Sunday, 23 August 2015
It's Radio For Benny
In 1932, Benny was a master of ceremonies on the vaudeville circuit and the star of some lukewarm short films. It’s also the year he jumped into radio. Jack told interviewers over the years he left vaudeville because it was dying. And he could tell by the dollar signs.
A few months before working his way onto the air, Jack was in a salary dispute with his employer, Earl Carroll. The producer tried cutting the pay of his performers; no doubt the Depression played a role in that. Benny balked. And no doubt he eyed the salaries of people on radio where Rudy Vallee was making more than twice as much as he did for emceeing a variety show. Take a look at a chart published in Variety on March 8, 1932. It’s pretty clear Jack was not the huge star he later became, thanks to his radio show.
Let’s leaf through the weekly “Show Biz Bible” for that year and see what it wrote about Jack Benny. He debuted on the Canada Dry show on May 2, 1932. It’s not the Benny show you know and love. There was no Rochester, no broken-down Maxwell car, no jokes about being 39. That all came later. There was no studio audience, either. There was a lot of music with kibitzing in between and bandleader George Olsen was equalled billed with Benny in newspaper radio listings. The Mary Livingstone character was created a number of weeks later and, in time, the comedy portions evolved to occasionally include light satire.
You don’t have to do a lot of reading between the lines to see that Canada Dry scuttled its own programme with its interference. First, it pulled the show off NBC because it was unhappy with the network’s affiliate line-up. To CBS went the show (with the sponsor’s first choice of a new bandleader running afoul of the musicians union). Then Canada Dry decided it wasn’t happy with Benny’s writer, Harry W. Conn, so it imposed Sid Silvers as an additional writer on the show. You’re just asking for trouble when something like that happens. Trouble happened. Not only did Conn and Silvers squabble, Silvers made the fatal mistake of building up his own on-air role and playing down Mary Livingstone’s. You don’t cross Mrs. Jack Benny. Soon, Silvers was out, and then Canada Dry just decided to be done with it and cancelled the show. (Mary and Conn had their own showdown a few years later. You can guess who won).
In a twist of irony, NBC decided to use radio, which helped kill vaudeville, to make money from vaudeville. The network put Olsen, Benny and others on stage.
We’re not posting all items about Jack to stop this post from becoming too long. We’ll spare you weekly lists of the take of his stage performances. Also omitted are stories about a lawsuit involving two of his former agents over commissions for radio work and insurance premiums. Jack paid $11,000 in insurance premiums in one year and one of his agents got a secret 25% of it. And there was another suit involving Actors Equity and the Friars over a performance he was part of.
January 5, 1932
No ‘Vanities’ Cut
Chicago, Jan. 4.
Jack Benny stays on for the remainder of the road run of Earl Carroll's ‘Vanities.’ When asked to take a cut with the rest of the cast the comic had countered with a request for his release, explaining he had been offered an m. c. engagement at the Ambassador, St. Louis. Cut was to go into effect after the current Kansas City date.
Meantime the show played Milwaukee Christmas week to gratifying results, and Carroll decided to call off the contemplated general salary slash. Same time the producer notified Benny he would be held to his contract.
January 26, 1932
By Joe Kelling
Frank Aston went straight man for Jack Benny’s air blast.
February 2, 1932
Whenever Georgie Jessel, Jack Benny, Nat Burns (Burns and Allen), and Jay C. Flippen strike a gag that's worthwhile using in the act, they immediately wire it to each other.
Idea is that other gag-grabbers will grab anyway, so the boys figure they might as well beat them to it by spreading it around and killing it before the grabbers hook on.
February 9, 1932
NO 2ND SALARY CUT FOR BENNY-HE QUITS
Boston, Feb. 8.
Earl Carroll’s attempt to put over a second salary cut for his road ‘Vanities’ is a 100% no with Jack Benny. Benny quits the show at the end of this week here. Cut proposed is 20%, This ‘Vanities’ edition is the one which appeared at the Amsterdam, New York.
March 8, 1932
‘A TAXI TANGLE’
Rivoli, N. Y.
A fast thinking and generally delightful comic slowed down by his medium, the screen. Benny can’t turn loose those shafts he’s accustomed to delivering in legit and some vaude spots. They wouldn’t know what he was talking about in most of the film spots. Consequently it has made for Benny a dull short which may, however, do better away from Broadway. But even that’s doubtful.
Whole premise here hangs on a finishing gag prior to which is a prolonged flirtation between Benny and a girl who are in adjoining open taxis during a Fifth Ave. traffic halt. Patter leads to one of those comedy marriages and annulments before the autos start to move again. Just before the green light flashes the woman decamps from her cab followed by three or four children unseen until their exit.
Drivers of the cabs are played by Tammany Young, hard boiled disciple, and a grammatically correct individual for contrast. Main fault is that the cross-fire between Benny and the young woman can’t stand the strain of the footage allotted. On the other hand, Benny’s droll style may save it for the smaller houses. Sid.
