When you don’t have a lot of money, what could be better than free entertainment? That’s what radio provided a Depression-coping society in 1934—and the motion picture companies wanted to get a piece of the action.
Pictures were having problems in 1934. The novelty of sound had worn off. “Decency” groups were complaining about “filth” in movies, and they forced movie companies to start enforcing the 1934 Motion Picture Code. But some companies looked at the sudden popularity of national radio stars and figured signing them to a film deal could bring radio-hungry people into the theatres. And one of those stars was Jack Benny.
On the surface, Benny’s radio track record didn’t look too great. He had been fired by Canada Dry in 1933. A year later, he was about to be fired by General Motors’ Chevrolet division. But his show was among the top ten with listeners and that’s all that counted. So in 1934, The Benny show was picked up by General Tire and Rubber Co., which was disappointed with a dramatic show it had been sponsoring. This meant yet another change in bandleader and announcer. The second of the five major pieces of the Benny cast was now put in place (Mary Livingstone was already ensconced on the programme). Don Wilson answered a casting call and defeated some of NBC’s top mike-men for the announcer’s job. He kept it until Benny’s weekly TV show ended in 1965. As well, bandleader Don Bester came on board. He had started the year on a programme for Nestle’s chocolate featuring Ethel Shutta. Vocalist Frank Parker stayed, though reports had him being replaced.
At the same time, Benny worked out a movie deal and took his radio show moved to California for several months while filming. Bestor stayed behind and played at the Hotel Pennsylvania. Jimmy Grier was hired for the coastal gig; one of the shows he worked on in California was sponsored by Chevrolet. Parker managed to make the trip, though it almost didn’t happen because of a conflict with another show. Benny had a little group of secondary players in New York he called in frequently—Blanche Stewart, Sam Hearn and Ralph Ashe, mainly. Benny replaced them with Joe Franz, Minnie Martin and Rex Weber for the two months he was in Los Angeles. Oddly, none became part of his group when he permanently moved west. Franz had worked in silent pictures in the 1910s; he apparently got out of show biz after 1939 when he worked on films for five weeks and was paid $300. He died in 1970 at the age of 85. Weber appeared with Benny in Transatlantic Merry-Go-Round.
The film shooting ended. And so did Benny’s career with General Tire. The way one trade paper explained it, the company temporarily loaned the Benny show to a new sponsor. Whether that was the real intention is open to debate, but the move was a wonderful stroke of fortune. Benny’s new sponsor was Jell-O, something associated with him for years, even when he was being bankrolled by other companies. And his show was moved to Sunday nights at 7 p.m. Eastern Time, which was etched in stone until he got out of radio in 1955.
Let’s peer through the pages of Variety (NYC edition) to see what Jack Benny was up to 1934. We’ll include a story from Broadcasting magazine which explained the departure of General Tire.
January 9, 1934
Jack Benny is reported to have won an altercation with Detroit over conduct of the Chevrolet program. Following a change of command in Chevrolet that firm is said to have favored the use of slow and classical music, although, it is a well known truism of show business that bright music is necessary, for the proper backgrounding of comedy.
After some quibbling, and an announced willingness by Benny to take a walk on the show, the matter was patched and Benny got his peppy music back.
February 6, 1934
WB Would Bolster Ether Musical With Broadcasting Names
Warner is planning to use three or four name radio acts to embellish ‘Hot Air’, musical with a radio plot, which is now in the Burbank cutting room. Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler top the pic's cast as it now stands.
First personality, contacted here was Jack Benny who refused to entertain the proposition unless he would be worked throughout the film. This could not be done unless the picture was remade entirely.
Not only singers and comedians but WB wants, some name ether band.
February 27, 1934
When the New Prez Likes Soft Music, Brother, It’s Soft Music or Else
M. E. Coyle, new president of Chevrolet, doesn't like comics, but he does go for soft music. Beginning with his firm's April 8 broadcast on NBC, Jack Benny will be out and an 18-piece orchestra, under direction of Victor Young, will unfold pianissimo and romantic tunes.
Benny learned how the how Chevrolet prez felt about comics some eight weeks ago. Agency on the account, Campbell-Ewald, was instructed to cut Benny's patter down to five minutes and have the orchestra, devote more time to romantic melodies. Benny came back with an ultimatum to the effect that if his routine time were reduced he would walk.
Coyle decided, not to make an issue of his likes and dislikes for the time being, so Benny's patter, continued to dominate the program, but the exec got in the last word.
Young's contract, for 13 weeks, handled through the Rockwell-O’Keefe office.
Victor Young landed the Chevrolet program, while Jack Benny gets the General Tires account.
March 6, 1934
Jack Benny for Film
Jack Benny may within the current week dose with Edward Small for a motion picture. Deal, if agreed upon, will give Small an option on the comic's service for a second feature.
Angle yet to be settled is whether the filming will be done in New York or on the Coast. Metro several months ago approached Benny on a feature proposition but the discussions didn't get beyond the price offering stage.
March 13, 1934
Bestor win double as stooge for Benny.
Dropping Jack Benny As Sales at Height Irks Chev. Dealers
Lincoln, March 12.
Nebraska Chevrolet dealers seemed thunderstruck at the announcement of GM plans to drop Jack Benny in April. Several agency heads called their entire staffs together to ask the general opinion of the change from the comic to just an orchestra on the Sunday nite program. There was general sorrow all around.
Benny's programs rate high in this section and seems to have been a good warming point for the salesmen to start off their song-and-dance with when a customer comes in. Dealers said decision to swap to an orchestra about June, with Benny's return in the fall, wouldn't be bad, but April finds the heavy selling just getting under way and with the good listener out, it's unfortunate.
