Sunday, 20 November 2016

Jack Benny, 1942, Part One

There was a running joke for years on the Jack Benny radio show about how socially inept Benny was with women who co-starred with him in his movies. That wasn’t the case in real life, but in 1942 Jack saw Olivia De Havilland pull out of George Washington Slept Here and Maureen O’Hara from The Meanest Man in the World. Why? We may never know. Jack himself kept being proposed as the star of The Widow Wouldn’t Weep, which he never made.

Benny’s big movie, arguably the best of his career, appeared in theatres that year, though the release of To Be or Not To Be was held up by the death of co-star Carole Lombard.

As for the radio show, General Foods can thank the war and a game of financial hardball for being able to do what it wanted to do for several years—end Benny’s sponsorship of Jell-O. Benny wanted more money for his weekly broadcasts. General Foods turned around and said sugar shortages for Jell-O due to the war meant the product couldn’t afford a larger ad budget. Either accept a different product or forego the raise. Benny did the former.

Interestingly, General Foods was pushing a Cola Jell-O at the time. Ads appeared for it on the Benny show, none of them survive in the broadcasts in circulation; instead, the show is faded out and Frank Bingman comes on the air to plug a different Jell-O product.

The war affected radio programmes in another way. The Office of Facts and Figures compelled the networks—even on kids programmes and shows with no sponsorship—to make war-themed public service announcements during their shows. Automobile Pooling, salvage and war bonds were the topics on the first week of the drive starting Monday, April 27th. Jack’s message dealt with war bonds.

Below are some clippings from Variety about Jack for the first half of 1942. Note the story dealing with an extremely ridiculous idea of what “should” be censored.

January 5, 1942
Carolyn Lee was on the Jack Benny radio program for the second time last night.

January 6, 1942

Jack Benny takes his Jell-O troupe to March Field for Sunday's broadcast. Ducats are earmarked exclusively for the 2,500 members of Army Air Corps.

January 7, 1942

[Producer Alexander] Korda plans going to England within the next month, taking with him prints of 'Jungle Book' and 'To Be Or Not to Be,' latter directed by Ernst Lubitsch, starring Jack Benny and Carole Lombard. Latter pic is now being edited and cut. Title may be changed.

My Favorite Story
Jack Benny

My favorite story is the one about the vaudeville team Smith & Jones, who were walking down Broadway complaining about laying off so much, attributing the reason to the fact that so many other acts had stolen their material. Smith turned to Jones and said, 'No wonder we can’t get any work, The minute you play a week at the Palace or a Sunday concert at the Colombia, a lot of acts come in to catch you and the next week they are doing your act. The trouble with this business is there are too many thieves in it.' As they were walking along engaged in conversation, a Western Union messenger boy was riding down the street on a bicycle and humped into a street car. The two actors witnessed the accident and one turned to the other and said:
'Hm, Joe Jackson!'

January 9, 1942

[At Paramount] Richard Blumenthal will produce 'Are You a Mason?' which is scheduled to have Jack Benny in the lead.

January 12, 1942

The Battle for Benny is on again in full cry. Jell-O comedian, packaged with the present cast, is being offered to advertising agencies by the A. & S. Lyons office for a flat price of $25,000 a week, covering the '42-43 radio season. Understood General Foods is currently paying around $18,500 for the complete Benny show.
Tom Harrington, head of radio for Young & Rubicam, and L. N. Brockway, agency vp on the GF account, are due in today from New York to compete against all agency offers. Lawton Campbell, radio chief of Ruthrauff & Ryan, also gets In today and is expected to put in a bid for the Benny troupe. John U. Reber, radio head of J. Walter Thompson, here for the past week, is reported to have shown no interest in the layout at that figure. When Benny signed last year it was with the proviso that his time on NBC red network revert to his control at close of the current season in June. Purchase of the Benny package carries with it the present NBC time.
In the Benny package are Rochester, Mary Livingstone, Dennis Day, Phil Harris, Don Wilson, and writers Bill Morrow and Ed Beloin.
Discussions are expected to get under way early this week between execs of the Lyons agency and those making a pitch for the Benny troupe. Whether Ward Wheelock will make an offer for Campbell soups this time is not known. Last year he was so confident he had struck a deal that he packed up and returned to Philadelphia, only to learn a few days later that Benny had decided to remain with Jell-O.

Alexander Korda left for New York Friday where he plans to remain for two weeks. If possible he will arrange to get to London with prints of 'Jungle Book' and 'The Censors Forbid', latter new title for 'To Be or Not to Be', starring Carole Lombard and Jack Benny.

January 19, 1942

New York, Jan. 18.—Alexander Korda, producer of the Carole Lombard-Jack Benny starrer, 'To Be or Not to Be', which now is in the cutting room, said he had no idea yet as to what action might be taken in regard to the screwball comedy as result of the star's death In the Nevada plane crash. Korda declared the subject probably would be a major topic of discussion by United Artists executives on the Coast Monday.
It is believed the picture undoubtedly will be released, as have been those of other stars who have died. Such films generally have done exceptional business, although there usually has been a considerable interval after death before picture has been generally released.
Gradwell Sears and Carl Leserman arrived over the weekend for the scheduled United Artists business and policy huddles. All of the executives are now in town except Arthur Kelly.
Sears and other UA spokesmen last night said they had as yet neither discussed nor talked about the matter of releasing the Lombard-Benny picture, 'To Be or Not to Be', as it might be affected by the actress' death.
It was finished last week and had been scheduled for sneak preview Saturday night before word of Miss Lombard's death with others in the Nevada plane disaster shocked the whole industry and naturally changed the immediate plans. General release had been set for Feb. 12.
Miss Lombard and Jack Benny, co-stars, and Ernst Lubitsch, who produced for Korda, all had flat salaries and percentage deals.

