Sunday, 11 December 2016
Jack Benny, 1942, Part Two
Phil Harris and his band enlisted, en masse, in the merchant marine, leaving Benny to try to find a band leader. Compounding the situation was Benny was taking his radio show on the road, so a fill-in band couldn’t be tied down with other work in Los Angeles. Benny used a variety of substitutes.
General Foods pulled the Jell-O sponsorship from Benny’s show, due to a sugar shortage putting those six delicious flavours in short supply (and therefore sales were down). The company had tried to wrest Jell-O off the Benny show for a number of years. Benny started the 1942-43 season plugging Grape Nuts Flakes, though the show still mentioned Jell-O and made fun of the sponsorship change (one wonders if Don Wilson’s scripted butchering of the new sponsor’s name was a bit of revenge at General Foods).
The first broadcast of the new season wasn’t heard on a number of west coast stations. As remarkable as it sounds, the head of the American Federation of Music had the power to pull it off the air. Caesar Petrillo objected to any recorded repeat broadcast—even if his members got paid the same for the second broadcast as if they were doing it live. The AFM had agreed to the recordings, but Petrillo overrode his own union. It would be almost another 15 years before dissidents finally had the strength to oust him from the union leadership.
Jack’s radio character would go onto movie sets and interfere, thinking he knew everything about film-making. Perhaps there was some basis in reality. In 1942, Benny wanted changes in the story for The Meanest Man in the World and, basically, walked out until he got them. Besides the release of George Washington Slept Here in the second half of the year, Benny set up his own film production company, though its activities were hampered by the war as well.
Let’s go through the pages of Daily and Weekly Variety for the last half of 1942. Unfortunately, the trade paper didn’t report national grosses on films, so we can’t tell you how well Washington did at the box office (I’ve skipped transcribing far-too-numerous city figures). There’s a review of Jack’s opening radio broadcast. The new giggling producer character (played by Benny’s real producer) was quickly eliminated. Benny also had a listening-to-a-soap-opera routine that was killed after several episodes; Gerry Mohr played the philandering husband. Phil Harris’ baby also appeared until going into the service in November (we’re referring to baby-crying specialist Jerry Hausner who played the girl). The paper also pans a Benny duel with Fred Allen on Command Performance as sounding like some half-hearted ad-libbing.
I suspect this will be the final post of its kind. I spent almost a full weekend ploughing through about 2,000 pages which mentioned Jack Benny in the last half of 1942, fixing OCR errors and then coding this page. I don’t have that kind of spare time.
July 1, 1942
Priscilla Lane has been borrowed by 20th-Fox from Warners for the femme lead opposite Jack Benny in The Meanest Man in the World.' Miss Lane takes spot originally slated for Maureen O'Hara, who checks into St. Vincent's hospital next week for an operation. 'Meanest Man' rolls Monday with Sidney Lanfield directing for William Perlberg.
Milwaukee, June 30. With 1,000 active bidders in attendance at a Victory Book auction conducted at the Hotel Schroeder, under auspices of the American Library association in convention here, there wasn't much interest in a Jack Benny radio script, an autographed picture of Bob Hope and an inscribed script of 'The Goldbergs.' Sold as a unit, this trio of offerings brought only $2.50. Five originals of popular comic strips sold as a set for $4.50. A group of scientific books, which included Mary Pickford's 'My Rendezvous With Life,' went for $3.
July 7, 1942
Jack Benny is refusing to go ahead with his 20th-Fox starrer, ‘The Meanest Man In the World’, unless a considerable number of changes are made in the script. William Perlberg who will produce, was taken by surprise yesterday at the Benny balk but later admitted that a check-up indicated that Benny was unhappy about a number of matters related to 'Meanest Man' and that the situation would be taken into executive conference today with Darryl F. Zanuck and William Goetz.
Script on Meanest Man' has been turned in by Morrie Ryskind as completed. Just what changes or amendments might be made, in line with Benny's demands, were to be determined at the executive conference today.
It's a tossup between Phil Harris and Carl Hoff as to whom will swing the baton for the Coast Guard Band. Both orchestra leaders have made a pitch for the maestro job. Harris, recently notched at 1A, had been ordered to take his physical but asked for deferment until September which was denied. He is now in Chicago on tour with his band.
July 8, 1942
Yankee influence is certain to be reflected hereafter in the tradition-bound schedules of the British Broadcasting Corp. British listeners will demand it, British producers will consciously or unconsciously tend to incorporate some of the ways of the Yanks. The fact that recorded versions of the Jack Benny and Bob Hope entertainments in the U.S.A. have been heard on the BBC with marked popularity has already been influential of changed attitude. Again the present visit of Norman Corwin is likely to be more far-reaching than just the exchange of a writer-director. Corwin's methods are sensational in a production sense for England.
These developments are emphasized by William B. Fergusson, chief of the London office of Lord &Thomas agency, who is now in NewYork City on a visit. ... BBC programs are now on par with shows aired by European stations and produced by English advertisers before the war. But tops in popularity are e.t.'s [recorded discs] of Jack Benny and Bob Hope programs sans plugs.
Film conservation idea caused the start of ‘The Meanest Man in the World’ to be postponed for a week of rehearsals prior to the opening shot. Jack Benny, Priscilla Lane and the supporting cast will go over several top scenes without benefit of the camera, to avoid retakes. Picture, originally slated to roll yesterday (Mon.) at 20th-Fox, gets the gun July 13.
July 9, 1942
'Meanest Man in the World' stayed on the shelf at 20th Century-Fox for 15 hours as yesterday morning. Jack Benny, who had declined to star in the picture suspended hostilities with the company and made an agreement to start in the picture July 20.
Studio went over the protests of Benny on the script with Darryl Zanuck agreeing to the revision of two sequences in the narrative that Benny felt should be modified to his conception of the characterization. Morrie Ryskind who wrote original screen play will not make the script revisions. [They will be re-written by George Seaton and Bill Morrow].
July 13, 1942
COOPERATION accorded Nat Wolff's radio division of Office of War Information here by film and radio stars in setting up the Victory Theatre and Victory Parade series over NBC and CBS in behalf of the war effort has brought note of appreciation from W. B. Lewis radio head of OWI in Washington. Hollywood's effort has been little short of all-out, with every top show here but one (justifiably excused) volunteering for the two series even though most of the air toppers are now on their quarterly layoff. Of the 12 shows on NBC's Victory Parade, 10 have their home base here. Columbia's eight in the Victory Theatre series adds another four to the Hollywood string. Indicative of Hollywood's response to the government programs is the case of Meredith Willson, who, asked to lead the orchestra on the Jack Benny broadcast Aug. 23 in the absence of Phil Harris, on tour, immediately accepted. Others have been equally cooperative and generous with their time and talent.
July 14, 1942
Virtuoso Jascha Heifetz and fiddler Jack Benny stroke a duet on tonight's recording of 'Command Performance' for shortwaving to American forces overseas. Others on the program will be Edward Arnold, Ethel Waters, Rise Stevens, Richard Haydn and C. Bakaleinikoff conducting the RKO studio orchestra.
NBC has dropped the color designation of its (red) network, allowing there is no further need for a differential since the Blue Network was put on its own by Radio Corp.
July 22, 1942
The Jack Benny starrer, 'The Meanest Man In the World,' goes before the cameras today at 20th-Fox. Sidney Lanfield is directing with William Perlberg producing.