COMEDIANS GET SERIOUS ON AUDIENCES
What is described a serious meeting is tentatively penciled for Thursday (15) of this week. Groucho Marx and Jack Pearl are ringleaders of a miniature invention of radio comedians who propose to discuss the merits and demerits of studio audiences for air comedy.
Invitations to the meeting have been extended to Al Jolson, Eddie Cantor, George Jessel, Jack Benny, Fred Allen, Goodman Ace, Ray Perkins, Arthur Boran, George Beatty, and others.
A proclamation as befits working conditions for comedians is expected to be issued.
March 20, 1934
Don Bestor and Jack Benny have worked together before, their new General Tire program being a reunion. With their respective wives they were on the old Orpheum circuit in 1927. Bestor's wife is the former Frankie Klassen, dancer.
March 27, 1934
Air Line News
By Nellie Revell
Robert Simmons is the tenor selected for the Jack Benny-Don Bestor General Tires commercial starting April 6 at NBC. Bob will also be on the new Lucky Strike program.
Florence Case will be the girl singer with Don Bestor's band when he goes with Jack Benny.
Contract between General Tires and Jack Benny calls for the comedian to be paid $4,000 weekly for 26 weeks. Company also pays for Benny's scripts. This is an increase for Benny of $500 weekly over his last contract with Chevrolet.
General Tires also holds an option on Benny for 13 additional weeks at
$4,500. Program starts April 6.
April 10, 1934
General Tire Revue, with Don Bestor, Frank Parker, Mary Livingstone, Don Wilson Comedy, Songs, Band
WEAF, New York
For his new stand Benny has moved over his style of comedy intact. Only changes, in his support are the band and the stooge doubling announcer. With Don Bestor, one of the near topliner dance organizations in the business, replacing the Frank Black NBC studio unit and Don Wilson, the Coast emigre who has been making good on the bigtime, holding down what had been Alois Havrllla's assignment on the Chevrolet session, the exchange stacks up as at least, an even one. Wilson proved quick at weaving in on the stooge-announcer requirements of a Benny set-to, while Don Bestor unlimbered a mode of dansapation that registers fetchingly on both the ear and the tootsies.
Bestor also managed deftly on the line delivery. Continuity has him doing a straight dressed up in an Oxford accent and a penchant for multi-syllable words. Bestor stumbled over a couple of the longer ones but a little more experience with Benny on the give-and-take should ease things up for him.
As it did on the previous series, ‘Daring Lives’, General Tire is stressing here the non-skid and non blowout features of its product. Odec.
Cohan and Harris at Guild Dinner Take Ribbing, Do a Song and Dance
By JACK PULASKI
Testimonial dinner to two pals and former partners, George M. Cohan and Sam H. Harris, at the Astor Sunday (8) under auspices of the Jewish Theatrical Guild of America, proved the most diverting affair of the season. Expert handling of the event both on the dais and during the show which followed held the guests without a walk-out. Speeches went on the air, all being limited and completed within the allotted broadcasting hour.
Dais had a horde of celebs introduced by the master of toastmasters, George Jessel, whose kidding with Eddie Cantor drew much of the laughter. For a moment Joe Humphries appeared with the honor guests, kissed them both on the cheek, then held their arms aloft for the photographers.
Irving Berlin sang ‘Easter Parade’ from ‘As Thousands Cheer,’ and one of the best laughs was its parodied version ‘Pessach Parade’ with Cantor and Jack Benny in costume (Cantor doing dame).
April 17, 1934
WJZ, New York
Nellie Revell's afternoon series of interview broadcasts rates among the best in that field of ether presentation if not tops. For Miss Revell manifests a keen sense of audience values in not making it the commonplace puff-blog of the guest star.
Instead she presents her subject humorously, novelly and interestingly, as in the Jack Benny gabfest. The latter, of course, is of more than normal assistance through his unctious delivery of the lines allotted him. The script may or may hot have been his own mike-literary contribution, although it is more likely that Miss Revell authored the continuity in toto, seeing to it that it conformed with the personality and character of her subject.
There is a good-humored, authoritative conviction to her style of address as she puts Benny through the routine interrogatories which she enhances with a rather distinctive dress.
Miss Revell tops off with a recitation on 'Courage.' Harold Levey's orchestra accompanies, all combining into an above par quarter hour.
She was caught last Tuesday afternoon at 2:45-3 o'clock. Abel.
Don Bestor will make the Hollywood trek with Jack Benny this summer.
May 15, 1934
REORGANIZED FRIARS HOLD FROLIC SUNDAY
First Frolic of the reorganized Friars Club will be staged Sunday night (20) at the 44th Street theatre, New York.
Instead of the usual single Frolicker, there will be three emcees on top of the show this year—George Burns, Jack Benny and Lou Holtz. Irving Caesar is writing the lyrics. Abe Lastfogel arranging the show.
May 19, 1934 (Daily)
JACK BENNY DUE HERE FOR A PAIR AT $35,000 EACH
New York. May 18.—Jack Benny leaves May 26 for Hollywood. He has eight weeks work on 'Transatlantic Showboat' for Reliance, which is first of two pictures he toils on for United Artists release. Other is for Twentieth Century.
Benny cannot be away from New York for more than eight weeks at a time with General tires agreeing to pick up broadcasts from the Coast during these two month intervals. Understood that Benny is getting $35,000 per picture.
Other radio names from the East set for 'Transatlantic Show Boat' are Jean Sargent and Frank Parker, latter on Benny's radio program. Mary Livingstone, otherwise Mrs. Benny, is not in the film deal.