January 21, 1942

Definite decision has not yet been reached by United Artists on a release date for 'To Be Or Not To Be', Carole Lombard's last picture in which she was co-starred with Jack Benny. Picture previously had been scheduled for release on Feb. 12. Picture will be released as made with the exception of two lines of dialog, referring to a woman in a plane, which will be deleted.
Monroe Greenthal, UA exploitation head, arrives here today and will start plans for a dignified campaign to back up the picture's distribution. Campaign will stress picture as the greatest in Miss Lombard's film career and will avoid any ballyhoo that verges on the sensational or that might be in questionable taste. A number of stunts that had been planned to presell the feature are being dropped as undignified, due to the tragic circumstances.

Jack Benny cancelled his regular program Sunday night (18) via NBC-Red (WEAF) as a gesture of respect for Carole Lombard, his close personal friend and with whom he recently co-starred in 'To Be or Not To Be,' for United Artists. Actress was to have guested on his Jello program next Sunday night (25).
Benny, Mary Livingston, Phil Harris and Eddie 'Rochester' Anderson were among those who did not appear Sunday night. Fill-in show was all-musical, with Dennis Day remaining as vocalist and Don Wilson reading the commercials, but not otherwise participating.

IN NEW YORK CITY . . . THE RADIO TRADE IS DISCUSSING: The Ford program cancellation—priorities—what happens to forums under censorship—constant intrigue for big jobs in shortwave—spreading fear of time demands and multiple-network hookups by war effort agencies—Fred Allen's transfer to Sunday night—Jack Benny's absence from Jello, because of Carole Lombard's death—and how dull the fill-in was.

Los Angeles, Jan. 20.
Suit for $15,412.50 was filed by the A. & S. Lyons agency against the Music Corp of America, charging violation of an oral agreement over split commissions for the services of Phil Harris and his orchestra on Jack Benny's radio show.
Plaintiff declares it made a verbal pact with MCA in 1938 whereby it would collaborate with the defendant in selling the Harris orch to the Benny program, with commissions to be split between the two agencies. Lyons outfit claims MCA stopped payments July 1, 1941, with a notice that no more money was forthcoming.
Lyons asks a split on $2,600 alleged to have been collected by MCA from Harris since last July and half of $28,225 assertedly due on future commissions.

January 23, 1942

United Artists executives now here are working toward a release date for 'To Be or Not to Be', starring Carole Lombard and Jack Benny. Figured that Monroe Greenthal can get his advertising and exploitation campaign readied in time for a release Feb. 26. Greenthal brought Ross Shattuck, an artist, from New York to do art detail on layouts here and forward them immediately to New York, instead of delaying start of final work on them until he returns to New York.

January 27, 1942

A respectful period of time will be allowed to elapse before the Carole Lombard-Jack Benny picture, 'To Be or Not to Be', produced by Ernst Lubitsch, will be allowed to show, according to statement made yester-day by Gradwell L. Sears, vice president in charge of distribution for United Artists. This sets at rest speculation as to release date on the picture, affected by the death of Miss Lombard in the Nevada airplane disaster.

January 28, 1942

Warners signed Jack Benny for a second picture, Kaufman - Hart's ‘George Washington Slept Here.’
He was previously set for ‘The Widow Wouldn't Weep,’ which goes into production soon.

Mary Livingston, who fainted in the studio after reading her final line on the Jack Benny program Sunday night (25) via NBC-Red, sounded unlike her normal self throughout the broadcast. Comedienne's voice seemed to lack its usual edge of withering scorn and her normally precise timing was also off. At one point in the show Benny revealed something was wrong by remarking, “You'd better take a couple of asperins [sic] for that cold, Sister.”

Hollywood, Jan. 27.
Carl Lesserman, sales chief, and Monroe Greenthal, ad-publicity head of United Artists, trained back to New York after passing a week in conferences with member-owners and viewing new pictures. Greenthal completed the new campaign for the Jack Benny-Carole Lombard starrer, 'To Be or Not To Be.' Also under discussion were the day-date runs of 'To Be' in keys starting Feb. 26.
Ed Raftery and Grad well Sears staying over another week for further talks with UA producers on starting production season in September. Arrangements were completed for David Loew and Al Lewin to deliver two pictures for new season, with David O. Selznick probably completing one toward year's end.
Selznick has been negotiating with bankers for a $3,000,000 loan, which it's understood has been consummated, but he has not yet signed a commitment for the obligation. Ross Shattuck, New York artist, is doing a rush job here on art details for layouts on the Carole Lombard-Jack Benny co-starrer. 'To Be Or Not to Be,' for United Artists release. Monroe Greenthal is reviving the advertising campaign to make it comport in a more dignified way with Miss Lombard's death. Probable release date is Feb. 26.

February 2, 1942

William Keighley has been assigned at Warners to direct 'The Widow Wouldn't Weep', Jack Benny starrer, which is the first of two he will make at the Burbank plant. Other Benny commitment is 'George Washington Slept Here'.

February 4, 1942

Officials of the New York (802) musicians union have reconsidered their plan to cancel the provision in their contract with network-originating stations which permits the use of delayed broadcasts of hookup commercial programs. It is understood that the local elected to defer any action on the issue until it has been discussed by the executive board of the American Federation of Musicians which is currently in session in Miami. The contract between Local 802 and the four network stations in New York permit the union to abolish the right of delayed broadcast on 30 days notice.
Blue and Mutual Networks are particularly concerned in this issue. At a recent meeting with officials of the two webs Local 802 spokesmen stated that the delayed broadcast arrangement was developing too many ramifications and that it was deemed best as far as the union's members interests were concerned to terminate the whole thing. What apparently had been disturbing to the union was the isolated practices of the networks to permit a New York-originated show to be taken off on wax at Los Angeles or San Francisco so that the program could be relayed at a later hour to the stations in the westcoast regional. One particular case in point cited by the Union was the rebroadcast from disc of the Jack Benny show over the Blue's Pacific Network, whereas the program originates over the NBC Network.