July 27, 1942
United Artists owner meeting that was to have been held most any day for the past three weeks, has not materialized, and Gradwell Sears, UA sales head, is now in New York. ...
Several producer deals pending includes one for Jack Benny to have his own unit and other with a director who is trying to work out his setup.
July 29, 1942
Jack Benny has quit worrying, for the nonce, at least, about a new band leader on his show. Phil Harris drew a 1B from his draft board which defers his induction....Word here is that Kenny Baker won't be back with Fred Allen in the fall. They weren't on speaking terms toward the close of last season.
July 30, 1942
Conrad Binyon, who has appeared on the Jack Benny program several times, has been signed for a featured part in the Benny picture, 'The Meanest Man In the World' at 20th-Fox. [Binyon played the Little New Year on the broadcast of Dec. 27, 1940]
August 7, 1942
Jack Benny and his Grapenuts crew have been set for Victory Parade broadcast over NBC Aug. 30.
August 10, 1942
United Artists will have sufficient product for the early part of its 1942-43 releasing season and an abundance the latter half to enable the company to release around 20 or more films for the season. Ed. Raftery, company prexy, planed back to New York on Saturday after making this announcement as well as disclosing fact that Jack Benny Production, Inc., has made a six year deal, to release two pics annually, with Jack Benny to star in one of these each season. First of the Benny pics will be one written by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart with Ernst Lubisch likely to direct. The corporation's second film will be 'Porgy and Bess' in Technicolor, directed by Rouben Mamoulian, who directed the stage play and will have most of the original New York cast in it. The Benny pic will go into production early in January with 'Porgy and Bess' to start in March. Arthur Lyons and Loyd Wright negotiated the Benny deal with UA. It provides that Jack Benny be executive producer of the setup. Corporation will arrange its own financing and Lyons goes east this week to confer with Raftery and bank officials on it, as around $1,000,000 will be the average cost of the films.
Big individual purchases recorded over the weekend sent sales of War Bonds for the Treasury's 'Build Ships' premiere of 'Yankee Doodle Dandy' soaring past the $3,750,000 mark, with three days still remaining in O-which to reach the $5,000,000 goal. Added to the long list of film players purchasing in connection with the premiere were Jack Benny, Rudy Vallee, Sabu, Billy Gilbert and Martin Kosleck.
August 18, 1942
August 21, 1942
Sacramento, Aug. 20.—Incorporation papers for the new Jack Benny Productions, Inc., were filed here today for okay by the Secretary of State. Another picture company, Sidney M. Williams Productions, Inc., of 6253 Hollywood blvd., Hollywood, also entered its articles of incorporation. Papers of the Benny company stated it planned to produce motion pictures and cartoon and listed Benny, Loyd Wright and Myrt Blum as directors. Firm is capitalized for 5,000 shares of no par value stock. Williams Productions lists Williams, B. Burger and Eugene S. Goodwin as directors with 2,500 shares of no par value stock. It will engage in all classes of entertainment business.
August 24, 1942
Harry Baldwin, secretary to Jack Benny, will be inducted into the Army today as a yeoman.
August 26, 1942
Hattie McDaniel trains out tomorrow night for Indianapolis where on Sunday she will address an interracial rally in the interest of War Savings. Before leaving she will join Jack Benny, Ann Sheridan, Rosemary Lane and The King's Men in a recording session at CBS to prepare a transcription for the War Department's weekly 'Mail Call' program.
Hollywood, Aug, 25
Harry James will be in the music corner when Jack Benny pries open the radio season. Oct. 4 in N. Y. with the accent on Grapenuts. Script will have a piece of business about 'where's Phil Harris?'
Harris joins the show later, although there's talk that Benny favors Abe Lyman in the event Harris is called into the service.
Bob Welch, of the Young & Robicam [sic] production staff, has been assigned to direct the Jack Benny program when it returns to the air for General Foods. He directed the Eddie Cantor show for Bristol-Myers last season. Murry Bolen, who directed the Benny series last season, switched to Ruthrauff & Ryan to handle the Edna May Oliver program for Lever Bros.
How long Welch will be able to continue the Benny show is uncertain, as he may enter the Special Service of the Army with an officer's commission. He's currently undergoing dental treatment in N. Y. in an effort to meet the Army's physical requirements. He intends going to the Coast next week to huddle with Benny and his writers, Bill Morrow and Ed Beloin, on plans for the program.
August 27, 1942
Harry Baldwin, for the last 11 years secretary to Jack Benny (and Benny's interrupter on the airshow), has enlisted in the Naval Reserve and will be assigned to the recruiting office downtown.
August 28, 1942
Details for financing the group of films that Jack Benny will produce for United Artists will be worked out next week when Arthur Lyons, associated with Benny, and George Bagnall of United Artists arrive in New York on Monday.
They will confer with Ed Raftery, UA prexy, and bankers in Manhattan on the matter of coin that can be forthcoming to the Benny unit from financial sources, to be augmented by the comedian's own investment in the enterprise.
Lyons, who will remain east for several weeks, plans lining up talent for the productions the unit will make over the six-year period of its UA contract.
September 2, 1942
New York, Sept. 1.—Arthur Lyons idea to set up additional film units consisting of his own and outside talent is currently in the talking stage. He would like to limit his activities to package deals like those which Charles Feldman has been making.
Lyons is devoting his time currently to consulting with the Bankers Trust Company on additional financing for the Jack Benny Productions. He is also conferring on the Benny setup with Ed Raftery, Arthur Kelly and George Bagnall of United Artists.
September 3, 1942
New York, Sept. 2.—Arthur Lyons will head up Jack Benny production unit and probably one other in a general supervisory capacity at the request both of the banks and of the talent involved. Setup entails a long-term financing plan estimated at $24,000,000.
Deal has lined up Eugene O'Neill, Cole Porter, Jerome Kern and Rouben Mamoulian as separate production companies, constituting one group, each making one picture annually, with shooting to start this winter. Casey Robinson possibly also may be included, or another prominent scenarist, although Robinson remains under contract to Warners for another year. Each of the four names is to make one musical or drama yearly, in addition to the Benny film, under two directors yet to be named.
'Porgy and Bess' is planned either as a Benny or as another Lyons unit production. Ida Lupino is mentioned as likely star for an original being written by O'Neill, who has nine plays completed but kept from Broadway production due to constant rewriting. Porter and Kern will have either the play each now is writing, or an original screenplay. Benny will do either a play or a musical.
All Lyons talent will be paid a percentage of the profits plus an additional salary. Besides Dorothy Lamour, Hedy Lamarr, Ida Lupino, llona Massey and Allan Jones, Lyons also has a piece of Fred MacMurray. Most Lyons talent in the studios is on short-term contract, making his own production plans feasible. Lyons talent will be pooled with other United Artists producers when needed.
Lyons stated production arrangements will be made to find a permanent method for carrying artists instead of selling them to studios and using them up. Thus they will make fewer pictures of better quality and have a stake in their own product. He figures this will prolong the professional lives of his clients. George Bagnall of United Artists, who was present at the interview, said David O. Selznick is planning to produce two pictures this season. Hunt Stromberg, he said, definitely is scheduled for three, and maybe four; James Cagney for two, and Sir Alexander Korda for two or more.
September 9, 1942
Invitations have been extended and accepted from Jack Benny...