May 22, 1934
Benny's Two Films With One Heavy On Radio Names
Benny with Arthur S. Lyons, of Lyons and Lyons who placed him, depart for the Coast next Saturday (26). Harry W. Conn, Benny's radio author and Mary Livingstone (Mrs. Benny), go along. Latter will not be in the film but Conn may contribute to the dialog in between scripting the air programs which will be picked up from Hollywood.
General Tires has agreed to an eight weeks Coast siesta for remote control pickup, but no longer. Benny must then come back east for his future radio dates and then go back to Hollywood for his second UA film.
Jean Sargent, also from radio, is already on the Coast and set for the same picture. Frank Parker, who works in Benny's air show, is another Coast departer but will do one picture for Radio although possibly also working into ‘Transatlantic Showboat.’ Gene Raymond, Edmund Lowe and Madeleine Carroll are to be in it with Ben Stoloft directing.
Hollywood, May 21.
Helen Morgan and the Mills Bros. join Jack Benny in Edward Small’s Reliance production of ‘Transatlantic Showboat.’
New Friars to Pay Off Loans with $4,500 Obtained from Frolic Show
The Friars garnered about $4,500 from the sell-out, $10 top Frolic at the 44th St., New York, Sunday night (20). Understood the proceeds will pay a dividend to members who loaned the Friars the money which financed the recent reorganization and removal to new clubrooms atop the Hollywood theatre building.
Frolic was the niftiest in years, as an entertainment as well as a grosser. It contained special lyrics by Irving Caesar, a set playing routine and a flock of star talent that, on their regular salaries, would pay off a large section of Insull's crediters.
In place, of the customary single Frolicker, (the Friar name for m.c.), there were three of ‘em—George (Nat) Burns, Jack Benny and Lou Holtz. In the script the three comics were 'plotting' the show, and as each name was mentioned, as a possibility, the name would appear for a specialty. That provided a sort of continuity that held the disjointed specialty show together quite well.
Burns, Benny and Holtz, seated at a table off to the side of the stage, were exceptionally congenial for three comedians under the conditions.
They didn't try to top each other by pulling a radio author out of hat, or anything like that. Only one flash of competition, and that wasn't in the script. Holtz picked up a seltzer bottle and doused Benny's double-breasted tux. The guy must have been mad when Benny brought the suit back.
Jack Benny's film contract with Reliance (Edward Small) for United Artists' release is complicated by sundry agents claiming commish.
Walter Meyers (Bestry-Meyers-Romm-Scheuing) claims he started negotiations for Benny last January with his then Coast affiliates, the Small-Landau agency. Since then Meyers and Small-Landau have split. Lyons & Lyons also figure through being Benny's personal managers. Bob Goldstein, now in New York, interposes through now acting for Small-Landau in the east.
May 29, 1934
Air Line News
By Nellie Revell
Jimmy Grier Orchestra Set for Benny Programs
NBC's proposal that the Jimmy Grier unit be used during the run of the Jack Benny stanza from Hollywood has been okayed by General Tire. Grier and the comic get together for the first time this Friday (1).
Grier's previous commercial contact was with Bing Crosby for Woodbury soap on CBS. This program folded last night (28).
General Tire is ceding its Friday night spot this week (1) to the City of Chicago for an hour's program over both NBC and CBS as a ballyhoo for the exposition. Show will run from 10:30 to 11:30 EDST.
Tire company has also okayed the inclusion of Jack Benny on the World's Fair broadcast of that night.
News From the Dailies
Jack Benny to have the lead in 'Bring on the Girls,' which Kaufman and Ryskind are writing for next season.
May 31, 1934 (Daily)
Bennys Arrive, Pic Begins June 5
Jack Benny arrived yesterday afternoon on the Chief to go into Edward Small's 'Transatlantic Showboat.' Accompanying Benny were Mary Livingston (Mrs. Benny) and Don Wilson, Benny's radio announcer.
Picture starts June 5 at Pathe studio with Ben Stoloff directing. Jean Sargent, another New Yorker imported by Reliance for the film, arrived last week. Frank Parker is still due.
June 5, 1934
CHICAGO WORLD'S FAIR
With Rufus Dawes, Mayor E. J. Kelly, Jack Benny, Clara, Lu and Em, James Melton, Joseph Pasternack, Morin Sisters, Anson Weeks, Fred Waring, Ted Weems.
WEAF, New York
This is one of a couple of full-hour programs co-operatively financed by participants in the second semester of the Chicago exposition. Obviously it's a whooper-upper for tourists. And as promotional publicity on the grand scale it unquestionably will help.
Descriptions of the exposition grounds supposedly from an airplane circling 1,500 feet overhead gives a clear picture of one model factory after another. Which just possibly is not much of a spending inducement for many a vacationist more anxious to get away from commerce than deeper into it.
That plane trip is divided into two installments separated by a half hour. First the plane is described as heading south, later as returning north, as heading south, later as returning synthetic enthusiasm that arouses wonder as to what sort of capsules announcers feed themselves to keep up that artificial pressure. Over-selling, over-dramatic, it may envelop some mentalities with a sense Of something terrific, but to others it may seem like patent medicine pitching at its worse.
Great stress is made upon the new factories and attractions at the expo this year. Mayor Kelly, Clara, Lu and Em, and others continually hammered the thought that it wasn’t expensive, that there was plenty of cheap sleeping and eating available, Mayor Kelly's remark about not having any traffic problems was a bit thick to those who visited the Fair last year. If there ever were traffic problems, Chicago had 'em in 1933.
