Jack Benny’s professional life had settled into a bit of a rhythm in 1938. There were no changes to the cast of his radio show (which hovered near the top of the ratings), Paramount had him in one picture a year and the vaudeville revue he had been headlining with the Chicken Sisters and others had been put away. He was still making charity appearances and had moved into his new home on Roxbury Drive in Beverly Hills.
Let’s leaf through the pages of Variety, both the Hollywood and New York editions, to see what “our little star” was up to. I’ve avoided minutiae about movie castings, costume fittings, social outings, writing junkets to Lake Arrowhead and the controversy over finding a summer replacement show (eventually, General Foods decided on “Hobby Lobby”).
The picture Never Say Die was turned into a vehicle for Bob Hope; producer Arthur Hornblow thought it was better suited to him than Benny. Blonde Hungarian Franciska Gaal vanished from the cast; reading between the lines in Variety, Paramount felt she had problems with English and dropped her option by year’s end. Weekly Variety, for a time, had squibs commenting on Jack’s radio shows in addition to the usual review of the season premiere. Eddie Anderson began to be more prominently featured due to his tremendous popularity. Vocalist Kenny Baker signed to do Texaco Star Theatre; a year later, he dumped Jack’s show to concentrate fully on that. And at the end of the year, the smuggling case that resulted in charges against Jack (and George Burns) began coming to light.
January 7, 1938
Latest picture player to join list of horse owners is Eddie Anderson, Negro actor now at Warners in 'Jezebel.' Anderson purchased Porto Pal, two-year-old this week and has hired a trainer to ready nag for Santa Anita running. Anderson also is on the Jack Benny air show.
Sacramento, Jan. 7.—Although Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy are leading in the nation-wide poll currently being conducted by dailies in 46 key cities to determine the most popular ether feature, Sacramento has thrown the nod to One Man's Family, it was revealed in a vote count today.
Second place locally goes to Jack Benny, with Bergen and McCarthy poor third.
January 10, 1938
Numerous stars of films and radio will appear Saturday. Jan. 22 at the Hollywood Warners theatre in a benefit for the widow and child of the late Ted Healy.
Jack Benny heads list. Others include: James Cagney, Pat O'Brien, Olsen and Johnson, John Boles, Al Jolson, John McCormick, Phil Baker, Dick Powell, George Jessel, Rudy Vallee, Ray Bolger, Bert Wheeler and Spencer Tracy.
Tickets are on sale at the Warners Hollywood boxoffice.
Entertainment committee includes Bryan Foy, Harry Seymour, Lew Cooper and Sol Dolgin.
January 11, 1938
Oklahoma City, Jan. 10.—Charlie McCarthy polled 605 votes to win local radio pop contest with 523 putting Bing Crosby in second and 493 for Jack Benny.
Followed Burns-Allen 132; Nelson Eddy, 110; Fred Allen, 99; Rudy Vallee. 97; Bob Burns, 75; One Man's Family, 54; Charles Butterworth, 50; Don Ameche, 47; Fibber McGee, 38.
January 12, 1938
San Francisco, Jan, 11.
Now that Jack Benny and his Jello gang have hied themselves back to Hollywood, local offices of General Foods and NBC are resuming normal activity for the first time in more than a week. Unprecedented demand for admission tickets to Benny's two broadcasts from the Community Playhouse, a 660-seater in the Western Women's Club building, here Sunday (9), had the sponsor and NBC in a dither ever since word got out that Benny was coming to town.
More than 30,000 written requests were received, in addition to an unestimated flood of telephone calls which kept both General Foods and NBC switchboards buzzing continually throughout the week. Execs and other employees, from managers to office boys, were deluged with pleas for ducats, many of the requests coming from almost-forgotten friends or acquaintances who had dropped out of sight for years. Among requests was one from the office of Governor Frank Merriam of California.
Tom Harrington and Bill Stuart of Young & Rubicam came up from Hollywood to supervise arrangements for the broadcasts. Gag writers Bill Morrow and Ed Beloin also in town. Benny, with Morrow and Beloin, met the local radio scribes last Wednesday at a breakfast in the Hotel St. Francis. Comedian said then he hoped to come to San Francisco for another personal appearance in about three months.
January 15, 1938
Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy have been added to the lineup of talent which will participate in the Warm Springs Foundation broadcast tonight over National Broadcasting blue web. Others who volunteered their services yesterday were Jack Benny, Walter O'Keefe, Dorothy Lamour, Tony Martin, Alice Faye and Kenny Baker.
New York, Jan. 14.—Broadway personalities chipped in $57,000 today for the Federation of Jewish Charities, at a luncheon held at the Astor hotel, in honor of Louis Sobol, columnist. Ed Wynn emceed the spread. Speakers were Judge Joseph M. Proskauer, Louis Nizer, Ben Bernie and Sobol.