Idea is to collaborate with 1,300 labor-management committees now active in the U. S. industrial scene. They will give shows and deliver war messages at factories, war plants, defense works, etc. Artist-members of this committee of 25 will increase war plugs on their programs, contact other theatrical talent of the radio, screen and stage to further point up the war plugs.
September 15, 1942
Jack Benny has changed his plans about going to New York for the first two broadcasts of the new season, being held here for retakes on 'Meanest Man In the World' at 20th-Fox. Unless further detained on his current picture, Benny and his troupe will head east after the second airing from here Oct. 11, remaining in New York for 10 weeks. Switch in locale for opener also may cause a substitution of Phil Harris for Harry James, who was set for the first two programs with an option for as many more. Latter is held east by commitments, but probably will go on the program when it goes east.
September 16, 1942
Gary Cooper, Teresa Wright, Walter Brennan, Ginny Simms and Bob Burns are on deck tonight at CBS for 'Mall Call' platters to be recorded for servicemen overseas. Jack Benny and Miss Simms will appear on Saturday's broadcast of 'Soldiers With Wings' from Santa Ana.
September 18, 1942
Motion Picture Relief Fund's Country House arranged for Sept. 27, Jean Hersholt, prexy of the Fund, announced yesterday that more than half of the planned quota of 40 guest bungalows have already been donated by film industry personalities and organizations. These cottages have been erected and will be on view for motion picture artists and workers on the dedication date.
Individual bungalow units have been contributed to the Country House through the Relief Fund by Jack Benny...
George Washington Slept Here
Warners production. Stars Jack Benny and Ann Sheridan. Supporting cast: Charles Coburn, Percy Kilbride, Hattie McDaniel, William Tracy, Joyce Reynolds, Lee Patrick, Charles Dingle, John Emery, Douglas Croft, Harvey Stephens, Franklin Pangborn. Directed by William Keighley. Produced by Jerry Wald. Screenplay by Everett Freeman. From stage pluy by Moss Hurt and George S. Kaufman. Photography, Ernie Halter. Film editor, Ralph Dawson. Montages. Don Siegel. Art director. Max Parker. Set decorations, Casey Roberts. Music Adolph Deutsch. Musie director, Leo F. Forbstein. Tradeshown at Los Angeles, Sept. 17, 1948. Running time: 93 MINS.
Stage play by Moss Hart and Geo. S. Kaufman has been molded to the screen by Everett Freeman with gusto. Its one fault is an overstress in the early reels on the smash-and-fall type of slapstick which threatens to become monotonous, and is certainly repetitious to saturation, before the action slides into swifter channels and more ludicrous complications for the transplanted city couple.
Ann Sheridan, able and fetching in the wifely role, buys an old wreck off the beaten paths because a realtor told her that George Washington had slept there. It turns out that the erstwhile sleeper was Benedict Arnold. But meanwhile so much has happened to Benny and his wife, as well as to Uncle Charles Cobum and the cook, Hattie McDaniel, that no one cares who slept where or when. Circumstances in the city, involving Franklin Pangborn as the irate manager of the Benny's apartment, have compelled the move to the country. Dry rot, lack of water, disputes with a neighbor, no transportation, a well-digging hired hand who induces quick nervous breakdowns, storms and the discovery that Uncle Coburn, presumably rich, is a penniless sponger, together with threatened foreclosure—these are some of the incidents and situations which skyrocket Benny's blood pressure and test all of Ann Sheridan's resources to swing into peaceful and contented finalities.
Benny's suffering under his indignities shape his characteristic performance into one of his better roles. He and Miss Sheridan work well together. Cobum is at his best in the scenes where he discloses to the astounded relatives that his pretended wealth is merely a ruse to live richly on the snobbish expectant heirs. Franklin Pangbom's fury at the destructive little dog of his tenants and his intrusions upon the Benny's privacies give him one of his most amusing parts in many a picture. Percy Kilbride is good as the unsociable neighbor, and Harvey Stevens sympathetic as the helpful one. Lee Patrick and John Emery are performers at a summer theatre nearby. Joyce Reynolds is Miss Sheridan's young sister who is always falling desperately in love with older men— an interesting performance. William Tracy is the lovelorn lad who is devastated by Miss Reynolds' amative ventures. Percy Kilbride builds his part as the well-digger to top comedy importance with his dry, deliberate delivery. Douglas Croft is a pestiferous lad who also serves to move the comedy along.
Jerry Wald holds the reins on the production with marked understanding of the entertainment values and skillful executive competence to give the film showmanly importance.
Keighley's direction exploits all of the comedy elements expertly and guides the performances for top deliveries. Ernie Mailer's cameras, Max Parker's art direction and Casey Roberts' sets, music by Adolph Deutsch and musical direction by Leo F. Forbstein lend solid technical support to a quality production.
September 21, 1942
Sammy Clark who left Warners last week for Army service and was rejected does not return to that organization. He has been engaged by Jack Benny as a public relations contact and will handle various of the letter's personal affairs, outside of business management. Clark was with Warners for number of years and was one of Charlie Einfeld's top exploitation aides.
September 30, 1942
London, Sept. 14.
The Evening Star of London, making invidious comparisons between British Broadcasting Corp.'s programs and those in America, says:
'If the BBC cannot originate, they might try to imitate. It is to be wondered whether any members of our own BBC Variety Department ever trouble to listen-in to the Jack Benny American programs which the BBC re-broadcast for us twice a week. These shows are perfect entertainment. They have wit without innuendo, melody, a top-grade singer, and in Benny, his wife, Mary Livingstone, and Rochester, they have personalities round whom the show brilliantly revolves.' 'Here the BBC has an example which they might well emulate, and even copy. But they still give us the same dreary so-called humor—variety with no cohesion and no wit.
There is no program here to come within a mile of the Benny broadcasts. Perhaps they are not meant to.'
October 6, 1942
Jack Benny takes his Grapenuts Flakes troupe to Santa Ana for Sunday's broadcast, and the following week pitches at Williams Field, Phoenix.
October 7, 1942
Cast: Mary Livingstone, Eddie Anderson, Phil Harris, Dennis Day, Don Wilson
Writers: Bill Morrow, Ed Beloin
Director: Robert Welch
GRAPE NUT FLAKES
Sunday, 7 p.m.
WEAF-NBC, New York
(Young & Rubicam)
Considerable credit for all this obviously belongs to the writers and it was significant Sunday that they received air credit at the sign-off.
Actually first broadcasts in new seasonal cycles tend not to be the best examples of a star or his formula.
There seems to have developed through the years the fixed idea that the first program of a new season must devote itself very largely to reminding everybody that it is the first, a fact that may loom larger to the production team than to the public. This is due of course to the fact that the first program seeks to tie-in with a special publicity splash and with other attempts to cause word-of-mouth, which will in turn re-fuel the fires of interest and curiosity. There is perhaps no quarreling with the commercial common sense of this procedure. Nevertheless, it does have the net result of making six or seven new shows that come in around the first of October each fall sound somewhat alike in that each in turn devotes the first broadcast to the theme of its firstness.
Actually it was a clever and topical device they worked out for the 'firstness' this time. Benny's antique Maxwell was the object of a car-sharing trip to the studio, the wheezy old chariot drawing up at the curb to pick up (and introduce) the several cast regulars. At one stop Phil Harris was standing on the curb with his new baby and its nanny. This provided another topical allusion. The cross-fire on the way to the studio planted the characters with characteristic Morrow-Beloin deftness.