Program credits General Tire, Gillette Razor and Pepsodent companies for stepping aside and giving the World's Fair program right-of-way between 9:30-10:30 p. m. (Central) Friday night (1). Ample credits of a commercial and advertising nature were sprinkled through the whole program.
Effectiveness of the program probably hinges upon the reaction of multitudes of people to a money-spending appeal premised upon the fascination of the processes of industrialism glorified in buildings. Just what, it may be asked is the average American's idea of a good time on his annual fortnight of liberty, and does the auspices of the expo paint a picture calculated to fit into that conception? It's anybody's guess no doubt. Meanwhile, the expo is probably sensible that many disappointees went back to their native villages to spread the cynical viewpoint.
Against this, of course, were hundreds of thousands of truly awed and pleased tourists. How, again, do these pros and cons balance themselves? Obviously the expo is taking no chances. The radio programs are designed to generate new enthusiasm where interest may lag.
As to the program gotten together for the occasion, it relied chiefly on Jack Benny (General Tires) and Fred Waring (Ford) for its name strength. It was a good show most of the time but pretty shy on laughs and overboard on commercial plugs. Few 60-minute revues on the air attempt to jam so much selling across. Land.
Jack Benny, doing ‘Transatlantic Show Boat’ for Edward Small at United Artists, Hollywood, has provision in his contract that he works only five days a week, Friday being the extra oft day. This is to enable him to rehearse his broadcast for General Tires that evening.
Jack Benny told Walter Meyers he'd straighten out the commish tangle for his booking into Ed Small-Reliance picture, ‘Transatlantic Showboat.’ Benny stated he knew that Meyers started the deal, but since Meyers and the Small-Landau (Hollywood) agency split on their east-west representation, new complications arose.
Small and Lyons & Lyons, acting for Benny, consummated the deal, but the actor promised to take care of Meyers regardless.
June 7, 1934 (Daily)
BENNY, SCHNOZ M.C.'S AT COLONY SHOW TONIGHT
Jack Benny and Jimmie Durante will do the m.c. chores tonight at the benefit dinner for the Jewish Consumptive home at Denver, in the Colony Club. Filmland will be heavily represented as more than 200 dinner reservations have been made. Harry Rapf and Jake Milstein are in charge of the affair.
June 12, 1934
News From the Dailies
George Jessel elected Abbot of the Friars at the annual meeting last week. Rudy Vallee is Dean, Jack Benny the Prior and Ben Piermont and Pat Rooney the secs.
Charles F. Pope remains executive sec. and William D. Weinberger, treas.
When Jell-O, a General Foods product, returns to the air this fall it will be a night-time show directed at adult attention. CBS will be the release.
Last season the dessert base supported a dramatized version of ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ specifically framed for kid appeal.
Jack BENNY for refusing to attend an orchestra rehearsal for his broadcasts, saying he only wants to enjoy tunes once in each show.
June 19, 1934
Air Line News
By Nellie Revell
Don Bestor renewed for 26 weeks, on Jack Benny show, effective when Benny returns.
June 25, 1934 (Daily)
Mary LIVINGSTON for arriving at the surprise party her husband, Jack Benny, gave in her honor, before the gueets got there.
July 10, 1934
2 MORE FOR GEN. FOODS
Jell-O and Sanka coffee, both of the General Foods group, will each be represented with a half hour show on CBS this fall. One will be of a variety type and the other dramatic.
Young & Rubicam agency, which handles both accounts, is figuring on having one program follow the other on the same evening's schedule.
July 23, 1934 (Daily)
Jack Benny Goes East July 27
Jack Benny, having completed his work as the lead in ‘Transatlantic Merry-Go-Round’ for Edward Small, leaves for New York July 27, to resume his broadcasting.
His wife, Mary Livingston, accompanies him east.
July 24, 1934
JACK BENNY MOVING
Jack Benny’s last broadcast from the Coast is July 27 and his next from N.Y. Aug. 3.
Benny has finished his film for Reliance-Edward Small, ‘Transatlantic Showboat,’ and is coming east.
July 31, 1934 (Daily)
Mitzi Green On Benny Airing
Mitzi Green will be on the Jack Benny program tonight, the last of eight emanating from the coast.
Jack Benny, completing his picture for Eddie Small, returns to New York after tonight’s airing.
July 31, 1934
Benny East After Stay on Coast for Picture
Jack Benny and party arrived from Coast, where he played in ‘Transatlantic Merry-Go-Round.’ put in the can at Reliance last week. Benny left right after his broadcast from Los Angeles, Friday (27). With him came Mary Livingston (Mrs. Benny), Frank Parker, Harry Conn, Don Wilson, Dorothy Martin and Arthur S. Lyons.
Lyons closed deal for his N. Y. agency to represent Berg, Stebbins, Allenberg & Blum, and goes back in couple of weeks with contract to tie up agreement.
‘Bring on the Girls,’ the George S. Kaufman-Morrie Ryskind play which Sam H. Harris is readying, is booked to open the Morosco, N. Y., Nov. 9. Jack Benny will be the male lead.
‘Girl’ is the second production on the Harris schedule for the new season. First to reach the boards will be ‘Merrily We Roll Along,’ authored by Kaufman and Moss Hart. It will go into the Music Box Sept. 29.
August 14, 1934
J. BENNY VACATIONS.
Jack Benny leaves General Tire at the end of September and after a two week vacation resumes on NBC for Jell-O (General Foods).
It will make Benny’s fourth commercial commitment.
August 18, 1934
Harry (Morgan) Lee ... playing on the Jack Benny show.