‘To Be or Not to Be,’ Carole Lombard's final picture, will be world preemed in three theatres simultaneously in Los Angeles Feb. 19. It will be released nationally by United Artists on March 6.
Lombard-Jack Benny starrer will open In L.A. at Loew's State, Grauman's Chinese and the Carthay Circle. Two or more theatres are also expected to be used in a number of other cities, with UA swamped by demands from theatre operators for the film.
UA is using full-page ads in Life. Look and other large circulation mags just preceding national release. All advertising is in black and white and in dignified style.

February 10, 1942

A confidential meeting between Army liaison officers and members of the Hollywood Victory Committee for Stage, Screen and Radio has been called for 7 p.m. Thursday. [Jack Benny was on the Committee and on the list of invitees]

February 11, 1942

In Hollywood: Bill Morrow and Ed Beloin took time out from Jack Benny screenings to write themselves an acting part with W. C. Fields in 'Tales of Manhattan' at 20th-Fox.

Something exceptional in inter-network and inter-star courtesy is the buildup that Jack Benny is according to Fred Allen's forthcoming switch to a Sunday night hour on CBS. Benny started the buildup series last Sunday night (8).

February 13, 1942

Carolyn Lee makes her third guest appearance on the Jack Benny broadcast Sunday.

February 18, 1942

Don Bestor, orchestra leader, filed suit Friday (13) in the N. Y. supreme court against Jack Benny, NBC, Young & Rubicam agency and General Foods Corp. seeking $50,000 damages for the alleged misappropriation of the musical signature ‘Jell-O,’ used on the defendants' program. Plaintiff claims he created the musical signature.
Bestor was first employed on the show as orchestra leader in 1934. Besides the money damages he asks an injunction.

New York, Feb. 17.—General Foods may clear up 1942-43 deal with Jack Benny in another week. Price of $22,000 a week under the latest contract is pretty well settled and it's also agreed that comedian may be absent four of the season's 39 broadcasts entailed.
Benny broadcasts his coming Sunday's (22) installment of Jell-O from the Presidio, San Francisco's army reservation. Still in abeyance is his plan for making up a USO unit and traveling it around the army camps and naval stations.

Hollywood, Feb. 17
Previewed at Westwood Village, Feb. 17, '42. Running time, 99 MINS.
‘To Be or Not To Be,’ co-starring Carole Lombard and Jack Benny, under expert guidance of Ernst Lubitsch, is absorbing drama with farcical trimmings that will rate a high boxoffice quotient.
Due for attention in best key dating, it will get heavy play from adult trade, and hit holdovers generally.
Picture is the last made by Miss Lombard before her untimely death, and although there is a conscious feeling of her passing in the first scene in which she appears, this is only momentary and quickly vanishes for the balance of the story. It's an acting triumph for Miss Lombard, who delivers an effortless and highly effective performance that provides memorable finale to her brilliant screen career.
‘To Be’ is typically Lubitsch in dramatic setup and satirical by-play, and one of his best productions in number of years. He's responsible for the producer-director and original writer chores, dovetailing all into a solid piece of entertainment. Story recounts the adventures of a legit stock company in Warsaw, before and during the Nazi invasion, from August, 1939, to December, 1941. Miss Lombard is the femme lead, with Husband Jack Benny a hammy matinee idol with penchant for playing 'Hamlet.' All the stock group, except Lombard, is typical ham, strutting at drop of a hat. After the Nazi invasion, the company proceeds to upset the German officers and Gestapo by impersonations – and maneuvers that even bring Tom Dugan in as a pseudo—Hitler to foil the occupying Nazis. It all results in the group's escape via the Fuehrer's plane to England. Interwoven is an amusing flirtation of the actress Lombard for Polish aviator Robert Stack, who escapes to England to fight for his country, and then turns to Warsaw to waylay a Gestapo agent bent on exposing the aviator's relatives and underground at home. Always the actor, Benny impersonates the Nazi agent in meetings with the Warsaw Gestapo chiefs and army officers, always to the latters’ continual discomfiture. Benny, in portraying a straight role, displays top abilities as a farceur, and catches major attention along with Miss Lombard. It's a new Benny in cinematic form, and a key for future picture assignments. Support is excellent throughout, with Stack, Felix Bressart, Lionel Atwill, Stanley Ridges, Sig Ruman, Tom Dugan, Charles Helton and Henry Victor spotlighted.
Lubitsch's guidance provides a tense dramatic pace with events developed deftly and logically throughout. The farcical episodes display Lubitsch in best form, and click for utmost audience reaction. Screenplay by Edwin Justus Mayer is expert craftsmanship, while Rudolph Mate's photography is high standard, picture gets advantage of top mounting to round out as an excellent box-office attraction. Walt.

February 23, 1942

The Carole Lombard-Jack Benny starrer, 'To Be Or Not To Be', which opened Thursday at Grauman's Chinese, Loews State and the Carthay Circle, proved to be a strong coin catcher, with standout lines the general rule throughout the weekend.

February 25, 1942

SUDDEN cancellation of plan to clip five minutes from top Crossley airshows for insert of talks by Donald Nelson, head of Office of Production Management, has gone unexplained to network and agency execs, who were preparing for an immediate compliance. Order came through last weekend for time on Jack Benny, Bob Hope, 'Fibber and Molly', Kay Kyser and Maxwell House programs over NBC and shortly after the cancellation was dispatched, without explanation.

Hollywood, Feb. 24.
‘To Be or Not to Be,’ Carole Lombard-Jack Benny starrer which had a three-theatre preem in Los Angeles last Thursday (19), will switch theatres Thursday (26), but continue to play in three houses. Opening was at the State, Chinese and Carthay. Carthay will continue the run, while the film will be shifted from the State and Chinese to the Wilshire and United Artists.
Pic also debuted last Thursday at Long Beach and Santa Barbara and on Friday at San Bernardino, Ventura and Phoenix. These will be the last openings until general release on March 6, when 350 dates have been set.
Top grosses over the holiday weekend were scored in all Openings [$33,700, despite blackout].