Total of $168,000 has been raised by the amusement industry in the federation's campaign, $50,000 of which was contributed by Hollywood. Coast contribs include Phil Baker, Eddie Cantor, Jack Benny and Louis K. Sidney.
January 18, 1938
Bill Morrow and Ed Beloin, writers of the Jack Benny airshow, report at Paramount today to write dialog for 'Never Say Die,' next Benny picture. Raoul Walsh will direct.
January 19, 1938
San Francisco... Lloyd Yoder is in the dog house with Carl Kroenke because he thought the NBC actor was trying to crash the gates for the Jack Benny show last week. Kroenke took the part of the Chinaman. Yoder had been told Benny would use a real Chinese for the part. [The broadcast was on Jan. 12. Yoder was a manager for NBC].
January 22, 1938
Dale Armstrong, LA Times radio editor, debuts new quarter hour airviewer on KFI Tuesday. Program known as Radiolio deals with interviews of topnotch airists. Jack Benny will be first to face mike with Armstrong. Tuesday night interviews held by Armstrong on KFAC have been cancelled.
January 29, 1938
Carole Lombard, Martha Raye, Burns and Allen and Jack Benny with Mary Livingstone will be bit players in Par's 'Cocoanut Grove.' According to the script, they will make brief appearances at the Grove in the pic. (What happened to Warners 'Garden of the Moon' starring the same night spot?).
January 31, 1938
Mary Livingstone has a platinum cigarette case with jewel charms that Jack Benny spent six months in collecting. The charms include three star sapphires and an old Maxwell done in diamonds.
February 1, 1938
In an exchange of guests, Jack Benny will appear on Metro's 'Good News' broadcast (17) and Robert Taylor goes on the Jello program (13). Deal is also on for a similar arrangement between Phil Baker and Metro for Taylor to do a swap for Baker's nemesis, Beetle (Ward Wilson) who has been haunting various shows.
February 2, 1938
As a gesture to Phil Harris, who is doing a dance stand at the Palomar, Jack Benny will take his radio troupe to the nitery tomorrow night for some impromptu hijinks. Program will be aired over Columbia coast network.
Chase & Sanborn's Sunday night hour on NBC zooms to an all time C.A.B. popularity rating of 44.9 in the latest compilation of that copyrighted trade barometer. This is a jump of around 7 points since the Mae West-Don Ameche skit that caused all the uproar, censorship threats, apologies, spankings and headaches.
Looks like the public is not concerned with the moral aspects of the much-vaunted case. Or that the front page and pulpit advertising compensated for all the difficulties by stimulating an audience perkup.
By the standards, and on the mathematical logic of C.A.B., figure of 44.9 means that about half the radio sets in the United States tuned in on the Edgar Bergen-Charlie McCarthy gallop.
In the half hour group Jack Benny romps in with 36.9 in the latest report.
February 9, 1938
More than 100 of filmdom's top personalities have volunteered their services as entertainers for the Screen Stars' Spring festival for the benefit of Mount Sinai Hospital and Clinic, to be held Feb. 28 at the Palomar. George Jessel is general chairman, and also will serve as master of ceremonies.
Funds will be used to finance the new clinic, where the needy are given free treatment and medicine.
Among the first to enlist for the program were Phil Harris, whose orchestra is the current attraction at the ballroom, and Jack Benny.
Max E. Marx, executive secretary of the clinic, announced that tickets for the benefit are available at Mount Sinai downtown headquarters, 416 West Eighth street.
February 12, 1938
Phil Harris and the Jello air troupe, minus Jack Benny and Mary Livingstone, will guest on the Jack Oakie program Tuesday.
February 14, 1938
February 17, 1938
Fanny (Baby Snooks) Brice draws Jack Benny as a partner in her great love scene for Metro's Good News of 1938 today. After playing similar scenes with Robert Taylor, Clark Gable, Jimmy Stewart and Lou Gehrig, Miss Brice said after last night's rehearsals: Making mike-love with Benny is like shadow boxing; it's a lot of work but no one gets hurt.'
February 21, 1938
Jack Benny has compromised Board of Tax Appeals claim that radio comic was deficient $7,756 on his income tax for 1934. Benny will pay $4,500.
February 23, 1938
Jeanette MacDonald, Jack Benny, Edgar Bergen, Bob Burns and Allan Jones will furnish entertainment at testimonial dinner for Louis B. Mayer in Biltmore ballroom tomorrow night. Edward Ward will be musical director.
March 11, 1938
On short vacation, Jack Benny leaves for New York Monday (14) and his March 27 broadcast will originate from there. Benny will be accompanied by his writers Bill Morrow and Eddie Beloin, and Andy Devine. Mary Livingstone, Benny's wife, remains in Hollywood, while Kate Smith has been engaged to appear on the eastern broadcast.
Comic is slated to return here in time for his April 3 broadcast and then starts preparations for his starring spot in Paramount's 'Artists and Models." Arthur Hornblow, Jr., is producing.