[Note: Lee’s debut was on the August 3th show. A "Lee" is listed on scripts until November 1935].
August 21, 1934
Benny’s $5,750 Weekly
Salary that Jack Benny is slated to draw from his Jell-O contract represents the heftiest money progress made by any artist in radio. Within a period of two years his income has gone from $2,250 to $5,750 a week. Latter figure is what he’ll be getting from the dessert contract.
Benny’s deal with his present account, General Tire, calls for $4,500 a week.
September 4, 1934
News From the Dailies
Jack Benny has arrived in New York after a short vacation at the Spa. He starts work in ‘Bring on the Girls’ immediately. This is the George Kaufman-Morrie Riskind farce to be produced by Sam Harris in November.
September 15, 1934
GENERAL TIRE POINTS PROUDLY
To Jack Benny and Results of National Radio Drive — As Artist is “Farmed Out” to Jello
BEST PROOF that Jack Benny’s weekly radio program over an NBC-WEAF network has been getting: results for the General Tire & Rubber Co, lies in the fact that the sponsor, through President William O’Neil, has just contracted with the comedian and his troupe for a new series of coast-to-coast programs starting next spring and extending through the summer of 1935, according to a statement to BROADCASTING by the General Tire Company.
Next month Benny goes on the air for General Foods, Inc., New York (Jello) in a 26-week schedule over an NBC-WEAF network, but he returns to General Feb. 26 by mutual agreement between the companies. Hays MacFarland & Co., Chicago agency, handles the General account, while Young & Rubicam is handling the Jello account.
Story of Success
FOLLOWING is the story of the General Tire Co. on the success of the Benny program and how it has sold tires:
“While Benny and his associates, Mary Livingstone (or Mrs. Jack Benny), Frank Parker and Don Bestor’s orchestra are to be “farmed out,” after a manner of speaking, to another sponsor for the winter months, during which the tire activities of all rubber companies are at their lowest ebb of the year, they will again be broadcasting under the General Tire banner long before warm weather comes next spring.
“General Tire has formed its opinion of the value of Benny and his associates as tire merchandisers from an informal survey of the dealers who distribute its products. Reports from distributors of General Tires in all parts of the country indicate that his programs have had a nation-wide appeal and that thev have been clicking equally well in the far West and the solid South as in the Northwest and the New England states.
“In many cities, dealers have been supplementing Benny’s programs with local newspaper advertising in which they remind readers of the station and of the time when Benny and his cast may be heard each week.
Like Commercial Jibing
“COMPANY sales representatives have reported that, in numerous cases, Benny’s programs and clever “plugging” of General Tires have been instrumental in persuading prospective General Tire dealers to apply for General franchises in, their particular localities.
“From many cities have come reports that radio listeners like the unusual manner in which Benny introduces the name of his sponsor’s product at occasional intervals in the programs. The fact that he does not permit either himself or the announcer to become too serious in their references to the product not only does not detract from the value of the commercial references but adds both to their interest and effectiveness, many General Tire dealers have reported. Benny’s particular type of commercial “plug” was tried as more or less of an experiment after General had sponsored a previous program in which all references to the product were in a serious, business-like vein.
“An analysis of comments made by radio editors of daily newspapers throughout the country indicates that their composite opinion of the Benny programs coincides very closely with that of the majority of General Tire dealers. Reflecting as they do the cross-section of the average opinion of their readers on the more important programs, General Tire advertising officials say they feel that Benny’s programs have been making and keeping many friends for General in all parts of the country.
“Naturally, it is impossible to arrive, even approximately, at an idea of the actual concrete results of a national, radio program in the matter of sales.. Many kinds of radio listener surveys have been made with a view to determining this but all have necessarily lacked definiteness in actual results.
“GENERAL TIRE dealers, as a rule, however, say that they find that Benny’s programs appeal to nearly all classes of listeners and that, because of their variety and apparently spontaneous informality, they are looked forward to every week by many thousands of dialers.
“Good music is an important part of a program such as Jack Benny presents and critics who have commented on the excellence of the Benny broadcasts give no small part of the credit for their results to the tenor voice of Frank Parker and the intriguing melodies of Don Bestor and his musicians. No small part of the success of Benny himself is generally attribututed [sic] to the excellent complementary fun provided by his wife, Mary Livingstone.
“General Tire believes that people, generally, like to listen to Jack Benny and do not tire of him and that, therefore, he is a good product merchandiser. Believers in quality always, General Tire believes that its entertainers correspond in quality with its merchandise.
September 18, 1934
SUNDAY SOLD COMMERCIAL 1-11 P.M.
For the first time in the history of the web NBC has one day’s schedule that is booked solid with commercials from 1 in the afternoon until 11 o’clock at night. It’s the Sunday stretch on the red (WEAF) loop.
This unbroken run of sponsored programs won’t, however, become effective until Oct. 14. On that date Jell-O debuts its Jack Benny show and in the meantime (30) the Pontiac and American Rolling Mills are each due to bow in with a half-hour stanza.
October 9, 1934
Oct. 14—Jack Benny, Mary Livingston, Frank Parker, Don Bestor orchestra (General Foods-Jell-O, 7, WJZ).
RCA RADIOTRON PARTY
Guest Stars, John B. Kennedy
WJZ, New York
This is a program that should find followers. Tube firm (NBC cousin) calls upon the full resources of network broadcasting for personalities and stars.
Program caught (6) had Jack Benny, Mary Livingstone, Frank Parker as guests. More of Livingstone than is generally vouchsafed. But no offhand matter with the comic who gave the guest stunt seemingly as much attention as he gives his regular broadcasts.