Arnold Marquis the production man on 'Signal Carnival,' 'Sherlock Holmes,' Horace Heidt, Kay Kyser, Upton Close. 'Unlimited Horizons' and 'Best of the Week' programs on NBC-Red....Earl Ebi, another busy production man on the same network, handling 'Great Gildersleeve,' Red Skelton, Bing Crosby, ‘Capt Flagg and Sgt. Quirt’ and ‘It Happened in the Service’... Ned Tollinger has similar assignment on the Jack Benny, Fibber McGee and Rudy Vallee shows.

Saturday Evening Post's All-American band was filmed in New York last week for its part in RKO's 'Syncopation' picture, after it began to seem like the SEP was quietly forgetting all about it. William Dieterle, director of film, made the trip in from the Coast to direct the sequence, understood to be the last scene to be taken for the film. Post polled its readers for their favorite instrumentalists last fall, but never announced the results and inquiries consistently were brushed off....
According to persons close to the poll results Jack Benny received a wad of votes for violin position.

February 27, 1942

The [Motion Picture] Academy introduced a touch of lightness to the unusually solemn occasion [Oscar awards]. Jack Benny was 'Oscared' for 'the best sweater girl on the screen', for his female impersonation in 'Charley's Aunt'. The Oscar was adorned with a skirt, hair and a cigar.
Benny, overcome, declared 'I'm caught with my gags down'. He added that his female impersonation career is threatened by the shortage of rubber for girdles.

March 4, 1942

When Jack Benny returns to his Sunday night inning in NBC next fall he will be associated with a different product. General Foods, his sponsor for the past seven years, will substitute Grape-Nuts for Jell-O. Kate Smith will be involved in the switch. In place of Grape-Nuts her program will plug Jell-O.
Reason for the exchange is that by the fall Jell-O's output will be so limited as to make the cost of Benny too heavy. The limitation will be due to sugar priorities. The composition of Jell-O is 60% sugar, There is no limit to the amount of Grape-Nuts that can be produced. The Benny show will cost General Foods $22,000 a week, whereas the talent budget on the Smith program will be $10,000 a week.

'Fibber McGee and Molly" program (NBC), according to the latest Co-Operative Analysis of Broadcasting report, has set a new high for itself, namely 42.8. Latter represents the highest rating yet received by a week-night program. Needham, Louis & Brorby agency on the Johnson Floorwax account, announced Monday (2) that the comedy team has been renewed for next season.
Latest C. A. B. gives second place to Edgar Bergen (39.4) and rates Jack Benny third (38.9). Both of these shows have in the past had ratings as high as 44%. Bergen's show got there as a full hour unit. The Benny program has always operated on the basis of a half-hour.

William Keighley has been assigned at Warners to direct ‘The Widow Wouldn't Weep’, Jack Benny vehicle which Robert Lord will produce.

In Hollywood: Jack Benny makes his last camp pitch March 8 at the Marine base in San Diego before starting his neat picture at Warners.

March 5, 1942

Jack Benny will appear at the Shrine auditorium March 20 in the big annual All-star show of '42 to be staged for the benefit of the Mt. Sinai Hospital and Free Medical Clinic. All proceeds from the sale of tickets will be used to help carry on the institution's charity work.

March 9, 1942

Military forces in Ireland, Iceland, Newfoundland, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guiana, the Caribbean bases, Panama, Alaska and Hawaii will hear the broadcasts of top NBC programs via short wave.
Network announced that the lowing shows will be made avail weekly to the far outposts occupied by soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen: Al Pearce, Bing Crosby, 'Fibber and Molly', Red Skelton, National Barn Dance, Jack Benny, Aldrich Family, Burns and Allen, Ellery Queen, 'Great Gildersleeve' and others to be added.

March 10, 1942

Jack Benny will do 'George Washington Slept Here', film version of the George Kaufman-Moss Hart legiter, at Warners before he does 'The Widow Wouldn't Weep', which had been scheduled as his next. 'George Washington' script, written by Everett Freeman, is ahead of that for 'Widow', and probably will get started March 23 with William Keighley directing. Jerry Wald will produce. Olivia de Havilland is penciled in for femme lead.

March 11, 1942

Jack Benny will alternate his radio show weekly between NBC studio and nearby camps and bases.

Network Renewals: Jack Benny, NBC-Red, two more years, effective next fall, General Foods, Young & Rubicam agency.

With much of the stronger holdover product of midseason out of the first runs and into the subsequents, playing time it easier in the major key spots. Bookings on the newer releases are rolling in fast. 'Woman of the Year' (M-G), 'Ride 'Em Cowboy' (UA), ‘To Be or Not To Be’ (UA), ‘Roxie Hart’ (20th) and 'Kings Row' (WB) are all moving, With such a wide range of product for selection, public is responding and receipts for the week held to prevailing high figures.
Showmen's interest was centered on the Carole Lombard-Jack Benny starrer, ‘To Be.’ After a discouraging start in Los Angeles several weeks ago when air raid scares frightened the boxoffice, the film has caught on in most cities where played. At the Chicago theatre the figure of $50,000 for the week is outstanding. It did well at the Rivoli, on Broadway, but struck big in Denver, smash 15G; excellent $14,000 in Kansas City, and same in Cleveland, Omaha, Louisville, Buffalo, Memphis, Portland were all above normal.