March 12, 1938
Cliff Nazarro does a repeater on the Jack Benny broadcast Sunday with his double talk.
March 15, 1938
Jack Benny and Joe Penner will be on Phil Baker's broadcast Sunday to help him observe his fifth anniversary on the air. Special script is being dished up by Hal Block, Art Phillips and Nat Perrin.
Baker takes his troupe east after airing (27) for NY originations remainder of the current series. He will take a summer layoff of 13 weeks and return in early fall under his same sponsorship, Gulf Oil.
March 16, 1938
Hubbell Robinson of Young & Rubicam agency has the lead article in the current Scribner's magazine. It's heap big ballyhoo for Y. & R.’s Jello account and Jack Benny, but Robinson got paid for it.
Jack Benny is kidding Tom Harrington of Young & Rubicam because it was averred in the Scribner's article that the Jello program wanted jokes that were not too funny. Some mystery as to how that idea crept into the tale. Not in the original.
March 18, 1938
Film and radio personalities will provide the ‘flesh’ show, with a preview of a Warners feature as screen fare, at the benefit entertainment set by the Women's Welfare league for midnight, Saturday, at the Carthay Circle theatre.
Among those who will participate in the bill are Mischa Auer, Jack Benny, Bonita Granville, Billy Roberts, Dolores Costello, Mickey Rooney, Sidney Miller, Junior Coghlan, Rudy Vallee, the Galli Sisters, Jack Mulhall, Clarence Muse, Donald Crisp, George Jessel and the Fanchon and Marco girls.
March 21, 1938
Frisco Chatter... 1939 Exposition has assurance that Jack Benny, Chase & Sanborn, Burns and Allen and several Columbia shows will originate in Treasure Island's radio hall, planned to seat several thousands.
March 22, 1938
George Jessel helps Jack Benny celebrate his birthday on Jello broadcast here April 3. Next Sunday's airing is from New York with guesters including Kate Smith, Fred Allen, Robert Ripley, Harry Von Zell and Abe Lyman's orchestra.
April 4, 1938
Jack Benny is back from his short New York vacation scheduled to star in Paramount's 'Artists and Models' as his next picture, under direction of Mitchell Leisen.
Gals and Gab... Bill Morrow planting a blow-up cigaret with Phil Harris just before the Jack Benny show and frightening Joan Bennett who was visiting in the control room.
April 4, 1938
Sam Hearn's Frisco p.a. Sam Hearn has obtained leave- of-absence from his radio chore on the Jack Benny show for next Sun day (10). Comic opens week's personal appearance at the Golden Gate theatre, San Francisco, Wednesday (6). Leo Morrison handled the deal.
April 13, 1938
Jack Osterman column... Jack Benny told us [Al] Jolson promised Ruby [Keeler] he had sworn off betting on the nags, and on their way to Benny's new home she asked, 'Al, how far is it?' Jolson answered, "Only six furlongs more'.
Jack Benny and Phil Baker both used a burlesque of Metro's 'Yank at Oxford' on their shows last Sunday night (10). It was particularly unfortunate since the programs are in sequence, although not on the same networks.
Benny show, over WEAF for Jello, Benny show, was a punchy session for the series, particularly in the early portion, Baker show, on the other hand, was a weakie. Flock of misfire gags and labored puns weren't even close to average for the show. On more than one occasion the wait for an expected laugh that didn't come tossed the timing off.
April 20, 1938
Headliners added to the entertainment program for the Tri-Guild Ball Thursday (21) at the Cocoanut Grove include Jack Benny, George Burns and Gracie Allen in a specialty act; Frank Morgan and Gloria Stuart in a comedy skit; Freddie Fisher's Schnickelfritz Band, Maxine Sullivan, Bill Robinson, Judy Garland, Fanny Brice and her Baby Snooks routine, Ethel Merman and Bob Burns in a surprise number. Entertainment will supplement dinner and dancing, affair being first given jointly by Screen Actors Guild, Screen Directors Guild and Screen Writers Guild.
April 21, 1938
Jack Benny will give his own version of 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs' with members of his Jello cast taking the various parts during their airing Sunday on National red network.
April 23, 1938
April 28, 1938
Rochester, butler to Jack Benny, has entered the Jack Benny Maxwell in the annual Fresno Hack Race, at Fresno State College, Friday. Race is for jaloppies 13 years old or more. Slow motion automobile feature will be ethered on Blue network of National Broadcasting from 2:30 to 3 p.m.
May 11, 1938
Two-comedians-with-one-idea is a situation that has bobbed up repeatedly through the present season. And Sunday seems the one night when the odds favor it. It happened again (8) when Jack Benny, at 7, over NBC, and Phil Baker, at 7:30. over CBS, had Mother's Day routines and also references (though here the resemblance was less close) to mayors.