At the NBC studios in Hollywood Benny had trouble trying to gain admission without a pass. This introduced an amusing tired-throat stooge bit in the form of the guard. Also droll was having the program's new director, Bob Welch, as a slaphappy character who is doing terribly on the 'first' broadcast and laughing crazily at his own inefficiency, which includes not having a studio available for rehearsal and then not having any scripts. The whole program was represented as what happened an hour before broadcast and the reason why there is no regular broadcast Bob Welch was formerly an actor and may well be a good comedy bet as used.
The profusion of professional touches of high skill and imagination, the intuitively socko timing of the dialog, and the subtle-but-not-too-subtle quality of the whole made it steadily diverting.
Actually there were fewer of the 'old' gags than usual. Two scored strongly. One when Mary Livingstone agreed with Benny that there should be no more toupee jokes, then quickly snapped 'by the way, pull it up. You look like Veronica Lake.' Again when Benny reminds his Negro valet-chaufeur-confidant that the wartime speed limit is 35 miles an hour and Rochester pipes up with the suggestion that they get a new motor and 'have a go at it' (the speed limit).
Young & Rubicam devoted much ingenuity to slipping the show from Jello to Grape Nut Flakes, the commercials being very sharp in themselves and larded into the script.
Following the radio dictum that any complicated thought needs to be stated and re-stated at least three times, it is hard to believe that listeners didn't catch wise that there was a change of product.
A little music from Phil Harris, a little song from Dennis Day kept the program's franchise as a 'revue.' But of course its 90% Benny in a series of comedy by-plays. Which is not to suggest that anybody is complaining. Land.
LOCAL 47 of the American Federation of Musicians has taken umbrage at Sunday night's announcement on the Blue network regarding the net's failure to air the recorded 'repeat' Jack Benny program at 8:30 p. m. for the Coast. Union states that announcement was deliberately though velvetly misleading, stressing only the inability to obtain musicians without explaining the reason as being because of men not being permitted to make recordings or transcriptions.
Acting on the advice of counsel James C. Petrillo, president of the American Federation of Musicians, has imposed a strict ban on the rebroadcasting of network commercial programs from records. With the Government's anti -trust action against the AFM slated to come to trial before a Chicago federal court today (Wednesday), Joseph N. Padway, AFM counsel, last week pointed out to Petrillo that the union might prejudice its case by discriminating between various classification of program recordings. Padway suggested that the federation go all the way on the recording ban or not at all. As the result of this advice the 'Duffy's Tavern' as well as Jack Benny program suddenly found themselves barred from serving the westcoast by the record route.
According to Young & Rubicam, agency on the Benny show, the question of whether Benny will do a live repeat will be determined by the affect that the omission of the Coast rebroadcast has on his rating in that area. As for 'Duffy's Tavern," the same agency late yesterday (Tuesday) was negotiating with the Blue Network for a live repeat to the Coast at midnight EWT. Tavern opened on the Blue last evening (6) for Bristol-Myers, and rather than have the initial broadcast reach the Coast at 5:30 p.m. the account had arranged for the program to be taken off the line and repeated over the Blue's Coast hookup three hours later. The AFM's ban' made it necessary for the manufacturer to increase its appropriation to the agency.
It was the 'Duffy's Tavern' situation thai precipitated the Benny action. When consulted about the 'Tavern' repeat, the AFM's New York local replied that it saw nothing objectionable but that the question would have to be referred to Petrillo. The federation's prez then consulted Padway.
Benny's live broadcast is heard over NBC's westcoast stations at 4 p.m. PWT., while the recorded repeat over the Blue's Coast link had been cleared at 7 p.m. PWT. Chuck Wallace, president of the AFM's Los Angeles local, had been agreeable to this arrangement. Benny had made the recorded repeat a condition of the signing of his current contract. He has been paying $12 extra to each of his musicians for the recorded repeat.
October 8, 1942
New contracts between the National Broadcasting Co., the Blue network and Local 47 of the American Federation of Musicians are expected to be signed today, union reporting all parties in accord with the new ticket. Though there are a few minor changes, most important is the elimination of all clauses that formerly permitted recording and transcribing of broadcasts for later use as repeat and delayed broadcasts.
Local states that parent body instructed it to delete all such clauses, leaving the matter of discs to the Federation. Since the recording and transcription ban is a national matter, Local was informed that permission to make either must come from the parent body. Same would be in the form of an added agreement and not contained in the Local's agreement. Banning most recently hit the Jack Benny and Rudy Vallee repeats, causing much consternation in radio circles. Making of discs had been allowed formerly as a concession.
New ticket allows for increase in number of staff musicians and aver-ages a 5 % pay increase over present scale, plus a reduction of work week from six to five days. Contract with Columbia Broadcasting, which will follow similar lines, will be next worked on by the union.
October 12, 1942
Jack Benny has ordered five extra recordings of his Sunday airshows for distribution among the Marine bases. At the close of each program he'll append a personal message to the Leathernecks. Platters are being made at the request of Maj. Raymond Hanson of the Marines recreation and athletic division.
Jack Benny has a deal to make another picture at Warners before he goes into independent production for United Artists release. Likely that Benny will again be teamed with Ann Sheridan, as they were in George Washington Slept Here.' First, however, Benny makes tour of army camps with his radio troupe, going to New York and back. Second Warners picture has not yet been selected.
October 19, 1942
New York, Oct. 18.—Sol Lesser plans to bring Frank Borzage and the 'Stage Door Canteen' unit to New York for three weeks' shooting, with seven weeks being skeded for Hollywood. He will use the Fox Movietone Studios here wherein he will reproduce the New York Stage Door Canteen. Film rolls Nov. 10 and is expected to be ready for March release.
Harry Horner, production designer, also is in New York to make a replica of the Canteen for the picture.
Top ranking stars of screen, radio and stage whom Lesser plans to use, but not all definitely set, are Bergen-McCarthy, Bette Davis, Jack Benny...
Jack Benny and Eddie 'Rochester' Anderson will be inserted from here on March of Time broadcast Thursday in connection with the comedian giving up his mythical Maxwell to the nation's scrap heap.
October 20, 1942
Bob Hope gets top call in the Hooper Oct. 15 national program ratings with a percentage of 31.7. In second place is 'Fibber and Molly' with 28.8, followed by Chase & Sanborn and Jack Benny in a tie at 24.8.
October 21, 1942
The American Federation of Musicians does not intend for the time being to take any action against the use of recordings for delayed broadcasts by local stations. The union's ban on off-the-line discs for regional delays, however, stands as is. Programs affected by the latter policy as far as the west coast is concerned are Jack Benny, Rudy Vallee and Duffy's Tavern.
Sol Lesser, in efforts to engage as many of the junior hostesses and other performers now working at the Stage Door Canteen as possible for the film of the same title, plans to work out an arrangement with the Screen Actors Guild so that they will be employed under individual contracts. Lesser will try to get waivers for those who are not in good standing with the SAG. Meantime, among the top-ranking stage, radio and picture names whom Lesser hasn't got set for 'Stage Door Canteen' are ... Jack Benny ... Lesser stated last week that though these had expressed willingness to appear in the film, objections from agents, studio intervention and previous commitments might prevent some of them from following through.