General Foods and, indirectly, Young & Rubicam agency, have been embarrassed lately by inability to meet the demand for the new cola flavor Jello in some sales areas. Flavor was introduced some weeks ago via the commercials on the Jack Benny program, but because distribution in certain sections of the country had not yet been arranged, the plug was supposed to have been cut on part of the network, with a cut-in commercial substituted. However, the regular cola plug was accidentally carried on the entire hookup, with a resultant demand for the new flavour in areas where it wasn't yet available. Attempt was made on last Sunday night's (8) show to offset the situation, the commercial containing a statement that ‘if your dealer doesn't have it in stock ask him to get it for you.’

March 12, 1942

Jack Benny takes his Jell-O troupe to Mather Field, near Sacramento, for March 22 broadcast.

March 18, 1942

Popularity, ratings on both night-time and daytime network shows slid off generally for the final week of February and the first week of March, according to the latest report of the Co-operative Analysis of Broadcasting. The figures indicate that listening has passed its mid-winter seasonal peak somewhat earlier than usual. The drop was as marked in weekday shows as in the Sunday setup.
Fred Allen got 23.8 for his initial broadcast (8) in the Sunday night spot (CBS), while Walter Winchell (Blue) that same night showed a loss of 2.1. Despite the general downward budge in ratings, the leaders were still well intrenched.
Following are the latest ratings for the four top popular programs: Fibber McGee and Molly, 42.8; Edgar Bergen, 39.7: Jack Benny, 36.9 and Lux Theatre, 34.2.

Jack Benny and Fred Allen, who have been carrying on a friendly feud' over the air for several seasons, have intensified the stunt since the Allen program has moved from Wednesday to Sunday nights on CBS. Shift brings the two comics only an hour-and-a-half apart the same night, giving their exchange of insults much more point.
For the second successive time, Benny devoted considerable time on his show last Sunday night (15) to ribbing Allen, (incidentally working in a mention of ‘Variety’). Allen subsequently termed Benny's story a 'fantasy.' He also referred to a humorous column written by Ben Gross in the N.Y. Daily News, in which the Allen and Eddie Cantor programs were confused. Remarked that any listener should recognize the Cantor show by the sound of eyeballs sticking out and hitting the microphone.

Of late weeks only 'Woman of the Year' (M-G), ‘To Be or Not To Be’ (UA) and ‘Captains of the Clouds’ (WB) have hit commensurate grosses [at theatres]. Showmen anticipate a slowing down through the spring months, although there an. several big films on the release threshold.
Currently, ‘Ride ‘Em Cowboy’ (U) and ‘To Be,’ starring Carole Lombard and Jack Benny, are standing the brunt of the first runs. Former is one of the popular Abbott & Costello releases, and is holding over in most of the larger spots. Third week in Boston brought 17G, and second week in Seattle, St. Louis and Los Angeles are satisfactory. ‘To Be’ is best in town at nearly every showing, including Baltimore, Cleveland, Portland and Philadelphia.
'Woman In Hollywood: Jack Benny will split his originations between the NBC studio and nearby camps, alternating weekly Jack Benny will do his broadcast Sunday from NBC studio instead of Mather Field, near Sacramento, as originally planned due to an early start on his picture at Warners. He will play the camp later.

March 19, 1942

Olivia de Havilland will play the lead opposite Jack Benny in 'George Washington Slept Here' at Warners. Picturization of the George S. Kaufman-Moss Hart play gets underway next week with William Keighley directing and Jerry Wald producing.

March 20, 1942

'Fibber and Molly' is still leading the Crossley parade, the last CAB report rating the comedy team a fraction over 40. Jack Benny is in the runnerup position, followed by Chase & Sanborn and the 'Aldrich Family'.

March 24, 1942

JACK BENNY will do no more broadcasts from camps or naval bases. He will continue to put on shows for the khakied lads but the programs will originate at NBC. Comedian is of the opinion that airing from camps takes both he and his writers 'out of the groove' and that it is difficult to entertain two types of audiences—soldiers and families—from the same script. Benny will make as many calls on camps as time between pictures and broadcasts permit.

Jack Benny will have to put on a sprint to make the Screen Guild Theatre broadcast Sunday, on which he is starred. Signing off his own Jell-O program at 4:30 p.m. at NBC, he is due at CBS, two blocks away, for the 4:30 start of the Screen Guild show. He will make a fast exit from his own show just ahead of the final commercial and dash for KNX to get going after the first sponsorial blast.

March 25, 1942

Three General Foods programs are due to go off the networks in July without having vacation pinchhitters. Jack Benny (NBC) will be absent for 17 weeks; Kate Smith (CBS), 11 weeks; and the 'Aldrich Family' (NBC), six weeks. Miss Smith's vacation is reduced by two weeks this time so as to preserve the account's discount status, while 'Aldrich' gets a couple more weeks off than last season.
The food packer doesn't have to worry about the hiatus rules as far as they concern Benny since NBC guarantees the comic the maintenance of his Sunday evening period. This guarantee was accorded him early last year when he and General Foods were negotiating for a renewal of contract.

March 26, 1942

The Volunteer Army Canteen Service, Inc. is staging a fight between Jackie Wilson and Pedro Ortega Tuesday night at the Olympic Auditorium, with all proceeds from the show going to soldiers in the Canteens. The VAC group is sending letters to the more wealthy film people suggesting that they buy blocks of tickets for soldiers. The ducats are $3.30 each. Jack Benny, Mickey Rooney, Cary Grant and George Raft are scheduled to appear at the show. Sally Eilers, Mrs. Gary Cooper, Mrs. Charles Boyer, Lena Turner and others will sell chances on a $100 Defense Bond to be given away at the fight.

March 27, 1942

JACK BENNY will do at least two more broadcasts from Army camps before he takes his summer sabbatical. He has already promised to take his Jell-O troupe to Camp Haan and Sacramento and may add others before the current season is over. During his seasonal layoff, Benny will make the rounds of Army and Navy bases when film commitments permit.

Ann Sheridan will have the feminine lead opposite Jack Benny in Warners ‘George Washington Slept Here’.