Both programs were puffing a bit from the hard work of stabbing at the giggle-bag. Both had some classy moments and funny gaga. And both measured the river bottom of humor.
May 18, 1938
Mary Kelley has joined Phil Baker's supporting troupe on the Gulf Oil show. She was formerly with Jack Benny and Eddie Cantor.
May 23, 1938
JACK BENNY broke a standing rule on his program yesterday by opening a two chapter version of a current motion picture, 'The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,' Selznick-International production. Heretofore Benny has refused to carry over his comic versions of films. SI got a three appearance plug and full credits with the announcement a week ago, first chapter last night and concluding one next Sunday.
May 28, 1938
Jack Benny will act as master of ceremonies for the Motion Picture Electrical Pageant which will be held the night of June 9 at the Coliseum as one of the features of the Shrine convention.
June 1, 1938
Jack Benny gave most of his 30 minutes last Sunday night (29) to goofy dramatizations. In and out, but mostly missing. First part had the comic practicing for the rehearsal for his next Paramount picture. He had the blackface, Rochester, reading Joan Bennett's lines. Fair, though obvious.
Latter portion was a continuation of his previous week's Tom Sawyer takeoff. Benny doubled as Tom and the schoolmaster. Andy Devine was Huck Finn, Mary Livingstone was Becky Thatcher. Phil Harris was Tom's sissy brother, Sid. Most of the laughs came near the close, when the schoolmaster coached the class to get off all sorts of jibes at Fred Allen. Familiar mock ribbing fest.
June 8, 1938
Phil Baker and Jack Benny both had 'echo' gags Sunday. This routine has possibly been done more this season and by more comics than any other. A moratorium is perhaps in order. [Harry Baldwin played the echo on the Benny show].
June 9, 1938
Commercial radio shows picked up a nice gain in average ratings this spring over a corresponding period last year, it is revealed in a table of comparisons compiled for its subscribers by Cooperative Analysis of Broadcasting (Crossley). Seasonal canvass discloses that the 10 leading programs in rural areas are, in the following order, Chase & Sanborn, Jack Benny, Major Bowes, Lowell Thomas, National Barn Dance, Burns and Allen, Town Hall, Lux Radio Theatre, One Man's Family and Phil Baker. Seven of the ten are listed as most favored by urban listeners.
June 10, 1938
Joan Bennett will do a love scene with Jack Benny on his Jello airer Sunday, plugging their Paramount picture, ‘Artists and Models Abroad.’
June 11, 1938
Jack Benny and his writers, Bill Morrow and Ed Beloin, have postponed their summer vacations to work on the next Benny film for Paramount. Picture will follow closely on current 'Artists and Models Abroad.' Benny was going to Honolulu with the scripters headed for South America.
June 22, 1938
Jack Benny will do another guest appearance en Lux Soap's dramatic series over CBS July 11.
Comic parts with General Foods (Jell-O) for the summer following the June 26 broadcast.
June 30, 1938
Jack Benny yesterday tore up the contracts of Bill Morrow and Eddie Beloin, his radio writers, and handed them new ones. Only change in the tickets, which run to 1941, was in the coin, which was considerably upped.
July 11, 1938
Jack Benny has been set as master of ceremonies for the annual polo benefit for the Motion Picture Relief Fund, which will be held Sunday at Uplifters Field. Ginger Rogers and Joan Bennett are sponsoring the opposing teams.
July 14, 1938
July 20, 1938
Jack Benny will head cast of 'Man About Town' at Paramount. Mark Sandrich will direct. Arthur Hornblow will produce. Picture will not get under way until Nov.
July 30, 1938
Jack Benny will do a solo vacation, driving east, while Mary Livingstone staying home to mind the children [sic].
August 10, 1938
Eddie Anderson starts work today at Paramount in 'Thanks For the Memory.' Actor's picture name will be Rochester, same as used on his Jack Benny radio broadcast.
August 12, 1938
Bill Morrow, radio writer for Jack Benny, has long nursed a yen to loll on the beach at Waikiki. Last week he sailed for the isle to rest up before the fall grind begins. When his boat landed he was taken off on a stretcher and rushed to a hospital for an emergency operation. He'll pass two weeks in ward two.
August 24, 1938
Lineup of talent for Texaco's Star Theatre, debutting on the Columbia network Oct. 5, has virtually been set. Adolphe Menjou will do the emceeing and take an occasional dramatic fling on the petrol show with his wife, Veree Teasdale. Presiding over the comedy section will be Charles Ruggles and Una Merkel. On the vocal end will be Jane Froman and Kenny Baker. Latter doubles over from Jack Benny's Jello show. David Broekman's 35-piece crew fills the music niche.
Dramatic section will feature guesters from pictures and will be tied in with Max Reinhard't Workshop. Program airs here from 9:30 to 10:30 p.m. on Wednesday nights, the first half bucking Fred Allen in the east. Broadcast originates in Hollywood's KNX main studio, heard along the coast at 6:30 p.m.