March 29, 1932
Joe Cunningham, Ribber, Next on Spot at Friars
Next event of the Saturday Nite Boys will be held in the grill of the Friars April 9 at midnight. Guest of honor will be Joe Cunningham, billed as the 'ribber of ribbers.' Cunningham is that Philly rival of Bugs Baer, though they claim to be pals.
Jack Benny will be m.c. Committee running the blast is Jay C. Flippen, Sid Piermont and Jules Howard.
April 12, 1932
FUTURE HOLTZ BILL—TWO WEEKS
Stay of the vaudeville bills at Warners’ Hollywood, New York, will be limited to two weeks in the future unless business warrants additional holding over. Warners’ experience with the business at the theatre thus far has dictated the reduction of runs.
Both Hollywood bills so far have followed the same business trend.
Each grossed well over $30,000 and showed a profit during the first two weeks. The third weeks brought even breaks with the fourth week a loser for both shows. Last week (third) the second Hollywood bill did $26,000 which just about met expenses. This week the bill probably will lose money. Some of the acts on the next show, opening Monday (18), are in for one week only with the house holding options.
Jack Benny replaces Harry Richman as Lou Holtz’ running mate on the next show. The other acts will be Blossom Seeley and Benny Fields, Borrah Minevitch, Adler and Bradford, Buster Shaver and Three Swifts.
Richman intended to hold over with Holtz but the two couldn’t reach satisfactory terms. Richman is getting $6,000 a week in the current bill and at that figure is drawing more than Holtz is getting on percentage. Lyda Roberti, on the first two bills, goes out to return to Hollywood for picture work.
Blossom Seeley and Benny Fields will also be on the bill.
JOE CUNNINGHAM PULLS S. R. O. AT THE FRIARS
The dinner in honor of pompadour Joe Cunningham, the Philadelphia humorist, drew the biggest gathering the Friars have yet had at its Saturday night affairs. He brought a gang over with him of some 60 Philly stooges but didn’t need ‘em, and when Cunningham arose to speak his mind about the speakers it was after three o’clock in the yawning. At that time Jack Benny, the toastmaster, turned and said:
‘Well, Joe,’ and that alone was enough to bring a laugh.
Cunningham started saying he would try to give answers ‘now that all the perjured evidence is in.’ He thought some of those who panned him should have had a break-in and rated Benny as ‘my laughingly referred to toastmaster.’
Admitting he was somewhat in a haze, the honor guest thought the whole affair looked humpty-dumpty. ‘Earlier somebody introduced George Jessel, the dizzy dean, but he has disappeared. Walter Hoban is a nice fellow. That’s what you think, but I know he puts gunpowder in his grandfather’s pipe and pulls the chair from under grandma.’
Referring to a warbler he said ‘When that Chicago opera guy sang, Bobby Clark tried to look intelligent. As to Bing Crosby, a great crooner got up and did everybody a favor. And then Judge Walter C. Kelly, the Virginia ham, got up.’ He spoke about the Kelly estate, which is a brick-yard in Philly. Figuring he was about even Cunningham sat down claiming the dinner the event of his life.
George M. Cohan arrived a bit after two o’clock, having come in especially from Philly where his new show opened last week. Kelly was welcomed back into the club as ‘the greatest monologist we ever had.’
Bert Hanlon—Cinema Star
Benny’s first laugh came when he said: ‘The last time I was m. c. here we paid tribute to a famous movie star, Bert Hanlon’ (reported lost in California). As to Cunningham: ‘He is a ribber who can rib 10 rounds but can only take it for three and who wears his hair that way to get discipline from his children.’ Clark was introduced as ‘a stooge for Lou Holtz.’ Clark thought that most members of the Friars are sitting pretty, that is 'pretty nearly 24 hours a day.’ After using the word recapitulate he demanded to know if he was a low comedian.
Broadway’s columnists were introduced, Winchell being ‘one of our better cigarette salesmen.’ James Cagney was ‘a tough guy in pictures, who said he was once a bellhop at the Friars.’ Other speakers included Harry Hirshfield and William Degen Weinberger.
The Philly contingent was made up of reporters, people from the local radio stations, agents and other Cunningham boosters. The event was given advance publicity in the dailies there.
April 26, 1932
VAUDE HOUSE REVIEWS
HOLLYWOOD, N. Y.
With this third and final bill the Warner-Lou Holtz straight vaudeville venture at the Broadway Hollywood closes at the end of this week. Decision to hold was made before this bill was booked, and the layout shows it. The punch of the first two shows isn’t present because the material isn’t there.
[deleted portion of review]
The pre-intermish section holds sufficient variety and reaches a crescendo with the Borah Minnevitch harmonica troupe. And the show is literally over at smoking time. Part Two has less merit than the average picture house presentation, being basically similar through the preponderance of specialty people and lacking a legitimate variety act. It needs more than the classical special hill-billy lyric, credited to Arthur Lippman and Manning Sherwin, by Holtz and Jack Benny, which stands far above anything around it.
Excepting the hill-billy bit, which is 75% material and 25% delivery, Benny and Holtz are not a happy combination. The suave Benny is a better monologist and solo m.c. than team-mate for a comic of the Holtz type.