There is one of those workmanlike but undistinguished NBC house orchestras doing the musical background. This is batoned by frank Black under contract to the network and hence bobbing up all over the schedule whenever the sponsor hasn’t any contrary ideas of just wants everyday music. John B. Kennedy is the permanent name on the program.
Kennedy is getting a big play this year. He’s a clever gent. Glib and versatile. Can hop from the ridic to the sobs. There’s lots of water in that Kennedy well.
October 16, 1934
Mary Livingston, Frank Parker, Don Bester, Don Wilson
Comedy, Songs, Band
WJZ, New York
Jack Benny took fourth network backer, Jell-O, last Sunday evening (14) and laid down an introductory performance that moved on all comedy cylinders.
With him Benny brought over his entire stock company, stooges, warbler, band and announcer, and smacked out a series of solid chuckles with the deft way he went about weaving each of the principals into the proceedings. It’s the earliest spot (7 p.m. EST) that Benny has ever filled in his stepping from account to account, but that should be of no worry to General Foods. They’ll get home in time to tune in on him.
Account attempts something new in the way of credit ballyhoo by opening and fading out with a collegiate cheer spelling the word Jell-O. Thing is adroitly handled, although the connection of a grandstand by-product with a kitchen article might impress as not only confusing but farfetched. Inclusion of a newsboy shouting, ‘Extra! Extra! the new Jell-O has extra rich flavor,’ is another one of those attempts to get away from the stereotyped. Latter resort registered effectively.
General Foods took advantage of the Benny inning to put in a plug for its Log Cabin Syrup affair on the same network Wednesday nights. This was done by the device on having read a wire from Lanny Ross, central figure in the Wednesday show, congratulating Benny on his new connection. Odec.
3 Out-of-Town Weeks to Set ‘Girls’ Gags
‘Bring on the Girls,’ by George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind, with Jack Benny starred, will be tried out of town for three weeks by Sam H. Harris. Play is a laugh show and timing of lines is the reason for keeping it out.
‘Girls’ opens in Washington next week, followed by a two-week date in Philadelphia. It is slated for the Morosco, N. Y., about mid-November.
October 23, 1934
New York Radio Parade
By Nellie Revell
Jello with Jack Benny at NBC enlarges the network on Nov. 4 to include KGU at Honolulu.
October 30, 1934
‘Transatlantic Merry-Go-Round’ Billed in K.C. as World Premiere, Only Fair $7,500
Kansas City. Oct. 29.
Managers really went to town for their current attractions and amusements are looking up.
For in return to vaudeville and the picture ‘Happiness Ahead,’ the Mainstreet put on the most extensive publicity campaign the house has had for months and the weekend crowds were evidence that the Mainstreet’s customers like their flesh.
Midland, with ‘Transatlantic Merry-Go-Round’ and the Newman showing ‘Cleopatra’ also spread plenty of printers’ ink and are doing business.
Estimates for the Week
Midland (Loew) (4,000; 25-40)—‘Transatlantic Merry-Go-Round’ (UA).—Billed heavily as a world’s premiere, this first Jack Benny feature just fair. Close to $7,500. Last week ‘What Every Woman Knows’ (MG). Failed to show the strength expected and finished with $8,100.
Despite that Sam H. Harris decided to temporarily close ‘Bring on the Girls’ after its initial tryout performance in Washington last week, satire on the New Deal drew business in the Capital for the balance of the date. Jack Benny tops cast of show which was slated for two weeks in Philadelphia.
George Kaufman and Morris Ryskind, who authored, agreed with the producer that the last act should be entirely rewritten. Rather than attempt the revision during continuous rehearsals, they deemed it beat to come back to New York. Harris used the same procedure before, notably with ‘June Moon,’ withdrawn at tryout but later a Broadway success.
Did You Know That—
The Jack Bennys have ordered a cute nursery at Essex House for their child.
October 31, 1934 (Daily)
‘Transatlantic Merry-Go-Round’ Whirls In 26 Cities
New York, Oct. 30. Eddie Small’s Reliance production, ‘Transatlantic Merry-Go-Round,’ has opened to solid business in 26 cities outside New York, with Cincinnati already marking it in for a second week.
Picture, which has Jack Benny and a surrounding name cast, gets its start here at the Rivoli within the week.
November 6, 1934
United Artists release of Reliance-Edward Small production. Features Gene Raymond, Nancy Carroll, Jack Benny. Directed by Benjamin Stoloff. Story, Leon Gordon; additional dialog and scenes, Joneph M. March: comedy dialog, Harry W. Conn; camera, Ted Tetzlaff; songs by Dick Whiting and Sidney Clare; numbers staged by Sammy Leo and Larry Seballos; musical direction, Al Newman. At Rivoli, N. Y., on grind run Oct. 31. Running time, 88 mins.
Cast: Gene Raymond, Jack Benny, Nancy Carroll, Sydney Howard, Mitzi Green, Sid Silvers, Sidney Blackmer, Ralph Morgan, Shirley Grey, Sam Hardy, William Boyd, Robert Elliott, Frank Parker, Carlyle Moore, Jean Sargent, Boswell Sisters, Rex Weber, Jimmy Grier orchestra and other specialty people.
‘Transatlantic Merry-Go-Round’ is good, popular screen entertainment. It may be likened to a seagoing ‘Grand Hotel’; its general number-staging may hard back to the Warner-Busby Berekley technique; its plot may be melodramatically familiar, and its general structure may remind of one or another American or British-made flicker, but in toto this Eddie Small-Reliance film has enough of each, and lots more of its own identity to stand up alone and on its own as okay film fare.