August 31, 1938
Cecil B. DeMille turns actor over the air on the Lux Radio Theatre Sept. 26 with Jack Benny and Mary Livingston. Will be the producer's first radio acting spot though he is the emcee. Play will be modern radio version of Seven Keys to Baldpate.
DeMille is cast as himself. Will be the first time he has acted, he declares, since playing role of faro dealer in 'The Squaw Man,' his first motion picture production filmed 25 years ago.
September 1, 1938
Dorothy Lamour gets co-star spot with Jack Benny in Paramount's 'Man About Town,' which Mark Sandrich will direct as an Arthur Hornblow, Jr., production. This is Miss Lamour's top assignment, coming as result of her work in Spawn of the North.
Comedy based on Benn Levy's original screen play is being scripted by Allan Scott, and starts Nov. 14.
September 14, 1938
Radio's golden stream will pour over $5,000,000 into the coffers of film players in the next 39 weeks. Coin spread more than doubles the largesse scattered last season. Around 600 players will drag down that bonanza— and Uncle Sam won't be standing around in boxing gloves, either.
Top coin for a name player is still pegged at $5,000 a guest shot. Jack Benny, now a definite picture personality, still nets himself around $12,000 a week, and there are others nicking the sponsorial hander-outers for equally important wherewithal.
Plans for a ban on film stars who are also featured on the radio are underway in upstate New York today following special sessions here of the Allied Theatre Owners of New York, Inc. More than 300 independent exhibitors who are members of the association went on record as opposing appearances of film aces on the airwaves, charging that such radio programs are cutting heavily into their business. They are now trying to line up some kind of support for a direct appeal to major studios to ban players from the radio.
Lead in the battle was taken by Max A. Cohen of New York, president of the Allied Theatre Owners. His attack on such stars as Jack Benny, who receives substantial incomes from both films and radio, stole the limelight at the meeting here, called to discuss the role of the independents in the U. S. anti-trust suit against the major companies.
Orders currently on hand with the networks indicate that Jack Benny's program for Jell-O will this season again have the largest commercial hookup of stations, in the U. S. and Canada. Following are the programs that are slated to have from 60 stations up:
Jack Benny 113
Al Jolson 112
Edw. G. Robinson 112
September 17, 1938
Paramount initiated 110 members into its American Legion Post. Members include: Jack Benny, Bob Burns, Raoul Walsh. William Wellman and James Hogan, most of whom transferred from other posts. Officiating was Corydon Hill, commander of the 24th district.
September 24, 1938
Jack Benny’s race nag. Buck Benny, will be brought to the Count for the Santa Anita season. Steel will travel with the Alfred Vanderbilt string.
September 28, 1938
Dorothy Griwatz, one of C. B. DeMille's five secretaries, getting good natured ribbing for playing role of herself in boss' Jack Benny-Mary Livingstone airshow. [Article means the Benny-Livingstone appearance on “Lux.” The Benny show hadn’t returned from its summer break].
BENNY, DEMILLE and BENNY
'Seven Keys to Baldpate'
Monday, 9 P.M.
WABC-CBS, New York
(J. Walter Thompson)
Radio reviewing is peculiarly tough. Take this case. Smart spotlight ads in the dailies must have aroused keen anticipation in radio fans. They promised that Lux would deliver Jack Benny and Mary Livingstone (Mrs. Benny) and that Cecil B. DeMille would turn actor. There were other flavorsome dishes, including more comedy about 'The Bee' promised. It added up on paper to terrific audience-guaranteeing showmanship.
Now granting the premise that it was an attraction that would be S.R.O. in the family parlors, there are two thoughts that immediately complicate radio reviewing. First, what is the point of boredom and in what ratio to the total listening audience will the results of boredom be effective? If a given line-up of talent can draw, let us say, 10,000,000 listeners and 35% tune off after 12 minutes, the residue may still be large enough and important enough to be a good buy for the sponsor. Making a chump out of mere criticism. A second point in the dilemma of the critic is that the invisible audience cannot be seen actually walking out as in a theatre. Everything is thus thrown back on intuitive guesswork. But it's a cinch a theatre audience would walk if this noisy, wandering, only occasionally funny and hopelessly old-fashioned piece was offered them.
It started out with a couple of minutes of flip exchange between the Bennys. It brought DeMille into the situation smoothly. But once the would-be playwright arrived at Baldpate Lodge to write, and the interminable series of screams, quaint people and other interruptions began, the program was puffing on the ropes. It was much too long and that goes double for the spaces, between laughs.
Admitting that the Benny comedy formula is the most effective on the air, that it has built and held a steady C.A.B. rating, that it has produced many half-hours of top-flight humor, this one proved that it can go wrong in the big way: Here it exposed all its mechanism. It creaked, wheezed, strained. And was, with interruptions, downright dull.