[deleted portion of review]
Blossom Seeley and Benny Fields, the show’s second important money turn outside of Benny and Holtz, are straight singing now with two pianists as background. Apparently influenced by radio, and providing that by Fields’ offstage use of the mike to accompany his partner, they have dropped some of the mannerisms and vocal tricks that always distinguished a Seeley-Fields singing act. The change is not for the better, although under any conditions the singing alone of this couple can be depended upon to sell. Holtz and Benny double up here for a ‘nance’ bit, using a handkerchief switch on the love poppy from the good old Mutual wheel.
[deleted portion of review]
Holtz, Benny and the former’s stooge, Benny Baker, picked a perfect spot for their second part opening bit, a checker game with a kibitzer angle and a double-cross for the finish. With Benny as the kib and Holtz getting the double-x, it’s an intelligently played bit of nonsense.
They round up the company for a School Days finale that has everything but Gus Edwards. As usual, it’s built on a bladder, with Benny as the school teacher, pitching, and Fields in short pants catching, Holtz draws a few laughs, which is the extent of the scene’s effectiveness. It draws to an unsatisfactory conclusion a bill that starts much better than it ends. Bige.
OLSEN-BENNY HALF HRS.
Canada Dry returns to the NBC airwaves after a lengthy lapse of some months on May 2 with George Olsen’s orchestra and Jack Benny.
Commercial will be on twice weekly for 30 minutes each.
John Young, NBC announcer, has been taken off the Cliquot program to do the commercial spiels for Canada Dry.
[Note: The announcer on the first show was Ed Thorgerson. Young, to the best of my knowledge, never appeared with Benny.]
George Olsen’s new contract with Canada Dry program, which Jack Benny will m.c. starting May 2 over NBC, specifically calls for Ethel Shutta (Mrs. Olsen) to be on the air with the orchestra.
Another provision is that Olsen may be picked up either in New York or Chicago, where he has café offers, with Benny stationary in New York as conferencier. Olsen is also not restricted to this one commercial.
May 10, 1932
CANADA DRY PROGRAM
With George Olsen Band, Jack Benny and Ethel Shutta Orchestra, Singing and Talk
In Benny’s glib and droll talk lies the responsibility of getting the plug across, yet the comedian, usually so naturally at ease on the stage, appeared to suffer from that common ailment, mike fright, on this first broadcast. Another stumbling block which he should be able to hurdle in time is Benny’s disaptitude at reading from a manuscript. That slowed him down a good deal.
Particularly interesting was that Benny’s sole solid laugh occurred when he rushed in ad lib; at least it sounded like one. Another error is that the few gurgles and snickers that came over sounded very much suppressed and didn’t help Benny’s cause any, but there’s no reason why a clever, intimate comedian of Benny’s type shouldn’t hit over the air. Essentially he has everything it takes, from an excellent speaking voice to the right kind of delivery.
Olsen is using the same old signature theme, the train imitation, to start him off and from there into his usual good style of music making. Some very good arrangements on his opening program of numbers, particularly ‘I Love a Parade.’ But Olsen should leave all the talking to Benny.
Miss Shutta wasn’t particularly impressive in her debut, being introduced by Benny as Mrs. Olsen, and with Benny saying that might be one of the reasons why she’s on the program. Just a gag to those who know, but what about the flock of listeners who don’t know what it’s all about? Miss Shutta did a duet with one of the boys in the band and came back later with ‘Come West, Little Girl’ number she did in ‘Whoopee,’ which probably nobody remembers.
Plug angle was considerably overdone here, with Benny handling it throughout. He pulled some pretty obvious puns, such as ‘drinking Canada dry.’ Again he repeated a drugstore gag, using the same locale in straight fashion first and then coming back to top it with a few placed quips. Right now the subtle spotting of the plug should be handled with silk gloves. Span.
May 24, 1932
PARAMOUNT, N. Y.
New York. May 20.
Dorothy Mackaill, Cliff Edwards and Jack Benny are the names and Ledova the standard vaudeville entry in another heavy money bill at the Paramount. Once again the stage show is billed over the picture. Latter, this week, is Par’s English ‘Reserved for Ladies.’
Salary list for the visiting talent amounts to around $9,000, with Miss Mackaill at $3,500 and Edwards and Benny, $2,000 each. The layout has name value, and delivers a fair enough amount of entertainment.
The theatre’s expert wiring system was a big help to Benny, as it has been to other talking acts and monologists here lately. For the first time talk is penetrating to the back of the house and with it come chances for more diversifying sound and less repetitious sight in this big picture palace. Comedy has been the essence arid real strength of recent Par shows.
They may hold Benny over here as standing m. c. for a while. He seemed to expect that, according to his return to old bits for this week. The comedy band number which Benny has probably used in every other house on Broadway is spotted for most importance and the Friday night audience regarded it as something new. In his introductions and monologistic moments the unruffled Benny got by, despite a hit or miss string of gags. He was particularly good in a comical kissing scene with Miss Mackaill.