April 2, 1942

Paul Whiteman opens a week's stand at the Golden Gate in Frisco April 22. Appearing with his band will be Jimmy Cash and Clarence Nash (Herman the Duck) of the Burns and Allen airshow. Swan broadcast will originate in the new NBC studio in Frisco April 28 as part of the week's dedication ceremonies. Jack Benny will be the first to air from the new plant April 26

Jack Benny, Barbara Stanwyck, Red Skelton, Mary Livingstone and Rochester will go to Glendale Easter Sunday to stage a Hollywood Victory Committee show for the cadets and enlisted men at the Army Air Corps training school there. Other players under the leadership of Charles Collins will stage a three-day series of performances at camps in the San Diego area from April 3 to 5. Members of the unit include John Howard, Mary Brian, Sterling Holloway, Dorothy Stone, Vera Marsh, Claudia Dell, Jimmy Bush, Bill Orr, Milburn Stone and George Grandee.

April 6, 1942

BORIS MORROS and S. P. Eagle are reported to have wound up behind the eight-ball with the costliest sequence in their 'Tales of Manhattan'. Among the top-flight stars they signed for the film was W. C. Fields. The comedian, upon being approached first, refused to work for small money and insisted upon $50,000 for little more than a week's work. He also demanded that he have a hand in doing the script. Morros and Eagle winced, but paid. Now they are so dissatisfied with the Fields' sequence that they are wondering whether to make it over or toss it out altogether. They are also talking of remaking the sequence with Jack Benny.

April 8, 1942

Jack Benny’s Rochester bankrolling a San Diego plant that turns out pilot, flare and bomb chutes for Uncle Sam.

April 9, 1942

WITHDRAWAL of Olivia de Havilland from the femme lead opposite Jack Benny in 'George Washington Slept Here' is causing Warners to juggle femme assignments in two other productions. When Miss de Havilland nixed the Benny feature, Warners shoved in Ann Sheridan, making the latter unavailable for the previously announced lead opposite Humphrey Bogart in 'Casablanca'. As latter film is slated to roll within three weeks, studio will not be able to clear Miss Sheridan for ‘Casa’ in time, resulting in tests of Michele Morgan, recently signed to a picture contract, to take on the lead with Bogart. [Note: De Havilland also pulled out of 'The Hard Way' at Warners in March because she didn’t like the role]

April 13, 1942

Jack Benny is in 142 of the 156 scenes in Warners 'George Washington Slept Here'.

April 15, 1942

Jack Benny will do a special show for servicemen at NBC following his Sunday afternoon broadcasts. Only exception is when he and his air troupe are originating the program at a camp or base out of town. Comedian will take a 15-minute breather after his Jell-O airer and give Uncle Sam's fighting men a 45-minute show with his entire cast. Tickets for the show will be restricted to servicemen and distributed by USO. Transportation to and from the studio will be furnished by the Army and USO. Benny and Mary Livingstone will be co-starred Sunday in Silver Theatre's airing of 'The Amazing Mr. Williams'. Both their salaries for the broadcast have been donated to Volunteer Army Canteen Service.

NBC will send seven Hollywood programs to San Francisco for a week of inaugural ceremonies incidental to the opening of the network's new million-dollar studio in the Bay City.
Five-story plant at Taylor and O'Farrell streets has its official unveiling April 26 when Jack Benny and his Jell-O troupe sends out the first program from S. F.'s Radio City.
Other shows to originate in the new eight-studio edifice on succeeding days are 'One Man's Family', Burns and Allen, 'Point Sublime', Al Pearce, ‘Whodunit’ and Hal Peary's ‘The Great Gildersleeve’.
New studio will be jointly tenanted by NBC and the Blue network, the letter's occupancy on a rental basis. Going north from here for the festivities will be Sidney Strotz, NBC western division head; Don Gilman, Blue network v.p.; John Swallow, Bob Mc Andrews, Frank Berend, Hal Bock and Joe Alvin. Mark Woods, Blue network prexy, is due in from the east next week to look over the new plant.

Hollywood, April 14.
‘George Washington Slept Here’ went into work at Warners after a delay caused by Ann Sheridan's tour of Army camps. Jack Benny co-stars in the comedy, based on the Kaufman-Hart stage piece, directed by William Keighley and produced by Jerry Wald.

Trudy Irwin, singer on the Kay Kyser show, planning Hollywood vacation to see her husband, 'Mac' Mackenzie, engineer on the Bing Crosby and Jack Benny programs, who is expecting draft call soon..

April 21, 1942

OF THE 10 top airshows in the latest Crossley report, seven are local originations. Following the leader. Jack Benny, in the order named, are Chase & Sanborn, 'Fibber and Molly', ‘Aldrich Family’, Lux, Bob Hope, Maxwell House, Kraft Music Hall, Kate Smith and ‘Mr. District Attorney’.

William Perlberg was back at his producer's desk at 20th-Fox yesterday after two weeks vacation in New York and Palm Springs. He will begin the Jack Benny starrer, 'The Meanest Man In the World', early in May.

April 22, 1942

Bermuda, April 21.
News programs and top-flight comics are the favorite fare of U. S. soldiers stationed at the base here. They have a definite day-to-day sked, based on expressed preferences, on their master receiving sets. Here's what they listen to, according to the Bermuda Base Command News:
Sunday—William L. Shirer, Gulf Theatre, Gildersleeve, Jack Benny, Bandwagon, Charlie McCarthy, Inner Sanctum, Walter Winchell, Fred Allen, and Dinah Shore.