Legitimate division of opinion may, of course, exist as to the shrewdness of forever talking about making moving pictures in Hollywood. Shop talk has apparently become an obsession with Benny and his writers. Nobody will take this seriously so long as that rating stays sky-high, of course. And nobody will take this review seriously, either, unless the Lux program tumbles a few points, to further suggest a correlation. Land.
October 7, 1938
With Mary Livingstone, Kenny Baker, Phil Harris, Don Wilson
Comedy, Songs, Band
Sun., 7 p. m.
WEAF-NBC, New York
(Young & Rubicam)
What stood out in Jack Benny's re-entry in the 1938-39 C.A.B. steeplechase last weekend (2) was the novel way he introduced himself and the members of the cast. Each was sketched as hurriedly getting ready for the opening broadcast, and the whole thing added up to an unbroken fusillade of sock laughs. After that it was nip and tuck.
Most of the exchanges earned the usual Benny wallop, but there was one interval that sounded as though the troupe was taking time out to toss a hot potato. But even this doubtful interlude was compensated for. That came with the reading of a wire from Fred Allen, which said that he had heard the Benny program and that motion pictures would continue to be his best entertainment.
Benny had apparently elected to limit the participants to his permanent payroll for the opening installment. In addition to Mary Livingstone, Kenny Baker. Phil Harris and the salesman-stooge, Don Wilson, there was the blackface valet, 'Rochester,' and the perennial door-rapper with the quick rib. Among the nifty touches in the script was the foundation laid, for Kenny's British-imported valet. Kenny also contributed added underpinning to his status as one of radio's choice interpreters of romantic ditties. His voice and style are still making strides upward. Odec.
NBC's Radio City on the Coast was pressed into service last Sunday (2) at least two weeks before the plant will be ready for occupancy. Signal Carnival, a regional show, initiated the chain's signal from Sunset and Vine. Next week Jack Benny and Bob Hope move into the new quarters.
New plant will be opened without gala ceremony. Charge of 40 cents will be made for tours through the plant, the same price as prevails at Columbia down the street. Charles Thurman, in charge of guest relations for NBC in New York, is in L. A. to supervise the setup.
October 7, 1938
NBC is accused of none too affable treatment of Robert Wadlow, 8-foot, 8-inch giant, at the Jello broadcast last Sunday night. After he had consented to pose with Jack Benny and other members of the troupe for publicity stills he was gently escorted out of the studio and not allowed to remain for the show although he held two tickets. Network has the right to deny admission to the studio to any ticket holder and the premise for such action in this instance was that he would detract too much attention from the players on the stage. Wadlow took it as big as his stature and offered no protest although he had sought out the tickets to watch the show. NBC flackery stated that the stills taken with Wadlow will not be used.
October 14, 1938
Paramount yesterday set Jack Benny to star in ‘The Man In Evening Clothes,’ script for which is now being written by Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett. Harlan Thompson will produce. Picture will go into work in January, by which time Benny will have completed 'Man About Town.' [Dorothy Lamour signed as well].
October 18, 1938
November 2, 1938
Artists and Models Abroad
Hollywood, Oct. 26.
Paramount release of Arthur Hornblow, Jr. production. Stars Jack Benny and Joan Bennett; features Mary Boland, Charley Grapewin, Yacht Club Boys, Fritz Feld. Directed by Mitchell Leisen, Screenplay by Howard Lindsay, Russell Crouse, Ken Englund; from original story by Lindsay and Crouse, based on idea by J. P. McEvoy, Songs by Ralph Rainger and Leo Robin, Yacht Club Boys and Jock Rock. Musical direction, Boris Morros; camera, Ted Tetzlaff; asst. director, Richard Harlan; special effects, Farciot Edouart; editor, Doane Harrison. Previewed at Westwood Village, Oct. 25, '38, Running time, 90 mins.
Buck Boswell ... Jack Benny
Patricia Harper ... Joan Bennett
Mrs. Isabel Channing ... Mary Boland
James Harper ... Charley Grapewin
Yacht Club Boys ... Themselves
Dubois ... Fritz Feld
Marie ... Phyllis Kennedy
Gantvoort ... Monty Woolley
Elliott Winthrop ... George P. Huntley
Chickle ... Joyce Compton
Madame Brissard . . . Adrienne D'Ambricourt
Brissard ... Andre Cheron
Chaumont ... Jules Raucourt
Prefect of Police ... Georges Renavent
Simpson ... Chester Glute
Count Vassilly ... Alex Melesh
Dodie ... Dolores Cusey
Becky ... Sjeila Darcy
Red ... Yvonne Duval
Kansas ... Marie De Forest
Miss America ... Gwen Kenyon
Jersey ... Joyce Mathews
Punkins ... Mary Parker
This is Paramount's second annual edition of the 'Artists and Models' series. Original was decidedly a filmusical, with numerous specialties, but the studio has shied away from the main ingredients which characterized its predecessor and, instead, 'Artists and Models Abroad' is straight farce comedy. The models in a fashion show and the artists are missing entirely. Despite its departure from formula, it's substantial laugh entertainment that will hit better than average biz. Jack Benny dominates most of the action, and scores continually with crisp and zippy dialog.