The sketch section of the Mackaill offering was chiseled down to the full stage dressing room sequence, with Benny and Edwards replacing Montgomery and McDowell for comedy purposes in this date. They came in handy, opposite Miss Mackaill and her husband, who plays the husband in the skit. Bige.
June 7, 1932
Cohan and Jessel Again Head Officers
More than the usual number of actors are on the new Friars Club list of officers as the result of Friday’s (3) election. George M. Cohan continues as Abbott for another year, his steenth [sic] in that capacity.
George Jessel, dean; Emmett Callahan, prior; Harry Hershfield, secretary, and William Degan Weinberger, treasurer, are the other officers for ‘31-‘32.
Board of governors comprises Jack Benny, Harry Jans, Bert Lahr, Ira Streusand and S. Jay Kaufman.
June 14, 1932
New York, June 9.
Except, perhaps that hair-splitters might note a certain restraint and unwonted decorum in metropolitan gaiety, there was no visible indication of depression atop the Biltmore last Wednesday (8), when Paul Whiteman arrived for the summer. The place was jammed.
Bunch of celebs, including Mayor Walker, were introduced. NBC’s radio comic, Ray Perkins, was emergency ringmaster when Jack Benny disappointed.
July 5, 1932
Canada Dry Renews
Canada Dry has renewed its contract with NBC effective Aug. 1. Will retain the same program, George Olsen’s orchestra, Ethel Shutta and Jack Benny. Account is handled through the N. W. Ayer & Son Inc., agency.
July 19, 1932
Stooge as Trailer
First live trailer is at the Capitol, N. Y., this week. It’s Lou Holtz’ stooge who comes on for half a minute with Jack Benny, current, to mention next week’s Holtz show. Understood Holtz is paying the lad for the advance plug.
Little Bits from Air [unbylined column]
Jack Benny is the big disappointment of the air. It may console Benny to know that his professional well-wishers seem to be many, judging by the continual regrets over his disappointing deportment as an ethereal m.c. But in pacing the Canada Dry program he falls decidedly flat.
Nothing can overcome that microphonic reaction. Try as George Olsen and Ethel Shutta and a flock of laughing stooges will, their prop ha-ha’s don’t help make Benny’s stuff funny.
The same general flatness goes for the rest of the program. Benny tries to pun about Fran Frey (one of Olsen’s soloists) and Miss Shutta sings solo and double with others of the band personnel, but the general result is blah.
The primary fault is really not so much that of the talent as the formula pattern of the Canada Dry programs. It’s another disappointing example of what up-to-date 1932 program should not be.
July 26, 1932
Renew on Benny
Jack Benny’s term with Canada Dry has been extended for another 13 weeks, second period going into effect Aug. 1. Three options ride with the renewal, each for 13 weeks. A salary raise is specified upon exercise of options.
Benny has been appearing twice weekly over NBC with this commercial account in association with George Olsen and Ethel Shutta. He has one writer assisting him in writing material for the program.
August 9, 1932
CANADA DRY ACT
Benny, Olsen’s Band, Ethel Shutta, Frey For RKO
Canada Dry program is being readied for a route over the RKO circuit. Vaude routine is now in process of being framed between George Olsen and Jack Benny, with special gag material also being authored for the act. Ethel Shutta and Fran Frey are set for the warbling assignments exclusively, while several stooges may be added to bolster the comedy.
Initial date for the act when ready to unveil before the footlights will be the Palace.
August 23, 1932
Little Bits from the Air
Jack Benny was in good form on last week’s program, having evolved sundry effective gags for plugging Canada Dry. In line with the recent trend toward a humorous plug for the sponsor, he is sugar-coating and making palatable what is usually a boresome interlude in the best of programs. Such a crack as when he paralleled the backfield members of a football team and added ‘a nickel back for your bottle of Canada Dry,’ serve their purpose satisfactorily without bothering anybody.
Ethel Shutta also did well by ‘The Lost the Man I Found.’ George Olsen's music started off nicely, too, with a foxtrot arrangement of ‘Liebestraume,’ including a little of ‘Samson and Delilah’ in the arrangement.
However, those prop laughs by the studio personnel still ring blah. It’s strictly an intra-studio builder-upper, and highly artificial in its audible microphonic effect. The stuff doesn't need that pulmotoring to register.
August 30, 1932
Canada Dry Act’s $8,000 Too Much for RKO Vaude
Although, suggested by M. H. Aylesworth as a fitting follow-up radio act to Kate Smith, the Canada Dry radio group comprising George Olsen and band, Ethel Shutta and Jack Benny may not make the RKO vaude books. Price of $8,000 put on the combo is too steep for RKO to venture in its out-of-town spots or even the Albee, Brooklyn, according to booking office comment.
Rub comes in that the trio are not under NBC contract and price negotiations must be made with commercial sponsoring the program.
September 6, 1932
NBC’s $61,300 Bookings with Loew In 3 Wks.; More Than RKO in 3 Mos.
On the three weeks it has been doing business with the Loew circuit the NBC Artists’ Service has taken in $61,300 from that source alone. Tally rates as considerably more than the network has obtained in stage bookings from its own affiliated, RKO, in the past three months. The Loew coin was derived from the sale of only five acts.