Montreal, Oct. 20.
Tide of religious public protest against the discontinuance by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. of the broadcast of Sunday evening church services in Montreal is being stirred up by the Central Broadcasting Committee whose business it has been for the past 16 years to take charge of these broadcasts. When it became known that, beginning with the first Sunday in October, a commercial program (Jack Benny) would replace the evening church service, a committee was chosen to go to Ottawa to interview the Board of Governors of the CBC. This committee was composed of leading clergymen and prominent members of the laity of this city. Nine churches are represented, two Anglican, four United, one Baptist and two Presbyterian.
On Oct. 11, a statement explaining the situation was read at morning and evening services in each of the nine churches, outlining the action taken and closing with the words: 'It is the intention of the Central Broadcasting Committee to see this matter through and the help of all of you and of every serious-minded citizen will in due course be invited.'
The local Council of Women is considering the situation and the St. George's Society has appointed a sub-committee to look into the matter. A Christian Endeavor convention held in one of the churches sent copies of a resolution on the question to the Prime Minister of Canada and the chairman of the CBC. It is pointed out on the other side that a local broadcasting station has half an hour available from 7 to 7:30 presently used for a sustaining feature. But to this suggestion the committee replies that the coverage of this station is much below that of the CBC station and that it would be limited strictly to the city of Montreal.
Church services broadcasts have been carried by CBC on its CBM station since December, 1937; on French independent station CKAC from 1930 to 1937 and from 1926 to 1930 on the now discontinued station CHYC operated by the Northern Electric Co. The broadcasts are the longest without break in the history of radio operation in this city.
October 28, 1942
Jack Benny switched over from cigars to a pipe on advice of his medico and then took to his quarters with a bad throat.
October 29, 1942
Jack Benny can set up a new business any day now. After that air program brought to light 'Mother Benny's Chili Sauce,' 48 good souls sent coins for sample bottles, one asking for a dozen bottles.
November 2, 1942
Jack Benny, Priscilla Lane and and Eddie Anderson were back on the 20th-Fox lot Saturday for one day's added scenes and retakes on 'The Meanest Man In the World.' Ernst Lubitsch directed.
The prop that made Hollywood radio's glamour capital— guest starring—has been rudely knocked from under it by the government's freeze on the high coin grabbers. Supposition that it is, ad agency execs incline to the belief that the day of calling in a film star to bolster a tired program or lend his name value as Crossley bait is out for the war duration. Currently the picture is a muddled one but that much can be seen through the fog that has enveloped those who have tried to make fish or fowl out of the government's order to keep per annum net earnings under the $25,000 ceiling —and starting with this year, retroactive a week. ...
Word comes through from the east that Young & Rubicam agency has stopped further pay to the Kated Corp. (Kate Smith and Ted Collins). Master minds say the agency has overstepped itself inasmuch as the Social Security regulations catalog such a setup in the corporate class, tabbing the package head as an independent contractor and ergo, his or her own employer. Agency has three other package shows here— Jack Benny, Eddie Cantor and Burns and Allen. Meeting has been set up for early this week by Tom Harrington, radio director of the agency, with the Benny package ($22,500 weekly) subject of the probe to arrive at a medium for all such arrangements. Around the conference table with Harrington will be Arthur Lyons, agent for Benny, and Loyd Wright, comic's attorney. Collins, it is said, favors a direct appeal to the Treasury Department and has contested the agency action.
November 3, 1942
Jack Benny pays Phil Baker a guest call on his program Sunday at KNX. Courtesy will be reciprocated by Baker in New York later. Benny airs from NBC here Sunday and Terminal Island the following week.
November 4, 1942
Short Subject Reviews by Mike Wear
‘Screen Snapshots No. 3’ (Col, glimpses of screen stars, 9 mins.)— Camera closeup of Jack Benny radio broadcast at California soldier camp. Just unfunny, with Benny, Mary Livingston, Dennis Day, Phil Harris, Rochester, shown at disadvantage.
'Unusual Occupalions' (Par. 10 mins.) — Even Eddie 'Rochester' Anderson's pet hobby, miniature electrical train, fails to save this because of other trite topics included.
Jack Benny will leave on army camps tour in the east as soon as he has completed new scenes and retakes at 20th-Fox on 'The Meanest Man in the World.'
No stranger to high places in the surveys, Chase & Sanborn is back on top in the Oct. 30 Hooper national ratings with an even 30. Next is 'Fibber and Molly' with 27.9, followed by Walter Winchell with 27.3. Others, in the following order, are: 'Aldrich Family,' Bob Hope, Maxwell House Time, Lux Radio Theatre, Jack Benny, Bing Crosby, Rudy Vallee, Eddie Cantor, Screen Guild, 'Mr. District Attorney,' 'Adventures of Thin Man' and Kate Smith. Headman in the partial coverage lineup is Red Skelton with 29.9.
November 6, 1942
To permit Jack Benny to rehearse his radio show, filming of added scenes and retakes on 20th-Fox's “The Meanest Man In the World' will suspend tomorrow, resuming on Monday.
November 7, 1942
Jack Benny has picked up an Austin for gas-saving purposes.
November 10, 1942
A total of 16 personalities have been set by the Hollywood Victory Committee to participate tonight in two USO spot camp shows and one War Department transcription.
Guy Kibbee, Harry Barris, Loyce Whiteman, Vivian Blaine, Sunny Fox, [?] Lowry go to the Beach area. Haven McQuarrie, Juanita Stark, Maurice Amsterdam [sic], Mable Todd, Gloria El wood, Ezelle Poule will entertain Navy men at Terminal Island.
Jack Benny, Cass Daly, Alice Maye and Rochester were set for appearance on 'Command Performance' which Glenn Wheaton and Carl Kuhl will produce at CBS. In addition Bill Gargan and Lucille Ball appeared last night on 'This Our America' over KFWB.
November 11, 1942
With a view to clarifying for the trade the various distinctions between repeat and delayed broadcasts, the following definitions, based on actual network practice, have been compiled. ...
4. Regional Delayed Broadcast: where the program is repeated from a recording over the leg of another network at a later time, such as was the case of the Jack Benny show (NBC), which was also fed over the Blue's Pacific link. The musicians in this case get an extra 50%, at though they had worked twice.
Despite the ruling by the U. S. Treasury Department Friday (6) that the $25,000 income ceiling as far as contractual obligations are concerned does not become operative until Jan. 1, the ad agencies will henceforth require high-salaried talent to sign warranties on receiving their paychecks. The affidavits will state that the recipients are not violating the law by accepting payment. This standard practice was agreed to at a meeting of agency with major radio interests.
The agencies are meantime faced with the headache of re-negotiating talent contracts which run into and through 1943 so that the remuneration will conform with the income limitations of the law. Such names as Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Jack Benny, Red Skelton and Abbott and Costello will be forced to choose between radio and pictures and a feeling seems to prevail among the agencies that most of these will stick to the medium which lifted them to national fame and brought them their first big money.
Where the agencies do expect to be severely handicapped is in the retention of those names that have come into radio from films and in the securing of such names for guest appearances. Programs with personalities who fall within that purview include the Lux Theatre, Kraft Music Hall, Maxwell House Coffee, Time, Nelson Eddy—Old Gold, Radio Readers Digest, Mayor of the Town, and Chase & Sanborn.