Benny heads a troupe of American entertainers stranded in Paris. Texas oil millionaire Charley Grapewin and his daughter, Joan Bennett, are recruited into the group under impression they, too, are penniless Americans. Tossed out of a hotel, troupe beds down in Feminine Arts building, giving Benny a chance to promote the girls into the fashion show. Missing jewels bring the gendarmes for further complications, but troupe finally starts homeward after a mad mixup is untangled.
Romance between Benny and Miss Bennett is held in restraint, affair is sincerely put over but without getting into clinches, Benny has dropped enough poundage to make his leading man role convincing. Miss Bennett parades an eye-filling wardrobe throughout.
The Yacht Club Boys have a few spots for some effective clowning, and Charley Grapewin, Mary Boland, Joyce Compton and Phyllis Kennedy are likewise effective.
Yarn was especially tailored for Benny, and most effectively. Mitchell Leisen's direction is topnotch, and he carries the picture through at a speedy pace. Photography hits a high mark of quality, and Paris backgrounds are of exceptional merit.
Fashion tableaux in the Palace of Feminine Arts is a dazzling, display of creations by the noted Parisian couturiers — Alix, Paquin, Lanvin, Patou, Lelong, Schiaparelli, Maggy Rouft and Worth.
Musical portion is restricted to four numbers, a specialty by the Yacht Club Boys, written by themselves, two songs, and one number used as background during the fashion show. No production presentations aside from the clothes show. Specialty by the Yachters is 'You're Broke, You Dope'; pair of melodies are 'Do the Buckaroo' and 'What Have You Got That Gets Me?', by Ralph Rainger and Leo Robin, dovetailed into the action. Both tunes are limited to one verse and chorus each, handled by Benny, the Yacht Clubbers and showgirls. They're planted nicely without background flash and put over primarily as part of the action. 'You're Lovely Madame' is the vocal ensemble number, and has the best chance for pop appeal.
Paramount gave the picture top production mounting. Sets are elaborate, but do not detract from action and story movement.
November 11, 1938
Masquers tonight toss testimonial dinner for Jack Benny and Edgar Bergen at club quarters on N. Sycamore.
Edward Earle will preside as chairman. William Collier, Sr., prexy, will be toastmaster and Charlie McCarthy will be official host, making Bergen earn his supper.
Mario Chamlee of Metropolitan Opera heads show after dinner.
November 16, 1938
NBC last week sold its first regular hookup on the blue (WJZ) link since the introduction of the new system of added discounts for those buying blue supplementaries. Armco is the account. It will fill the 3 to 3:30 segment Sunday afternoons, starting Jan. 15, with its usual brass band performance. Contract is for 42 stations.
Network's station relations department has assured several affiliates on the blue that NBC would prevail upon the Jell-O division of General Foods to move Jack Benny over to the latter link from the red (WEAF). Benny got started on the blue, with the switch to the red taking place in 1936.
November 18, 1938
Jack Benny is planning to go east after first of the year and do several of the Jello broadcasts from the other seaboard. Don Wilson, who announces and participates in the Sunday hijinks, would sub a pinch-hitter on the Joe E. Brown program, on which he also barks the commercials. Entire troupe with the possible exception of Phil Harris would make the trip. [Warren Hull filled in for Wilson on the Brown show].
November 26, 1938
Sudden switch in plan will take the Jack Benny Jello airshow to New York for two weeks following tomorrow night's offering. Company trains out Monday on Super Chief on what representatives said was a personal business' trip for the comedian.
Those set to make the trip will be Mary Livingston, Bill Morrow and Ed Beloin, writers, Don Wilson and Rochester. Phil Harris will commute by plane for the two eastern shows from his night spot engagement in the Wilshire Bowl.
Benny is trying to make arrangements to fly Andy Devine east for the Sunday (11) show. It will be Devine's first trip to Gotham, giving scripters different slant to build show around.
Benny has cancelled shooting schedule on his next Paramount picture 'Man About Town' set to roll next week.
December 2, 1938
Paramount yesterday set Dec. 12 as starting date on ‘Man About Town,’ Jack Benny starrer, which Mark Sandrich will direct. Harold Lewis has been set as sound recorder.
December 5, 1938
Jack Benny is being sought by the [San Francisco] Call-Bulletin for a mammoth Christmas party in the Civic Auditorium.
December 7, 1938
New York. Dec. 6.—List of 100 film and radio names was being scrutinized by federal authorities today in connection with the indictment of Mrs. Elma N. Lauer, wife of a state supreme court justice, over an alleged smuggling plot.