It's a musical which was originally captioned ‘Transatlantic Showboat’ as a working title until Universal objected this would jeopardize its own planned ‘Show Boat’ remake. Hence it became ‘Transatlantic Merry-Go-Round.’ But as the original title indicates, it's a showboat, and what a showboat.
Even on terra firma they couldn't they couldn’t put on those Sammy Lee-Larry Ceballos numbers with dozens of adagio teams, blackouts and stop-camera choreography which gives the lens technique such a great advantage over the actual stage.
But it’s all nice, clean fun. Thrown against this is a melodrama in which Jack Benny is the affable m.c., and wisely not too prominently propelled, but more than adequately pleasing for he is at home pacing the ship’s entertainments. In between he acts as Nancy Carroll’s big brother, although Benny’s juvenile personality is such that he makes the unrequited love equation ring true.
Interesting to the trade is the manner in which it brings Nancy Carroll, Gene Raymond and Sidney Blackmer to the fore as highly potent screen personalities. Always one of celluloid's champ lookers Miss Carroll has developed excellently as an actress and she'll go places. Gene Raymond has lost his boyishness and taken on firmness as a juvenile lead which, too, will carry the former Schubert’s Raymond Guion (from legit) further in celluloid dialog. Sidney Blackmer also impresses with each successive film as a highly effective personality heavy, playing his role to the hilt. Shirley Gray is a looker and an effective vamp as vis-a-vis.
There are a number of other excellent performances. Sam Hardy, as the pseudo-Montana come-on gambler who works the ocean liners; Robert Elliott, again tiptop as a dick (but on a vacash this time, until thrown into this dual murder mystery, larceny and intrigue on the Atlantic); Bill Boyd as a bad ‘un; Ralph Morgan as a duped husband who trails the two-timing Shirley Grey, and Carlyle Moore in a weakling assignment all register. Ditto Sydney Howard’s o.k. drunk.
Of the radio-recording musical people Sid Silvers, as Raymond’s stooge and ally, is in general good tempo. Silvers, of course, is now more Hollywood than musical comedy.
Frank Parker (of the Benny radio program) tenors the ‘Sweet of You’ theme song to a signal solo click, opposite Miss Carroll. The Boswell Sisters have two vocals with their trick harmonics, first in ‘Rock and Roll’ as a followup to Jean Sargent, who intros the song with Jimmy Grier’s band. The three Boswells then handle ‘If I Had a Million Dollars’ all alone. The Grier band (Los Angeles), accomps throughout.
Benny’s ‘Grind Hotel’ nonsense from the airwaves is good visual audience stuff (although very insidey and tipper-offer on how they fake the sound effects within a radio studio) as they burlesque the Metro-Garbo-all star screen version. It’s here that Mitzi Green slips in her canny George Arliss impression with ‘It’s Love.’ (Little Mitzi is now looking her 15 or 16 years of age, quite grown up and in pretty formal frock). Rex Weber also shows for a flash but he’s not even billed in the credits.
By the same token, the brought-to-Hollywood-from-radio Jean Sargent, Boswells and Frank Parker are not overworked, although the sum total has been wisely paced to emphasize the straight story and use the radio-musico stuff secondarily. The ether rep of the personnel obviously has various values. For example, the Broadway run gives Benny top billing, although he is officially third to Carroll and Raymond.
The number staging isn’t too lavish and elaborate, but highly effective.
Same goes for the film in general as certain box office fodder which possesses the additional virtue of having done something for some of its individual components. Abel
‘Girls’ Out Again After Kaufman-Ryskind Fixing
‘Bring On the Girls,’ the farce which Sam H. Harris withdrew after playing a week in Washington, will again take to the boards in two weeks. After three days in New Haven, it will play the Plymouth, Boston, prior to Broadway. Jack Benny remains at the head of the cast.
Last half of the show was entirely rewritten by George S. Kaufman and Morris Ryskind.
November 13, 1934
Friars Club reviving its Saturday night gag fests this Sat. (17), with Dr. S. L. Meylackson the season’s initial ribbee. Nat Burns, Jack Benny and Jay C. Flippen comprise the burn-up committee.
November 20, 1934
Here and There
Sam Hearn, vaude comic, did four different characterizations last week on three different network commercials. Appearances were with Eddie Cantor, Jack Benny and the Gibson Family.
November 27, 1934
BRING ON THE GIRLS
New Haven, Nov. 22.
Farce in prolog and three acts by George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind. Sets by Arthur Segal. Incidental music, with song by Arthur Schwartz and lyrics by Morrie Ryskind. Play staged by George S. Kaufman and presented by Sm H. Harris at Schubert, Nov. 22-24. Cast, Jack Benny, Porter Hall, Harry Levian, Edward Nannery, William J. Kelly, Claire Carleton, Muriel Campbell, Oscar Polk, Melba Kruger, Marion Volk, Rene Damur, Alice Burrage, George Anderson, Griffin Crafts, Richard Ogden and Alan Hewit.
Looks like the boys will have to try again on this one. After an initial tryout a few weeks ago, play was lifted in order to doctor up tje last half. Authors haven’t hit the nail on the head yet, even though the production docs contain a good deal of worthwhile stuff. Local reaction to the new Kaufman-Ryskind work classified it as a disappointment. An opening night audience of seasoned playgoers that was decidedly ‘with’ the production throughout the prologue had difficulty in holding its enthusiasm during the last half of the play. Play sets a fast pace in opening hour, but can’t hold it.