Retakes and added scenes on 'The Meanest Man in the World' were completed at 20thFox yesterday by Ernst Lubitsch after nine days of shooting with Jack Benny, Priscilla Lane and Eddie Anderson, cast principals, working. Additional writing on new footage was done by Morrie Ryskind.
Hollywood, Nov. 10.
Phil Harris and his entire band of 25 enlisted in a body in the U. S. Maritime Service and checked in yesterday (Mon.) at the Port Hueneme station, north of here.
Harris is lined up for a commission as lieutenant, junior grade, but will continue his weekly appearances on the Jack Benny air program as long as possible, contributing his earnings from that source to the Merchant Seamen's Relief Fund.
In Hollywood... Jack Benny feeding 100 Hollywood newsboys Turkey Day.
November 18, 1942
Salary option lifts for film personalities were okayed yesterday by a Treasury Department representative, provided total yearly take does not exceed $67,200. Simultaneously, film industry attorneys in New York declared there is nothing in the $25,000 income ceiling to prevent film stars from setting up as independent producers and financing their own productions. ...
Film industry attorneys in east said that new avenues of production activity are open to name players prepared to become producers. It was stated that Jack Benny, James Cagney and others who had made plans, previous to the ceiling edict, last week decided to proceed with formation of production units.
'Fibber and Molly' are out front again in the Crossley parade, followed by Bob Hope and Jack Benny.
Three-way guest exchange has been engineered by Eddie Cantor, Jack Benny and Burns and Allen. Benny goes on Cantor's program Nov. 25; Cantor guests with B & A Nov. 24, and Gracie Allen calls on Cantor Dec. 2. Cantor pays back the Benny call later in the season.
November 19, 1942
Jack Benny airs from Palm Springs Nov. 29 and either next day or a week later shove off for New York where the Grapenuts program will originate for from seven to 15 weeks. Desert show pitches at the Plaza theatre for an audience made up of troops from the nearby tank corps, ferry command and glider base.
Warners has announced release of 'Washington' for Thanksgiving Day, opening film with three-house local premiere. However, due to being backed up on product, it is not possible to play through other Coast keys of Portland, Seattle, San Fran-cisco, Denver, Salt Lake, etc., before New Year's week. Then an equal killing to Turkeytime was hoped for by Warners which shares first run privileges with Metro and 20th-Fox in F-WC theatres outside this territory.
But according to present indications, 20th-Fox is rushing final editing of 'Meanest Man' after re-shooting so picture can hit the main keys for Xmas week openings. 20th-Fox is not as well-heeled in product as Warners and lacks the backing up and needs just such a strong attraction for the holidays.
If portending procedure eventuates 'leanest Man' would hit F-WC houses one week before the Warner picture in most Coast cities, and undoubtedly seriously affect grosses on 'Washington' from there on.
Fox-West Coast bases its denial of such deal on fact that Meanest Man' is not yet ready for release. Check at studio reveals, however, that film is completed and going through final phases of editing, allowing ample time for springing it around Xmas.
Home of Gracie Allen and George Burns Sunday, Nov. 22, will be scene of invitational benefit tea held for War Activities Division of St. Peter's Guild. Funds will go to U. S. Naval Hospital at Corona and USO canteens. Patrons and patronesses will be Jack Benny and Mary Livingstone...
November 24, 1942
Jack Benny and his Grapenuts air crew shoves off for New York Dec. 7 and will play camps in the east for up to 15 weeks. First broadcast from New York Dec. 13 will originate at the Vanderbilt theatre. Benny Goodman may draw the music assignment as Harry James, under commitment to Benny for two broadcasts, is due here early next month for his Metro picture. Phil Harris is held here by his Merchant Marine duties.
Bob Hope is roosting atop the Hooper national program rating as of Nov. 15 with a mark of 32.3. Runner-up is Chase & Sanborn with 31.4, followed by 'Fibber and Molly,' 31.1, and Jack Benny, 27.4. In 15th place with 18 is Fred Allen.
November 25, 1942
Marriages: Harriet Haddon to Hilliard Marks, Nov. 23, in Hollywood. Groom was a script writer for his brother-in-law, Jack Benny.
Camel is not taking a chance on switching its Friday 'Caravan' program (CBS) to the Coast because of the possibility of being shut off from film-name talent by the Government's $25,000 income ceiling. Options on its present contract talent, however, do not come up until the middle of December and the question of who is to be retained is still wide open.
Meanwhile the program hap loaded itself up with comics for the month itself up with guest comics for the month of December. Howard and Shelton are dated for this Friday (27) and Eddie Green plus Jack Benny (tentatively) for Dec. 4.
Hollywood, Nov. 24.
Mebbe it's just a normal exchange of courtesies but no one can be blamed for finding a 'trend' in the following guest bookings: Jack Benny on Eddie Cantor's program Nov. 25; Cantor with Burns and Allen Nov. 24, and Gracie Allen with Cantor Dec. 2. Cantor pays back the Benny call later.
Surmisers point out that such a reciprocal arrangement might fill the void that will come next year with the government ceiling on salaries of film stars, who are expected to balk at guest shots without the usual remuneration.
December 1, 1942
ALLOWING that if Gracie Allen can master the intricacies of gas rationing it should be duck soup for anyone else, Office of War Information is recording a program at KNX to help motorists familiarize themselves with the rules and regulations. She will be assisted by George Burns, Jack Benny and Eddie Cantor in the quarter hour Q and A session.
December 2, 1942
Jack Benny, despite reports to the contrary, is not going to hold off producing picture for United Artists until after the war. Benny says he has agreement to make at least one film yearly for UA release and will get into action as soon as he gets the right screen material. This he hopes for shortly after New Year.
Maestro on Jack Benny's first eastern broadcast this season will be Benny Goodman. Troupe shoves off Monday for a tour of camps on the other side of the Mississippi. First airing will be from NBC studio in Gotham Dec. 13.
Couple of hep comedians, Eddie Cantor and Jack Benny, were brought together last Wednesday night (25) in Bristol-Myers' NBC niche and the outcome was a sustained stretch of crisp, bang-up and pointed humor. The script took ample and well-balanced advantage of Benny's air characterization as a parsimonious and egotistical ham, and created a rich situation out of Benny's efforts to steal his host's cast.
December 3, 1942
Jack Benny leaves for New York Dec. 7 to do broadcasts and will huddle with United Artists executives while east on his production setup, effective in January. Sam Clark, press agent for Benny, left for New York yesterday to confab with Skip Weshner, UA advertising-publicity director, on Benny's future plans. Likely Benny will shop around for filmable properties during his New York stay.
Top radio talent will be sounded out tonight on a proposal that would switch performers on sponsored network program while kilocycle stars are overseas entertaining troops for stretches of four weeks at a time. Suggested arrangement would be effective after first of the year when many of the high Crossley shows will be flown abroad as a morale builder for service men awaiting the call to battle stations.
Proposed setup would operate in this way: while Red Skelton is overseas, his spot would be taken by Eddie Cantor, in addition to his own... Among the top air stars attending tonight's meeting will be Jack Benny.
December 4, 1942
Unanimous approval of a proposal for top radio stars to entertain troops overseas for stretches of four weeks at a time was voiced last night at a meeting of talent and agency execs called and presided over by Kay Kyser, chairman of the talent committee of Office of War Information.... Performers attending included ... Jack Benny.