Of the quintet the Canada Dry unit taking in the George Olson combo, Jack Benny and Ethel Shutta, leads the credit side of the ledger with a total of $24,000 for three weeks of appearances. Next in line is Buddy Rogers with $19,000 for four weeks, and following him is Russ Columbo who brought in $12,000 on a three-week contract. Balance of the money was obtained through bookings of the Pickens Sisters, Harriet Lee and Her Leaders, and Mildred Bailey.
CAPITOL, N. Y.
New York, Sept. 1.
It’s all tight enough to say that at the Capitol this week is a great show, including in, its cast Lilyan Tashman, Sophie Tucker, Jack Pearl, Ethel Shutta, George Olsen’s band and Jack Benny. Customers were lined up at the box office all day and fighting for seats from the bell. But what next? They thought picture houses were taking a chance when they planned $10,000 stage shows. Then they took deep breaths and went to $15,000 stage shows. The current lineup at the Capitol, what with wire charges on Benny and Olsen, brings the toll up to a new high of $20,000. But what about next week?
Certainly there can be no quarrel with the current show. Even the 80 minutes that the stage end occupied, and despite the 90 minute picture; doesn’t seem too long because so jammed with sockerino entertainment. Only way to review the layout, of course, is chronologically, which method is helped by the fact that there’s no attempt at staging, the acts running off in pretty much regular vaude formation.
To say that Jack Benny is better than Jack Pearl or that Sophie Tucker outshines Lilyan Tashman is impossible. They all do their particular stints well. Benny is introduced by way of a number of gag stills on the screen and wastes little time after that announcing that he’s the m.c. and introducing the first act. Benny must be a comforting lad to have around: He’s not only witty, quick and capable, but seemingly can fill any emergency. He's the personification of what a master of ceremonies should be and emphasized his cleverness by the fact that he doesn’t need a cane or other manufactured nick-nacks to put his humor over.
Olsen’s band is the first act, a bit unusual, though not a bad idea as things turn out. His is a highly capable and diversified group of young men whose musical antics outshine their vocal efforts, but who are always on tap for novelty and syncopation. To show their control a quartet of the lads step out on the apron for a trumpet solo played in the most pianissimo fashion imaginable, and yet perfectly rich and rounded in tone. Ethel Shutta comes on toward the end of the proceedings for two vocal numbers plus her usual air signature.
Benny wanders in and out of this act for identification purposes with the Ginger Ale ether hour.
Lilyan Tashman, plus a couple of new ultra-lavish gowns, devotes her ten minutes to some crossfire with Benny, then going, with him, into a (is it possible?) new blackout. At least it seemed new because the tag is turned the other way around. At any rate it’s good fun, allows Lilyan to strip to negligee, and it went over nicely. Lilyan dug Edmund Lowe out of the wings for encore purposes and announced her seventh anniversary was that night for the usual applause result. More interesting to note is the way Benny seized on the Lowe presence for three or four of the funniest comments throughout the show.
Sophie Tucker doesn't try any gagging or horseplay, sticking closely to three numbers, but how this audience went for her! She’s probably the only person in the world, who could mix together ‘Eli, Eli’ and ‘Lawd, You Made the Night Too Long.’
Jack Pearl to close the proceedings is another problematical choice that worked out okay. Pearl doesn’t bother with material this week, going back into the flies of his memory for them, but all they were interested in, seemingly, was to hear him. He just stood with a straight in front of a street drop and gagged. Okay results.
Couldn’t very well close cold that way, so all the stars assemble in front of a drop dressed in street clothes to worry about where to go or what to do. With Benny suggesting they go to the Capitol to see Marion Davies in ‘Blondie of the Follies.’ So they all march off the stage and park in a box as the house darkens and the scrim descends for the feature.
No time on the layout for anything else, even the newsreel being dropped on the show caught. Kauf.
September 27, 1932
Complains to V.M.A. On Royalty for Taahman-Benny Sketch
That a vaudeville material author is collecting royalties on something he didn't write is charged by Jack Osterman in a complaint filed at the V.M.A. against Lilyan Tashman and Charlie Judels. Latter is the accused writer.
Osterman’s complaint is over a sketch. Jack Benny and Miss Tashman are using in the Loew theatres. Osterman claims the act was written by himself and the late Harry O’Neal for a Shubert ‘Artists and Models’ some years ago.
Comic’s objections are not to Benny and Miss Tashman’s use of the material, but to Judel’s alleged collection of royalties as the author.
Ted Weems Gets Open Spot on Canada Dry
Chicago, Sept. 26.
Ted Weems, now playing his initial stage date at the Oriental for Balaban & Katz, is set to succeed George Olsen on the Canada Dry program. Switch will occur about Nov. 1.
Weems takes his orchestra to the Club Forest. New Orleans, first and it may be necessary to pick up the first program or two from that point. Thereafter he will locate in New York.
Weems' audition was piped to New York from WBBM locally last week.