Hollywood, April 21.
Jack Benny believes he has the solution to a problem which has been worrying him for some time, that of entertaining his millions of listeners and thousands of soldiers in camp at the same time. That the widely divergent types of audiences could not be regaled from the same script was deduced after a few trys. So Benny will go back to his two shows a day, but the repeater will not be broadcast. It will be strictly for uniformed men, who will be drawn from nearby camps and transported to and from the encampments or bases by the USO or the services to which they are attached.
Service show will run for at least 45 minutes, starting shortly after the comedian and his cast have had a breather from their afternoon broadcast. Capacity of the studio will be enlarged by parking around 100 chairs on the stage. Afterpiece to his broadcast will be a weekly affair, the only exceptions being when he is out of town entertaining in camps.
Benny and his wife, Mary Livingstone, donated their paychecks for last Sunday's Silver Theatre broadcast to Volunteer Army Canteen Service.

April 29, 1942

Quick on the heels of the Administration's move to establish a $25,000 income ceiling, in order to curb possible inflation, show business has risen to the occasion in its all-out expression of accord with President Roosevelt. Hollywood, notably, has stressed that 'dollar patriotism' is no byword among its stars and executives.
Land of fancy incomes, the initial poll of the Coast toppers finds wholehearted support of any wartime tax measures the President may consider necessary. From Sam Goldwyn to Jack Benny, the early roundup indicates an all-out with F.D.R.

Among commercially sponsored radio entertainments in the United States the following are now being shortwaved from recordings. Programs are intended to reach American garrisons in foreign areas via WRCA and WNBI, owned by RCA. This list is of NBC (Red) commercials:
Jack Benny—Jello revue goes out Saturday morning at 11, six days late.

May 4, 1942

Rochester joins Jack Benny in ‘The Meanest Man In the World’, which has been moved up to the June production schedule at 20th-Fox.

May 5, 1942

Maureen O'Hara is set at 20th-Fox for femme lead with Jack Benny in 'The Meanest Man in the World', scheduled by Producer William Perlberg to roll on June 22 under direction of Walter Lang. Previously signed with Benny is Eddie Anderson (Rochester). Perlberg says there is no conflict with any other studio on the Benny schedule.

May 6, 1942

The Jordans (Fibber and Molly) are back at the head of the Crossley parade, the latest release reveals. In second place is Chase & Sanborn, followed by Jack Benny and 'Aldrich Family'.

Eddie Cantor has been renewed for next season by his sponsor, Bristol & Myers, starting a fresh 39-week cycle in October after his summer layoff. Comedian, who has had his best radio year since 1933, finishes out his current string of 43 weeks June 24. Cantor is here now readying for 'Banjo Eyes' to be made at Warners.
Jack Benny puts in an appearance on his program in the guest spot June 3.

May 12, 1942

Eddie Cantor makes another camp pitch with his radio troupe May 20, broadcasting from the Presidio at Frisco. Jack Benny originates his May 24 broadcast from Camp Callan, near San Diego.

May 13, 1942

Bob Hope slipped across a blue gag on his Pepsodent program on NBC-Red last week. Playing the show at the Chicago Naval Base, he had Vera Vague (Barbara Jo Allen) read a line about being insulted by a sailor. When Hope asked her if she was going to report the incident to the superior officer, she quipped, 'Superior officer nothing. I'm going right to the naval head.' Probably few listeners were hep, but the studio audience howled, recognizing the word 'head' as the navy slang term for toilet.
Jack Benny also sneaked a risque bit into his Jello program May 3 on the Red. According to the situation, Jack was using Errol Flynn's dressing room at Warner Bros. When one of Flynn's girls phoned, Benny told her Errol was home in bed with a cold. He gave it a pause reading that drew a solid studio laugh. However, both that and the Hope incident are precisely the sort of thing that have aroused criticism recently from certain station men. They're also virtually ideal ammunition for bluenose reform groups. Under the circumstances, it would seem dubious whether getting a laugh is worth the risk involved. Stars of the magnitude of Benny and Hope should recognize the responsibility of their success.

Phil Harris, appearing on the 'Fitch Band Wagon' over NBC, recalled to 'Driver' Toby Reese that his father had been a musician with the Sells-Floto circus, the Old-Barnum & Bailey show and the B. & B.-Ringling outfit. Harris said he was ‘raised’ with the circus; that Bandmaster Merle Evans, of the Ringling troupe, had carried him in Evans' arms when Harris was four years old.
Harris' went on the Fitch broadcast immediately following his regular stint with Jack Benny, in the same studio and before the same audience. Benny butted in for a little kidding, urging Harris 'not to make it corny.'

Hendrik Booraem, recently in Chicago for Young & Rubicam, transferred to Hollywood to assist Glenhall Taylor on the Jack Benny and Bob Burns shows.

May 20, 1942

‘To Be or Not to Be,’ following its preem in London last week, won the endorsement of the Polish Minister of Information, of the government-in-exile resident in the British capital, according to cables received by United Artists in New York. Minister was quoted as saying 'the film is excellent and great for the British public.'
There has been some doubt as to the reception that could be expected from the Poles on the Jack Benny-Carole Lombard starrer, is portrayal of the Gestapo in beleaguered Warsaw as dupes of a troupe of ham Polish actors has caused wide controversy in the United States. It is felt by some that picturing the Nazi secret police as foolish is bad propaganda. What was more feared in England was that Poles would be intended and look as a breach of taste on the comic goings on in their ruined capital.
British Broadcasting Co.—government owned and operated—and the London press also had high praise for the film, according to cable dispatches. BBC termed it: ‘The most brilliant, wittiest, funniest comedy; remember it when you want real laughter enjoyment.’

"Charley's Aunt," just being trade-shown in London, has been re-tagged 'Charley's American Aunt,' though no explanation is given for the switch in title, Peculiar part of changing the title on the Jack Benny starrer is that 'Charley's Aunt' is originally an English stage hit.

Harry Baldwin, unbilled interrupter on Jack Benny's program, now in his 11th year with the comic. When not breaking in just ahead of the downbeat he serves as Benny's secretary.