Jack Benny and his Grapenuts troupe train out Monday for New York to pass around 15 weeks touring camps in the east. Accompanying the comedian will be Mary Livingstone, Dennis Day, Don Wilson, Eddie (Rochester) Anderson, Writers Bill Morrow, Ed Beloin and Bobby O'Brien and Producer Bob Welch. Bob Mucks of Young & Rubicam agency planes out Monday to handle the advance publicity.
December 7, 1942
Phil Baker heads for New York today on the Chief with Jack Benny. When Benny goes abroad to entertain the AEF, Baker will take over his Grapenut show for one week as guest star. Baker, incidentally, has just been handed a renewal of his contract with Eversharp for 52 weeks. This is the first time company has handed out a straight contract to any performer, usually inserting a 13 weeks option.
December 9, 1942
New York, Dec. 9.—When Jack Benny goes abroad to entertain the troops, as now seems quite probable, his sponsor, General Foods, may arrange to bring him into his regular Sunday night spot on NBC for a five-minute routine via short wave.
Demand for the restoration to the churches of the Sunday evening hour, 7 to 8, on station CBM of the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. has the official backing of all Protestant denominations in this city, it was stated in a resolution passed at a meeting of the executive committee of the Diocese of Montreal, Thursday (3), and forwarded to the governors of the CBC. (Time is currently filled by Jack Benny, T to 7:30, and by Department of Finance Show from 7:30 to 8 p.m.).
The resolution reminds the management of the CBC that the church services, broadcast from Montreal for a period of over 15 years, have filled a very pressing need and that there have been strong protests from many people concerning the dropping of the evening services in favor of commercial programs.
December 11, 1942
New York, Dec. 10. - Jack Benny and his radio troupe arrived here from the coast today. Comedian remains here for several weeks, during which time his Sunday night airings will originate from eastern service camps.
December 15, 1942
Voice of the Navy on Ginny Simms' program tonight will be that of Harry Baldwin, who was secretary to Jack Benny for many years. He will put through his long distance call to his old boss in New York.
December 16, 1942
New York, Dec. 15. — Jack Benny, it is now indicated, will be the first of the name radio comics to make a tour of American service camps in Britain with the start of the new year. Benny has advised chief of Army Special Service Division, Lieut Col. Marvin Young, that he will be free to make the trip after Christmas. Only snag to crossing the Atlantic is transportation. Benny was told facilities would be available to him at the time but there was doubt whether space could be obtained for his writers and producer.
December 17, 1942
Jack Benny and Fred Allen have been added to the galaxy of stars to appear on the War Department's special Christmas Eve broadcast of Command Performance U.S.A.' to be aired in this country for the first time. All networks carry the hour show and make it available to independent stations through the payment of line charges. Benny and Allen are to be inserted from the east, the main portion of the show originating here. Lieut. Irving Reis and Glenn Wheaton write and produce the program, airing locally at 8 p.m.
December 22, 1942
Fred Allen and Jack Benny will do their 'feuding' on the letter's program Sunday. Benny repays the call later. Eddie Anderson (Rochester) makes a guest call on 'Duffy's Tavern' Dec. 29.
December 23, 1942
With that object in view. Benny, now in the east for a series of camp shows while awaiting word from Washington on his possible trip abroad, has mapped an intensive schedule for the remainder of the reason in which he will reach out into the remote areas 'where the entertainment has been nil.'
Benny, in describing the elation that comes to a comedian after a socko performance before the lads in uniform, observes: It's not so touch being funny in a wartime period of hysteria. In fact I don't remember ever deriving so much satisfaction from making people laugh. There's one important psychological factor that has to be borne in mind at all limes — that people today, not knowing what's in store for them tomorrow, want to laugh for the moment. They need the relief from the ever-recurring hysteria. That's why we find the soldiers so enusiastic. As a matter of fact, all audiences are great. They'll laugh at things that wouldn't rate a chuckle in ordinary times. But the main thing is — keep them laughing.'
The radio-pic comic deplored the fact that so many camps in the country are going without good entertainment. Instead of reaching out into the more remote areas, where only an occasional USO show of so-so merit is seen, Benny pointed out, the top names — 'and they are the ones who count' — must keep going to the same places time and again. This, in part, he attributed to the fact that many radio stars. Instead of letting someone else take over the scheduled air programs, won't risk venturing too far from the studios.
'There's another factor, too," said Benny, 'and that is the failure of some of the top names to realize the tremendous import of getting out to the soldiers and making them laugh. Of course, a lot of them cannot do it for various reasons. But there are others who can.'
Wants Overseas OK
Benny said he was anxious to go abroad to entertain our AEFs as soon as possible and hoped that transportation snags could be straightened out by Washington so that he could be on his way soon after Christmas. When and if he goes, he'll make the trip alone, with the remainder of his radio troupe carrying on from various U.S. army camps and navy and marine bases with a guest star pinch-hitting. For instance, Fred Allen would take over one of the Sunday night spots, Eddie Cantor another, etc.
Original plans of shortwaving Benny for five minutes to (his country for a tieup with the remainder of his troupe have been discarded, the comedian said, due to the inability to determine just where he'll be sent and what facilities will be available.
Benny has also nixed the idea of sending over recordings for broadcast here. "
'If you can't have fresh material, it's no good,' he added, pointing out his best scripts were turned out 24 hours before going on the air.
Benny said he’ll be assigned to a show unit abroad, with BBC hiring the scripter. Lieut. Howard Nussbaum, stationed in England at General Eisenhower's headquarters, would produce.
He'll probably be gone about four or five weeks, and when he returns to this country will resume, his tour oif the camps. 'Hollywood's out for the rest of the season,' Benny said. "There's nothing to take me back for a while and the important job ahead lies in the camps and navy bases.'
Last Sunday (20) the Benny troupe broadcast from Fort Devens, Worcester, Mass., with Abe Lyman and his orch filling the music spot Monday night (21) they did a show at the Navy sub base in Portsmouth, N. H., and last night at Camp Edwards, near Bedford, Mass.
The Dec. 27 broadcast will originate from the Vanderbilt theatre, N. Y., before a soldier house, with future shows still undecided and hinging on word from Washington regarding Benny's jaunt abroad.
Benny said that while in New York he was 'looking around' for a good play that he could make into a picture later. If he can find it, he said, he'd produce it himself and star in it. 'It'll probably be pretty tough finding such a play, however,' he added.
'What about the $25,000 salary ceiling?' Benny was asked.
'Oh, about that,' he replied. 'You better see Mary when she gets back from her shopping tour.'
New York, Dec. 22—Phil Baker yesterday (21) underwent an appendectomy in West Side hospital here and will be off Eversharp's Take It Or Leave If' quiz show for several Sundays. No substitute has been set as yet. Jack Benny is mentioned among those who may take over next Sunday's spot. Baker's condition is satisfactory.
New York, Dec. 22.—Luncheon will be tendered Jack Benny at the Astor hotel Jan. 5. Barney Balaban and Albert Warner are sponsoring the affair for the Jewish Federation.
