Sunday 7 December 2014

Why Benny Helps

Jack Benny supported a number of causes over the years. He’s best known for his support for symphony orchestras and their homes, playing benefit concerts for them all over North America.

He was also one of a number of comedians who raised money for the state of Israel. The country awarded Eddie Cantor its Medallion of Valor in 1962. No doubt that’s what’s being referred to in this story in the Canadian Jewish Chronicle of April 18, 1962.

The article’s second-last paragraph explains, in a few words, why Benny’s radio and TV character was so popular.


IT WASN’T Sunday—it wasn’t a television show. What was Jack Benny doing there?
Eddie Cantor was supposed to be there. His seventieth birthday and the Israel Bond organization was going to honor him with a medal.
Jack said Eddie Cantor wasn’t well and asked him to come instead. Called him on the phone. “Jack, you are the greatest comedian in America.”
“I knew he was saying that just to get me to go,” said Benny.
“Why don’t you get Jessel?” asked Benny.
“Jessel!,” screamed Cantor—“he makes too many speeches. You know one of James Mason’s cats died and when Jessel got through with the funeral oration, what didn’t that cat do for Israel! Like Sophie Tucker said, some rabbis become comedians, but Jessel is the case of a comedian who has turned rabbi.”
“Why don’t you call Danny Kaye?” asked Benny.
“I did,” said Cantor.
“Hm-m,” said Benny.
Jack Benny got interested in Israel when he was sent to entertain the troops around Greece, he got leave to visit Tel Aviv.
Then Cantor asked him for a contribution for Israel.
Jack Benny took out a check blank and signed his name. “Eddie,” he said, “you fill in the sum.”
Eddie Cantor wrote in $25,000.
Benny is stingy only on television.
“I’ve been making so many speeches for Israel bonds,” Jack says, “they are beginning to call me the Jewish George Jessel.”
Jack says he would be a better violinist if the golf courses around Beverly Hills were shut down.
His ambition had been to be a violinist. His father gave him a violin and a monkey wrench. “Plumbing is a good business, too,” he said. Jack didn’t do anything with the monkey wrench. He played around with the violin for some time. In his first theatrical role, in a melodrama called “From Opera to Ragtime,” Jack played the role of a suffering violinist. In the Navy, too, he appeared as a fiddler when his battleship put on a musical revue, but he found he got more response from his words than from his tunes.
Back in civilian life, he was billed as Bennie K. Benny, but this was often confused with Ben Bernie, the name of a performer of some national renown, so the name was changed to Jack Benny.
In Hollywood, they say he is a great worrier, that he “lives on coffee and finger nails,” but his sponsors never worried about him and millions of people find him a weekly tonic.
He seems soft and easy like music. He is famed for his time sense of timing his pauses. Timing is very important in music and the violin may have helped him to that.
He works hard to get that smoothness. He doesn’t simply assign the job to his writers. They sit down together for days and slowly hammer it into shape.
Jack Benny says that in his role he seeks to “encompass about everything that is wrong with everybody.” The people see themselves in a mirror. He restores them to their humanity.
Jack Benny has a deep sense of humanity. That is why he is so ardent in his work for helping build Israel.

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