These days, you can’t escape “stories” about celebrity offspring. They’re all over the internet, especially if clothes (or a lack thereof) or pairing up with someone is involved. I’d like to think things were different years ago, even in the era of Hollywood fan magazines and their manufactured reality.
Outside of a line in a gossip column, how often did wire services and newspapers back then report on marriages of TV stars’ kids? Not often, at least that I can tell. One exception was the first wedding of Jack Benny’s daughter. Perhaps the difference was Jack was beloved by just about everyone. Or it may have been because of the easy, ready-made angle: a huge, expensive wedding was being paid for by someone who had appeared in millions of living rooms for 20 years as the cheapest man in the world.
The marriage itself failed, but did result in a grandchild for Jack, which pleased him to no end by all reports.
Here’s the Associated Press from March 9, 1954 on the impending nuptials and Jack’s resignation over what ballooned into a huge affair.
Radio Tightwad Jack Benny Will Spend Fortune Tonight
By BOB THOMAS
AP Hollywood Writer
Hollywood—Jack Benny's reputation as a tightwad gets a jolt tonight when he foots the bill for the lavish wedding of his daughter Joan to Seth Baker of New York.
Rabbi Edgar P. Magnin will marry the young pair tonight at 7 o'clock (PST) in private ceremonies at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Present will be the parents of the couple—the Bennys and New York industrialist Harry Baker and his wife, plus a few intimate friends of the family. These include Barbara Stanwyck, George Burns and Gracie Allen, Bob Hope, Mr. and Mrs. William Goetz and Claudette Colbert.
After the ceremony, the hotel's Crystal Room will be packed with some 500 well-wishers, including more of Hollywood's top stars.
"Outside of having an elopement, there were only two ways we could have done it," sighed Benny. "We could have had a very small wedding and invited only the family and a handful of friends. Or we could have a big affair and invite everyone. Because too many people would have been slighted, we decided to have a big wedding."
MIGHT RUIN HIM
"Reputation nothing!" he protested. "This might ruin me!"
He estimated that the entire affair might run up a bill in excess of $25,000. This might seem high to all those except fathers who have had to finance weddings lately.
Joan's wedding gown alone is reputed to cost $2,500. It is a Don Loper creation of brocaded lily-of-the-valley white satin, full length with a train. Rex designed the cap of Juliet pearls with a three-tiered full length veil.
"Oh, well, I have only one daughter," said Benny bravely. "I don't care what it costs, just so the kids have a happy marriage."
He added that Joan's wedding is a contrast to when he married Mary Livingstone.
"We did it in Waukegan at the home of a friend," he recalled. "There were six or seven people there, and the cost of the wedding was nil. We didn't even have time to have a reception. We were married in the afternoon, and I had to grab the train to Chicago, where I was appearing in a show that night."
Jack said he was pleased with his future son-in-law, who is a stock broker. Baker, 26, is a graduate of Andover Academy and Amherst College, where he was a Beta Theta Pi. He was married once before.
Joan, 19, is an adopted daughter and was a junior at Stanford when she decided to get married. She has appeared on the Benny radio show and was on his TV program last month. She and her husband will make their home in New York.
"I kind of regret that she never got too interested in show business," Jack reflected, "especially since I don't have a son. She was always very good on radio, and I loved the way she threw away her lines on the TV show.
"But she never had any great driving urge to act, and that's what it takes. I might have been able to give her that urge. But it was hard to work her into the show. She never could have appeared as my daughter, except in a dream sequence. When I play my character on the air, I'm not supposed to be married."
Music for the wedding and reception will be provided by Freddie Karger and his orchestra. Mr. Benny will not play the violin.
The newlyweds will leave tomorrow for San Francisco and will fly to Honolulu for a two-week honeymoon.