December 28, 1942
On the air waves, the holiday highlight was the Christmas Eve broadcast of ‘Command Performance,' heard for the first time in this country, and its rebroadcast by shortwave over 32 beams to men on all the fighting fronts. With Bob Hope as mc, the headliners included Bing Crosby, Ethel Waters, Red Skelton, Kay Kyser and his band, Dinah Shore, Ginny Simms, Al Newman's Orchestra, Charles Laughton, Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy, Jack Benny, Fred Allen, Spike Jones and his orchestra and Elmer Davis, head of the Office of War Information, who spoke from Washington.
New York, Dec. 27.—Due to the absence of Jack Benny from the cily doing a special show for servicemen, annual luncheon of the Amusement Division of the Jewish Federation, at which he was to have been guest of honor, has been postponed from Tuesday, Jan. 5, to Thursday, Jan. 7. Affair will be held at the Astor, with Barney Balaban and Albert Warner as co-chairmen.
December 30, 1942
Bob Hope, Elmer Davis, Andrews Sisters, Red Skelton, Harriet Hilliard, Spike Jones, Al Newman, Ginny Simms, Bing Crosby, Charioteers, Ethel Waters, Edgar Bergen, Charles Laughton, Kay Kyser, Dinah Shore, Jack Benny, Fred Allen.
Thursday, 11 p.m.
The War Department on Christmas Eve (24) gave domestic listeners their first tune-in on a series that had been going out to our armed service by shortwave for 43 consecutive weeks. The purpose of this special occasion, as Elmer Davis, Office of War Information chief, expressed it in a foreword to the broadcast, was to forge for that evening a link between the servicemen abroad and the folks on the home front. A recorded version of the show was shortwaved the next day to all points of the compass.
What could have been one of the finest programs of its kind was marred by the off-beat performance of Jack Benny and Fred Allen, who functioned as a team and who made the sole contribution to the program out of New York. The bill was otherwise strictly a Hollywood affair. The letdown on the New York end was due to material that just didn't jell and the inclusion of a song that was neither funny nor intelligible. Benny and Allen sounded as though they were working entirely off-the-elbow. Earlier in the broadcast, Bing Crosby cracked to Bob Hope that if anybody laid an egg on this event he would have an international omelet. The New York end of the bill might have been so tickled by the latter observation that it was spurred to experiment.
The entertainment setup from Hollywood was astutely laid out and the outcome was a sparkling variety show. Hope m.c.'d besides tossing off a monolog and crossfiring with Crosby. Red Skelton did a Christmas morning routine, with himself as the boy and Harriet Hilliard as the mother, and it all flowed with pleasant whimsy and infectious comedy. Charles Laughton was braced with Edgar Bergen and their stuff fitted into the occasion perfectly. The vocal department was uniformly tops, what with Ginny Simms. the Andrews Sisters, Crosby, Ethel Waters and Dinah Shore as the participants.
A special treat in this same department was the version of 'Basin Blues' that came out of the tonsil partnership of Crosby and the Charioteers.
Kay Kyser and his troupe endowed 'Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition' with plenty of melodic vigor, while the Spike Jones novelty band added just the right pinch of condiment with its treatment of 'Jingle Bells.' Al Goodman's orchestral guidance gave the whole Hollywood contribution a nice coating of tuneful gloss. Odec.
What Jack Benny said last week about there being nothing he'd rather do right now — or nothing quite so important — as to make a soldier laugh, went double for the radio-pic comedian Monday night (28) when he and his radio troupe, tired but happy after a strenuous evening's work, left behind them at the Lakehurst (N. J.) Naval Air Station some 2,300 servicemen who’ll probably long remember the Xmas Week package of entertainment deposited within the shadows of the world's largest hangar.
As far as the boys stationed at Lakehurst are concerned, Benny's their Santa Cluus— and from Benny's viewpoint, Monday night’s show served anew to emphasize the point he's long been stressing — the lads serving Uncle Sam are show-starved, need plenty of entertainment and the best that's available.
Benny's 'best' included, beside himself, Mary Livingstone, Rochester (Eddie Anderson), Schlepperman (Sam Hearn), Clark Dennis, Eleanor Whitney, Rose Blane and Abe Lyman's orchestra. And that, as it turned out, is pretty hard to top.
In a well-paced, smooth show running 95 minutes, Benny and his troupe literally wowed 'em and had the wide-eyed uniform lads begging for more. In a hall not quite finished (there weren't even any curtains), Benny set an informal pre-show atmosphere, walking up and down the aisle chatting with the lads while the girls busied themselves backstage with their make-up.
Lyman Starts It Rolling
Abe Lyman's crew got things rolling with a hot romp on 'Bugle Call Ray.' Later, Al Pollock, his top trumpeter, soloed with impressions of Clyde McCoy, Henry Busse and Louis Armstrong, all well done, and encored with "I Got Rhythm," tooted with a lighted cigarette butt under his tongue. Pollock is a chunky gent who blows easily, yet expertly, and has a deft flair for garnering laughs. Of which he got many.
Eleanor Whitney did some trick whirling tap routines and took a fall (the apron was new and freshly finished) for a finish. But to the happy air-minded audience, it was part of a swell act. Miss Livingstone unleashed a poem about Lakehurst; then Schlepperman got off a comedy song patter based on tune titles. He encored with a comedy fiddle bit with Benny and finished with a straight violin solo to sock returns.
Rose Blane had 'em shouting with three jive tunes, the best of which was 'Amen.' Rochester opened doing a crossfire bit with Benny anent their mythical boarder, Mr. Billingsley, followed with some Harlem humor, and segued into 'Sharp as a Tack' song, from his Par pic, 'Star Spangled Rhythm.' His eccentric hoofing was another highlight because it was good and unexpected. Don Wilson, Benny and Rochester then got together on a kibitzer skit using checkers instead of cards. Lyman closed with 'Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.'
It all added up to grand entertainment, but on the bus-ride back to N. Y. Benny was only concerned with improving this bit, and loading up that one, because there are a lot of other isolated spots on the Eastern seaboard to be played yet and he wants things just right.
The troupe will eventually work its way back to the Coast via the army and navy camps and expects to get back to Hollywood sometime around the end of March.
When queried as to what his tour of the Army and Navy bases was costing him, Benny brushed aside a response, but it has been reported authoritatively from other sources that the figure is close to $5,000 for every week the outfit tours. The troupe plays service shows Monday and Tuesday nights; Benny rehearses his regular Sunday night broadcasts the rest of the week.
Sum covers traveling and living expenses of his troupe of 23, including Rochester, Mary Livingstone (Mrs. Benny), Sam Hearn (Schlepperman) and Dennis Day, plus writers, publicity men, secretary, wives and husbands of performers. In addition there's a name band and a couple of outside acts. Those named above are, of course, with Benny on his radio show, and remain standard with him throughout his tour of service bases.
Benny also stands the expenses required when he broadcasts his regular program from one of the service centers.
Bob Mucks, public relations rep for Young & Rubicam agency, was a nonplussed individual as he greeted members of press recently at a party he was giving for Jack Benny at the Ritz-Carlton hotel, Boston. The newspapermen asked Mucks at the door for the Warner Bros.' party, with later questions centered about Benny's picture, 'George Washington Slept Here.' Mucks and the agency were concerned about Benny's radio activities. P. S.: Young & Rubicam paid the hotel tab.
Jack Benny and Fred Allen made it a neat field Sunday night (27), the latter guesting on Benny's show and Dennis Day reversing on the Allen program. The score favored Allen, especially the devastating ribbing on Benny's alleged penuriousness.