May 27, 1942

Dennis Day heads east following Sunday's Jell-O broadcast for a series of personals while the Jack Benny program takes a 17-week layoff. He opens June 5 at the Chicago theatre, Chicago, and other dates include RKO Palace, Cleveland, June 12; the Strand, New York, June 19; the Earle, Philadelphia, July 3, and the Earle, Washington, July 10. Singer also does a guest shot on the Coca-Cola broadcast from New York June 21. Bookings were set through Jennings Lang of the Sam Jaffe agency.

Hollywood, May 26.
St. Joseph, Mo., the town where they all “loved him” as a vaudevillian, will be on Jack Benny's itinerary when he tours the U. S. camps and bases during the first 13 weeks of his next radio season. The town is expected to make Benny's visit a gala civic event as the air comic put it on the map, aided by Johnny Mercer's lyrics to “Blues in the Night.”

Sam Hearn (Schlepperman) does a guest turn on the Jack Benny Jell-O broadcast Sunday.

June 4, 1942

Double networks summer series of 25 Government programs comprising the top Crossley shows of the past season, will be inaugurated Sunday on NBC in the afternoon spot vacated last week by Jack Benny. Group of broadcasts, to continue through eight weeks on CBS and 17 weeks on NBC, taking off on Columbia July 20. NBC version will carry the title, 'Victory Parade' and CBS series is tabbed 'Victory Theatre'. Entire series will be under supervision of Office of Facts and Figures, radio division, and will be directed here by Nat Wolff, Coast rep of OFF.
Services of actors, writers and producers and the network time are being donated to the Government. Idea of the two series is to make audiences available for special war messages and to advise the people of the progress of the war and the steps necessary to ultimate victory.
Leading off the NBC 'Victory Parade' of all-star programs will be the Maxwell Time group, headed by Fannie Brice, Frank Morgan, Hanley Stafford, John Conte and Meredith Willson's orchestra. Sunday programs on NBC will air here at 4 p.m. over KFI. Other programs to follow include 'Mr. District Attorney', June 14; 'Aldrich Family', June 21 or 28, Jack Benny, 'The Great Gildersleeve' (Hal Peary), Bums and Allen, Kay Kyser, 'Fibber McGee and Molly', Bob Hope, Rudy Vallee and others being lined up. Among the CBS shows in the Lux spot at 6 p.m. over KNX will be Lux Radio Theatre, Fred Allen, Screen Guild Theatre, 'The Hit Parade' and others which rated among the season's top airers.
Programs will be devoid of sponsor identification and the time ordinarily devoted to commercial announcements is to be given over to government messages of vital importance in the war effort. In a recent address, Archibald MacLeish, head of OFF, asks for 'complete but voluntary mobilization of the brains, the hearts, the courage and experience of the entire radio industry toward winning the war.'

June 10, 1942

Fred Allen has emerged as the hero of quite a number of pieces in the magazines lately. Pieces include 'The Mighty Allen.' by Avery Strakosch in Look; 'If You Were Mrs. Fred Allen' by Nanette Kutner in Good Housekeeping; 'Fred Allen Cuts a Slice of Old Vaudeville Ham,' in Life; 'The Ad Lib Champ' by John K. Hutchens in the N. Y. Times; 'Fred Allen and Jack Benny Caption Each Other' in Pic. Irving Mansfield is the Texaco program press agent.
Latest C. E. Hooper program popularity figures for the first 15 shows are as follows:
Bob Hope 32.2
‘Fibber McGee’ 30.6
'Charlie McCarthy' 25.2
'Aldrich Family' 25.9
Jack Benny 24.8

12 Minutes
Chicago [Theatre], Chicago
Heralded by a radio reputation on the Jack Benny raid show Dennis Day makes his first appearance here with a special buildup on the house sound system. Sound comes on with usual Jello program theme and Jack Benny introducing Dennis Day. Though special tricks aren't needed to sell Day, it's added showmanship and a special plug for his radio boss. Day has a bubbling personality, typical of the radio character he plays. His tenor voice is smooth and easy, requires no straining for the high ones and is mellow on the low tones. His selection of songs here is fine using a hit tune, standard pop, oldie, and patriotic bit to fill the time.
He is good entertainment; he knows how to use the mike and how to deliver the goods. On this week's Chicago bill he was outstanding. Loop.

June 17, 1942

Lever Bros. is spotting its new Lifebuoy show, with Edna Mae Oliver, in Jack Benny's regular niche on NBC for 13 weeks, starting July 6. The "Victory Parade" series, currently in the same period, will take over the previous half hour, 6:30-7 p. m., from which 'The Great Gildersleeve' (Kraft) is exiting for the summer.
Lever parts with 'Grand Central Station' (NBC) June 26. Both 'G.C.S.' and the Oliver show are handled by the Ruthrauff & Ryan agency. The Oliver program will originate from Hollywood, with Murray Bolen as director and with Martin Gosch and Howard Harris as writers.

June 17, 1942

Glenhall Taylor will probably direct the Jack Benny show when it returns in the fall, succeeding Murray Bolen, who shifted from Young & Rubicam to Ruthrauff & Ryan to handle the new Edna May Oliver series.

June 30, 1942

Jack Benny returns from Lake Arrowhead tomorrow or Thursday after 10-day vacation to report at 20th Century-Fox for role in 'Meanest Man in World.' Program for Jello resumes Oct. 4.


  1. Re the April 6 article: "S.P. Eagle" was an alias for Sam Spiegel. Boris Morros had produced Laurel & Hardy's "The Flying Deuces" and the musical "Second Chorus;" he also did some espionage on the side (dramatized in the film "Man on a String," with Ernest Borgnine as Moros).
    As for "Charley's Aunt," I know that Arthur Askey also filmed his own version, titled "Charley's Big-Hearted Aunt" - he was known as "Big-Hearted Arthur" on his popular BBC radio show. Maybe the retitling of the Benny version was to avoid confusion with Askey's film (unless the Askey film was made later).

  2. I appreciate the time you put into these 1942 posts especially. Thank you!