Inevitably, ‘Girls’ will be compared with ‘Of Thee I Sing,’ and this brings up a double question. Would ‘Sing’ have been such a smash on the strength of its comedy alone, as in the present case; and could Girls’ be lifted into the hit class by swinging it over to a musical to bolster its sagging moments? Kaufman himself states there never was a musical tangent in mind, while writing it, and he thinks it isn’t particularly adaptable to such, but a load of first-nighters as well as local crix disagree with that opinion.
Like ‘Sing,’ the new play takes a hefty whack at governmental policies, via the farce route. In general less devastating than in ‘Sing,’ is along the lines of suave ribbing. Play occasionally topples from the classification of straight farce into the depths of burlesque, it had a lot of laughs, but falls to sustain interest beyond 10:30 p. m. and, with an 11:10 curtain, that means too much deadwood. Written by less well known authors, the play might almost be accepted as is, but with two such writing names behind it, maybe the customers expected too much. Perhaps that’s the penalty that goes with Pulitzer prize winning.
Harris and Kaufman have given the production all they had in putting it on.
It’s elaborately staged as to detail (they even spot a live cow eating from a baby grand in an apartment) and contains some nice technical work. Plenty has boon spent on sets and costumes, and cast looks to be rather expensive, too.
Authors have made the RFC the butt of their ribbing this time. A couple of bankers, fresh from a five-year stretch in Atlanta, try to acquire a failing railroad in order to get a loan from RFC on the strength of rebuilding the road. A slip-up in the proceedings find the bankers landing the loan, but not really in possession of the road. When the dept. of Justice man, who originally took them to Atlanta and is now keeping an eye on thorn, clamps down on them for fraud, the bankers turn their N. Y. apartment into a farm because the RFC lends to farms as well as railroads. Just as it looks as though they’re not going to get away with it, a telegram arrives advising they own the railroad after all and everything is jake.
A half-dozen chorus girls lend color to the proceedings as officers and stockholders of the in-again-out-again railroad and a bit of love interest is worked in by having the bankers matrimonially bound with a couple of the girls at the finish.
Jack Benny and Porter Hall are the bankers and are well cast. As far as funny is concerned, the play is an ambitious step-up for the vaude-air comedian and he handles himself creditably. Slow on picking up cues at times, but it’s no cinch to break in a long part and at the same time rehearse for a weekly air show. On the whole, Benny’s work was satisfactory.
Porter Hall offers a more polished performance. As Charley, the not-too-bright fall guy who accompanied Benny to Atlanta because he signed a fluke bank statement without understanding it, he fits his part in appearance, delivery and action. William J. Kelly is aces as Crawford, the dept. of justice man, and George Anderson and Griffin Crafts make a couple of good ex-professors turned brain-trusters for the RFC. Femme leads are handled well by Claire Carleton and Muriel Campbell. Oscar Polk gets some comedy out of a colored elevator boy role, and the beautiful-but-dumb chorus girls parts are authentic.
Play's title is misleading, with everybody looking for a musical. Bone.
December 4, 1934
‘All Stars’ Sock $25,000, Boston; Benny Show 12G; Both Held Over
Boston, Dec. 3
Leading grosser on Hub boards is still ‘Calling All Stars’ at the Shubert, now going into its third week. ‘Bring on the Girls’ opened inauspiciously last week, but over the week-end showed encouraging pick-up.
‘Bring on the Girls,’ Plymouth. Jack Benny and company not up to expectations on opening, but packed up last three days. Looks like $12,000 for first stanza, eight performances. In for a second week.
December 11, 1934
Gen. Foods Gives Local Sponsor 2 Periods as Exchange for Sun. Time
St. Paul, Dec. 10.
Filled niches on KSTP’s schedule had several sponsors in a froth until switches were effected—and now everybody’s happy.
General Foods wanting to air Jack Benny over KSTP but found the Sunday night spot occupied by Juster Bros. men’s clothiers. Foods promptly offered to give Juster two 15-minute week-time spots, on Tuesday and Thursday, for the one 15-minute Sunday night period. New deal begins Dec. 16.
Similarly, Johnson Wax has bought Knox Co.’s Cystex 4:45-5:00 P. M. Sunday niche in order to air Tony Wons. New arrangement effective Dec. 23.
‘STARS’ AT 18G; BENNY, 7G, BOSTON
‘Bring on the Girls,’ Plymouth. Left town after two-week run. Second week a puny $7,000 for Jack Benny and his farceurs.
December 18, 1934
‘GIRLS’ OFF INDEF; SAM HARRIS WEST
Sam H. Harris has decided to indefinitely postpone the presentation ‘Bring on the Girls.’ Broadway probably will not see the play until next season, it needing still further script changes.
Show starred Jack Benny. It was sent out twice for try-outs, most recently playing two weeks in Boston and a split week between Springfield and Hartford. Business was fairly good. First half of the play is highly satisfactory to the producer on comedy strength but a wholly new last act is to be contrived by the authors, George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind.
Harris has booked ‘As Thousands Cheer’ until April, the revue possibly touring throughout the season. Plan to follow it with ‘More Cheers,’ with the same cast virtually intact, is off until next season. ‘Cheer’ is laying off in Chicago this week and resumes there next week.
Producer goes to Palm Springs this week, remaining west through the winter.
December 25, 1934
WARNER BOOK SETS 2 MORE JERSEY SPOTS
Warner booking office has added two houses, one of them, the Earle, Atlantic City, having opened Friday (21) on a three-day stand. It will play five acts or units on an indefinite basis.
Stanley, Jersey City, starts Friday (28) as a spot-booked full-weeker, playing stage shows only when a name act or attraction is available.
Jack Benny will headline the first J.C. bill.