Investigation revolves around Albert N. Chaperau, self-styled Nicaragua commercial attache, and friend of Mrs. Lauer who also is under indictment.
Among those who have appeared before the grand jury, which accuses Chaperau of smuggling Paris style creations into this country are George Burns and Gracie Allen, Jack Pearl and Wallace Ford.
Mentioned as future witnesses are Jack Benny and Joseph Moskowitz. Inclusion of Benny, Pearl, Ford and Moskowitz was desribed by informed persons in trade as a result of easy camaraderie aboard ship. Mrs. Lauer was pictured as affable mixer, liking to cultivate picture people.
NBC distributed about 1,400 tickets for Jack Benny's first program in the east last Sunday (4) before apprised by comedian that he would not work in large studio. Benny insisted on 300-seater with result that net was busy trying to recall as many as possible (many were invites) but there were still a flock turned away at the gate.
December 14, 1938
Jack Benny in Cleveland last night presiding over annual Christmas benefit party of the Cleveland Press.
December 17, 1938
Jack Benny made no comment concerning the Mrs. Edgar J. Lauer-Albert N. Chaperau smuggling case when he returned yesterday from New York, where he appeared before the federal grand jury investigating the case.
December 20, 1938
Murray Bolen of the Young & Rubicam radio production staff takes over the Jack Benny Jello opus upon its relinquishment after the Jan. 1 broadcast by Tom Harrington, who moves to New York to be radio head of the agency. Bolen has been Harrington's aide on the program.
Paramount studio reaches a new high in air plugs on transcontinental lanes this week when 15 stars will go before the mike to dole out credits on 12 pictures. Big move to keep the boxoffice take for Christmas week on the upward trend, started Sunday night.
Jack Benny gave out for his 'Artists and Models Abroad.' Next Sunday he will tell of 'Man About Town,' his next picture with Dorothy Lamour, who will plug the picture on the Chase & Sanborn hour.
American Advertisers in Canada
SHOW SPONSOR COST
Jack Benny... General Foods Corp. $627.83
Lux Radio Theatre ... Lever Brothers. $1,280.85 [most expensive]
December 28, 1938
Benny has been off-stride lately. His New York broadcasts were especially poor (and not because the visual audience in the east is tougher!) but with this session he was playing professional football again after slipping back to high school standards.
It is the deadly responsibility of the Benny brigade to maintain the fastest comedy pace ever set in radio. Small wonder from time to time they go stale. Formula stuff was particularly lack-lustre in the business of going to, arriving in, and returning from, Hollywood (previous weeks), but this time Benny fooled the plot-guessers — there was nothing about gifts. He got well away from previous Christmases.
As a case history in mental picture-making this scripts could be held up, line for line, for clinical study. It was beautifully rehearsed and emphasized, and spread a vivid sense of make-believe. Most of the time Benny was script-pictured as on a ladder decorating a tree. His self-pretentious social plans, all dashed by double-meaning telegrams from celebrated guests that regret they can't come, were woven into a routine of doorbell-ringing, quips from Mary Livingstone, comic impertinences by the colored butler, Rochester, and a hoke Santa Claus played by Andy Devine (who got stuck in the chimney).
Joan Bennett was on the show (a much-booked gal these days) as one who caused Benny to droll sentimentally. She made a perfect foil for the fatuous self-deluding characterization which Benny has by now developed into a fine art. Benny makes himself likable by making himself slightly absurd, and therefore thoroughly human.
'Man About Town' starring Jack Benny, Dorothy Lamour and Edward Arnold rolls today at Paramount with Mark Sandrich directing. Arthur Hornblow, Jr., produces with Ted Tetzlaff on the camera; Hans Dreier and Robert Usher set as art directors; LeRoy Stone editing, Harold Lewis sound technician, Charles Woolstenhulme biz manager and Holly Morse assistant director.
Triple-barrel name lure for opening Screen Guild airshow Jan. 8 was set yesterday by Screen Actors Guild, with headline honors being shared by Jack Benny, Joan Crawford and Judy Garland.
Reginald Gardiner also is in cast of a musical revue, being scripted by Young & Rubicam staff from an idea suggested by Morrie Ryskind of Screen Writers Guild. Mitchell Leisen of Screen Directors Guild will direct.
Agency yesterday was still trying to persuade George Murphy to act as permanent emcee on the show.
December 31, 1938
Phil Harris goes into Man About Town,' Jack Benny starrer at Paramount, in the role of an ork leader. He will wave the baton before Matty Malneck's swing gang. Harris is the second of the Benny radio crew to go into the picture, the other being Eddie Anderson, better known as Rochester.
Billy Cook has been set for a part on the Jack Benny-Jello airer Sunday. [Cook was the boy who played the New Year on the Jan. 1 show].