Canada Dry contract with NBC expires Oct. 26 after which date the session moves over to CBS, precipitated by NBC's refusal to permit splitting its present southeastern link following the expiration of the current contract. C. D. argued that its present scope of distribution made these stations it desired eliminated from the hookup so much deadwood, but network was adamant.
With Olsen's radio services exclusively under NBC Artists Service, program's transfer automatically eliminated him.
October 11, 1932
New Program Calendar
Periods on the air for the first time, or resuming commercially
SUNDAY, OCT. 30
‘Canada Dry Revue’ (CBS). Canada Dry Ginger Ale debuts its show on this network with Jack Benny and the Ted Weems band, over the basic network and outlets in Montreal, Toronto, Minneapolis and Atlantic City. Originating from WABC, N. Y., Sundays from 10 to 10.30 p. m. and Thursdays from 8.15 to 8.45 p. m., EST.
October 18, 1932
Little Bits from the Air
Jack Benny is improving on his Canada Dry humor. Benny his built up a unique style of comedy, especially with those puns which, however, are not injudiciously primed for strong returns.
Benny Joins Weems
Chicago, Oct. 17.
Jack Benny, accompanied by his radio author, is visiting his father at Lake Forest, Illinois. He is due in New Orleans Oct. 26 to join Ted Weems and his orchestra for the first of the new Canada dry programs.
Benny will stay with Weems in New Orleans four weeks until Weems opens at the Hotel Pennsylvania, New York.
N. Y. UNION OKAYS WEEMS; JONES LATER
Ted Weems’ entry into the Hotel Pennsylvania grill has been okayed by the New York musicians’ Local No. 802. Booking had been objected to by the union on the ground that an outside band couldn’t fill both a permanent cafe engagement, and a commercial broadcast series. Weems joins the Canada Dry program the Sunday after next (30). Roger Wolfe Kahn’s orchestra is at the Pennsy for four weeks or so.
CBS Artists Service tried to sell Isham Jones for the ginger ale ether account and ran into a similar snag. Understood that the union has decided to reconsider its opposition to Jones taking on a radio commercial while working the Hollywood Restaurant and grant him carte blanche on the next network prospect that comes along.
Current contract will keep Weems at the Club Forest, New Orleans, on the debut date of the Canada Dry show over CBS, arid as a result the agency handling the account has arranged to broadcast the program from that city with Jack Benny and his wife, Sadie, on hand to blend in the talking portions of the continuity. Show, incidentally, will not be heard in the New Orleans territory. That town is not on the regular Canada Dry hookup.
October 25, 1932
Kalich Testimonial Brings B’Way Marquis Names Back to 2d Ave.
Broadway—or a goodly portion of it—went native Thursday (20). Practically every actor on the street of Jewish background made the trip over to Second Avenue to pay homage to Bertha Kalich, called the greatest contribution of the Yiddish stage to the world’s theatre.
It was called ‘a testimonial entertainment in honor of Mme. Kalich’s 40 years in the theatre.’ That sounded better than calling it a benefit for Mme. Kalich. And it was equally effective, the Yiddish Art Theatre being sold out several hours before the performance started. Police were needed to handle the overflow mob trying to crush its way into the house. The total income was about $6,000.
Among the stars appearing were Paul Muni, Molly Picon, Jack Benny, Maurice Schwartz, Sophie Tucker, Luther and Stella Adler, Arthur Tracy and Willy Robyn.
November 1, 1932
Radio script refused by station WHAM was snapped up by Jack Benny. Richard Chevillat, the author, was taken to New York to write more.
[Note: Chevillat later co-wrote The Phil Harris-Alice Faye radio show on NBC when Philsie was Jack’s bandleader].
Comm’l Couldn’t Broadcast Its Network Switch
Canada Dry’s final program on NBC (26) developed into one of those mystifying affairs as the result of last minute blue-pencilling on the part of a higher-up network exec.
To the listeners it was obvious that C. D. was trying to convey some message of importance, but the program timed out without giving the key to the riddle. Account, burned over the NBC hour move, but later conceded that the network had acted within its rights.
Barred from making direct mention of the fact that the commercial was moving its network activities over to Columbia (30), Canada Dry inserted a line at the close of its last continuity asking the listeners to consult their local newspapers for the stations that the program would be on the following Sunday and Thursday evenings.
NBC sales department had okayed the suggestion, but just before the show went on instructions came through ordering; that reference be cut out of the program.
'Farewell' Jazzed Up
Agency in the meantime had arranged one of those farewells by the people in the act to be staged just before the signoff. George Olsen, Ethel Shutta and Jack Benny had been cautioned to make no mention of Columbia during the bye-bye exchange; with the info vouchsafed that the cause for the parting chatter would be tipped off in the closing announcement.
Farewell scene had Olsen and Miss Shutta telling Benny what a grand time they had had working with him on the program and wishing him all sorts of luck in his future career with it, with Olsen, particularly, slipping in a line to the effect that Benny would not only find Ted Weems (the Olsen successor on the Canada Dry CBS version) a great fellow to work with, but the leader of a great musical organization. Benny came back with a similar line of abadaba and thanked them for the sendoff wishes. Then came the Olson musical signature signing off. All this patter had listeners, not on the inside, wondering what it was all about. It was a warm and bewildering two minutes for the studio personnel, while the farewell exchange was on, but discretion dictated against cutting off the program.
