich fresh fruit flavor — (A lot of shots.)
DON: Strawberry! Raspberry! Cherry! Orange, Lemon, and —
JACK: Limey outta here! Play, Phil!
(Phil plays “She’ll be Comin Round the Mountain When She Comes.” When the music stops, Jack says:)
JACK: That was the last number of our special Radio Mirror Summer Broadcast. We’ll be with you next month in these same pages.
MARY: Oh, Jack! I’ve just written a poem. I think I’ll send it into Radio Mirror for them to publish.
JACK: What is it?
MARY: Lives of great men oft remind us
We can make our lives sublime
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time.
JACK: Wait a minute, Longfellow wrote that.
MARY: Funny, how our minds run together.
JACK: Goodnight, folks.
Get ready now for another laugh! Next month, the second of Jack Benny’s READIO-broadcasts, as packed with guffaws as one of his programs. Even though Jack and Mary and all the gang will still Be on their vacation, there’s no need for you to miss the swell humor they bring you on the air. So watch for the October issue, on sale August 25th.

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