Sunday, 16 August 2015

Broadway Benny

Jack Benny disliked the song the world associates with him, “Love in Bloom.”

Well, so he said in an interview with the Associated Press in 1963. And elsewhere, long after his radio days when he adopted it had ended.

He had nothing against the song’s writers, Leo Robin and Ralph Rainger. In fact, he had them on his show twice and handed them laughs as his violin butchered their songs “Let That Be a Lesson To You” (show of July 7, 1936) and what became Bob Hope’s theme “Thanks For The Memory” (show of March 6, 1938). But the song was a love song, and Jack didn’t see how the lyrics applied to a comedian. They didn’t, of course, but there’s something funny about lousy violin playing during what’s supposed to a romantic song. So it really did fit him after all.

Here’s the story we mentioned above. Jack was making a Broadway appearance, so the A.P. found it worthy of an interview.

Jack Benny's Broadway Return Done on a 'Hunch'

NEW YORK, Feb. 4 (AP) — "I had a feeling," says Jack Benny who is coming back to Broadway, "that if I didn't do it this time, I just never would."
And if that sounds mildly mystical—well, Benny is a great believer in hunches. His career, the noted television comic asserts, has been filled with impromptu payoff events.
"Everything that's happened has come about by accident."
For several years, the man from "Waukegan has been noodling notions about appearing once more on the White Way stage that he last visited in the 1931 Earl Carroll "Vanities."
"Each time I'd say I'd do it—and then didn't."
Obeying his impulse this time, Benny begins a six-week engagement Feb. 27 at the Ziegfeld theater in a variety revue. It is the longest in-person stint he has set, although there have been a number of concert appearances, and "about a million banquet speeches."
THE THEATER GUILD show is an expansion of a program which he displayed several months ago for two weeks in Las Vegas.
"I go to Vegas mostly for kicks—and when you do something for kicks, you better be great," he points out.
"You see, I get stage-struck every so often, and people keep sending me scripts of musicals and plays. But with TV commitments, the only kind of play I could do would be one written for me and that I would own.
"Then I could go into it for a few weeks, have someone replace me, and come back the next chance I got. But nobody is going to write a play like that for me."
With all of his television shows recorded for the rest of the season, Benny put his name on the line for the Ziegfeld date.
The original intention was to call the revue "Life Begins at 39." But the star, who will actually be 69 on Valentine's Day, felt some fans might be misled into thinking it was a play with a plot So the title is simply "Jack Benny in Person."
APPEARING WITH HIM are Jane Morgan and several other entertainers, and a preliminary warmup opens in Toronto Feb. 11. "At this point I don't really need any rehearsal," says the comedian, "we could go on tomorrow."
After the run, he vacations for a fortnight, then starts shooting next season's video series. If the show hits big, he'd like to curtail video to some extent thereafter for a cross-country tour. Why all the work?
"Well, Mary—she'll be along for the opening here—thinks I work too much sometimes, but she's got a feeling that if I rested too much, I'd get restless. So do I."
Turning to some of the happy accidents that have shaped his merry image, Benny calls such items as reputed stinginess, that renowned feud with Fred Allen and his "Love in Bloom" fiddling all the results of chance.
"IF WE'D DELIBERATELY set one of those things up, the sting would have died in four weeks," he declares.
Mention of that theme melody brings another confession.
"I despise that song — and I always have, because it has absolutely no meaning for me."
Much better, he adds, would be mastery of "All the Great Violin Classics." Just before pausing to chat, he was hard at rehearsal of a Henry Wieniawski concerto.
"I'll never master that as long as I live," sighed the thwarted maestro.

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