November 8, 1932
Benny Friars’ Victim As Rib Season Opens
The Saturday Nite Boys of the Friars swing into action for the season Nov. 19 when a chili and spaghetti dinner will have Jack Benny as the guest of honor and Joe Cunningham as the toastmaster. Tickets will be two bucks, with an extra nick of a dollar for guests.
The Friars board has been petitioned to consent to a Saturday night at which George Burns and Gracie Allen will be the honor guests. It will be the first time in 16 years for the club to have a woman guest. Tentative date of the Burns and Allen event is Dec. 3, with Eddie Cantor the toastmaster.
Saturday night affairs will be held in the Monastery Hall on the second floor hereafter. The celling is being lowered to improve the acoustics.
Little Bits from the Air
Jack Benny’s nifties clocked fast, funny and furious with Ted Weems and his band doing nice straight. Weems is currently at the Forest club, New. Orleans, hence Benny m.c.’s the Canada Dry program—at the same time as the Fleischmann-Vallee hour—via CBS. And incidentally that’s unusual competition how for the big NBC program—more so than ever before. Benny and Weems are a corking combo with Adrian Marsh (or so it sounded) also having her innings as femme aide.
November 15, 1932
CANADA DRY PROGRAM (New Series)
With Jack Benny, Ted Weems, Andrea Marsh and Sid Silvers
WABC, New York
Every one of the cross-fire bits on this occasion sparkled with deft humor both in the writing and the interpretation. Sid Silvers as the ‘one man in the South who voted for Hoover’ did a darb piece of goof straighting and Benny’s wife, Mary Livingstone, shone all over particularly during a burlesque takeoff on a hillbilly drama. Here was spoofing of a rare quality on the air.
In the band department, the Ted Weems substitution for the switch to the Columbia network is all to program's good. This ace of a novelty dance combos can still wrap itself around a slice of syncopation and give it all that it takes to make the tootsies want to romp. Instrumentally it’s got something distinctly different and the same goes for the ensemble warbling of the boys.
Elmo Tanner is still there with the melodious whistling, while Andrea Marsh plies an appealing set of ingenue pipes. She’s being gradually groomed into speaking parts, and indications in this department are all in her favor. Weems, who heretofore had elected to let others do the mike talklng for him, has also been mustered into articulate service on this program. All he needs is a little easying up and he’ll likely prove Benny’s best foil of the lot.
For the fadeout the program has retained Ethel Shutta’s signature song, ‘Rockabye Moon.’ Olsen was surprised by the selection but decided to let it go and dig up another for the missus. Odec.
November 22, 1932
Saturday Nite Boys Go Radio at The Friars Early Sunday Morning
Season for ribbing at the Friars Club, New York, was started early Sunday morning (20) by the Saturday Nite Boys in the club’s grill-room when Jack Benny was the honored roast and Philadelphia Joe Cunningham the m. c., about whom Joe Laurie, Jr. (still) said from the dais that ‘these dinners are given so that comics can play straight for Cunningham’. Also: ‘If he threw away those notes and specs he’d, be a Harpo Marx.’ There was plenty radio about the event.
Benny himself was out of commish and was warned by the doctor not to speak, else he would be unable to go on the air next night. But the honored one spoke hoarsely for a few moments. He said the dinner was his biggest thrill, only comparable to the time when he was playing Erie, Pa., and was moved front number two to next to closing.
In introducing him, Cunningham said Benny started with a fiddle but his first acting was as a back stage door slammer. Then as of the team of Salisbury and Benny he spoiled many a deuce spot on the Gus Sun time—the duo was ‘not terrific; it was epidemic.’ After some Hollywood experience he then joined ‘Vanities,’ B. M. B.—before Milton Berle. That dated the guest up to the debut before the mike.
Cunningham’s other comment about Benny was based on the suspicion that the Friars made a mistake in picking ‘such a muzzler’ for the main part—‘he has gone into the radio racket, selling blackmail ginger-ale.’ Further: ‘Just an idea on some other programs, such as Chase & Sanborn, who wanted Jolson, Cantor, Jessel and Chevalier for the price of Benny, so they took Georgia Price.’ Latter was present and tabbed Benny as ‘God’s gift to gas.’ He claimed Schultz’s ginger-ale doubled in sales since Benny went on the air for Canada Dry.
The Mayor's Rep
William Collins, Justice of the New York Supreme Court, was introduced aa a representative of Mayor-elect O’Brien. He was supposed to introduce a serious note, but thought Benny had two first names....Lou Holtz said the guest stood out like a radish on Jack Johnson's body, then turned to Cunningham and said: ‘I told you not to ask me.’ He told a story of a Hebe traveling salesman, pinched for speeding that was the laugh of the night....Jack Pearl admitted he needed a straight man and claimed that when be asked the m. c. to write his speech for the occasion, Cunningham replied: ‘The hell with it, if I don't get paid for the stuff....Bing Crosby was introduced as a ‘fugitive from the Columbia chain,' then he crooned ‘Please’ from ‘The Big Broadcast.’....Benny was presented with a solid gold replica of his club membership card....Singer who gave out ‘Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?’ was then called a panhandler.
Burns and Allen Dinner
George Burns was present but said little. He is saving up for the dinner to be given at the Friars Dec. 3 when be and Gracie Allen will be the honor guests. For that event ladies will be admitted, also other non-members. Tickets for latter, however, will be $5.
November 29, 1932
At the insistence of the advertiser the staff of authors for Jack Benny’s material on the Canada Dry session has been augmented to three. Original gagman on the show was Harry W. Conn.
When the show went CBS, Sid Silvers was not only added to the cast as foil for Benny but given a writing assignment. While the program was being broadcast from New Orleans the account complained that the script was in need of strengthening, with David Freedman, collaborator (Cantor) on the Chase & Sanborn stanza, now filling a similar niche for Canada Dry.
December 13, 1932
Sid Silvers Off C. D. Over Mrs. Benny’s Squawk
Squabble which has been brewing for several weeks between the Jack Benny family and Sid Silvers over the lines that the latter as author arrogated to himself in the broadcasts wound up last week with Silvers suddenly being dropped from the Canada Dry program. Account settled for the balance of Silvers’ 13-week contract after Benny had handed in his ultimatum that either he or Silvers would have to go.
Trouble over a claim made by Mary Livingstone (Mrs. Benny) that Silvers in preparing the script had as each broadcast unfolded cut down on her part and built up his own mike contribution with more lines. It looked to her, Mrs. Benny complained, as though it was Silvers’ intention to eliminate her altogether.
Writer Denies Charge
Benny took up the cudgel for his frau and took the grievance to the commercial and its agency rep, N. W. Ayer. During a subsequent meeting of the cast in the agency’s offices Silvers heatedly expressed his resentment of the Benny family’s charges, describing them as ‘unfounded and malicious.’ Verbal set-to came to a climax when Benny demanded an immediate showdown, that either Silvers was let out or he and Mrs. Benny would walk.
Silvers’ contract with Canada Dry had seven more weeks to go and he was paid off in full. With last Sunday (11) night’s stanza the continuity built around the experiences of a legit producer and authored originally by Silvers was abandoned, and the script portion of the session resumed the previous routine of crossfire and bit gagging. Preparation of the patter was turned back exclusively to Harry W. Conn.
Canada Dry stated that it has no intention of replacing Silvers with another gag man of similar standing, but to confine the payroll to the Ted Weems band and the Bennys.
December 20, 1932
Actor-Writers Squabbling Induces Can. Dry to Cancel Benny Program
Canada Dry goes off the air Jan. 26, on a decision to take advantage of a cancellation clause in its CBS contract following a recent outbreak of dissension among the actors and authors on the Jack Benny program. Advertiser’s present intention is to stay off a couple of months or so and return with an entirely revised program. Contract with Columbia called for 26 weeks but permitted Canada Dry to drop out at the end of 13 on four weeks’ notice.
Differences between performers and writers broke out shortly after the session had moved over from NBC, where it had concluded a 26-week run. For the continuance of the program on CBS the commercial brought in Sid Silvers to double as author and bit player. Later David Freedman, Eddie Cantor’s script man, was added to the Canada Dry writing staff, with Harry W. Conn, originally brought into the program by Benny, also retained as a contributor.
Mrs. Benny Objects
After several weeks of this gag-writing merger, Conn objected to the material submitted by his co-authors, and, with Benny backing him up, proceeded to blue-pencil the script. Resulting kick from Silvers was followed by Benny’s ultimatum to the commercial that if Silvers remained on the program, he and his wife, Mary Livingstone, would walk. Canada Dry settled the impasse by paying Silvers off on the balance of his 13-week contract.
Mrs. Benny alleged that Silvers was gradually, cutting down her part on the broadcast it appeared to her, she said, that the writer was eliminating her from the script altogether.
Jack Benny’s explanation of Sid Silvers being off the Canada Dry program is that with the abandonment of the script idea wherein he (Benny) was the theatrical manager and Silvers his office boy, the latter went off.
Benny avers that his wife, Mary Livingstone, and Silvers are friendly and that fan mail demands for the former style of al fresco etherizing solely prompted the abandonment of the script idea. For this reason last Sunday the ‘Grand Hotel’ burlesk was repeated, with Silvers off and the continuity dropped.
Benny contends that he ‘gave a good hunk of it’ to Olsen and Shutta when they were with him on C. D., so there’s no prof jealousy.
Despite the off-air turmoil, people warmed to Benny and the new kind of humour he developed with Harry Conn. Variety put his show in sixth spot in a year-end survey of 150 cities. Interestingly, Benny didn’t rank in the top ten in any of the individual markets listed it surveyed except Canada (Vancouver, Winnipeg, London, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City were surveyed). Benny would move to a new sponsor the following year, although it took a bit of doing to find one.