Saturday 31 October 2015

Two Landmark Silly Symphonies

So much has been written about Walt Disney’s cartoons, there’s no point in me analysing them. Instead, let me post a couple of full-page trade ads for two of Disney’s three landmark cartoons before his studio made “The Three Little Pigs” in 1933. The first was “Steamboat Willie,” where Disney took a lead character and turned into a musician and cavorting dancer. The synchronised noises as Mickey played animals as musical instruments was more than enough to captivate 1928 audiences, especially compared with the crudely-drawn generic mice of an Aesop Fables cartoon.

We skip past that to look at a cartoon from the following year that, thanks to the internet, has probably been seen more these days than it did when it came out in 1929.

Spake Variety on July 17, 1929:
Animated Cartoon
5 Mins.
Roxy, New York

Title tells the story, but not the number of laughs included in this sounded cartoon short. The number is high.
Peak is reached when one skeleton plays the spine of another in xylophone fashion, using a pair of thigh bones as hammers. Perfectly timed xylo accompaniment completes the effect.
The skeletons hoof and frolic. One throws his skull at a hooting owl and knocks the latter's feathers off. Four bones brothers do a unison routine that's a howl.
To set the finish, a rooster crows at the dawn. The skeletons, through for the night, dive into a nearby grave, pulling the lid down after them. Along comes a pair of feet, somehow left behind. They kick on the slab and a bony arm reaches out to pull them in. All takes place in a graveyard.
Don't bring your children.
“The Skeleton Dance” wasn’t much different in the basic concept than a Mickey cartoon. Lots of music. Lots of cavorting. A little humour. No plot. It’s still fun to watch today, but it was captivating in 1929. Soon other studios, especially Van Beuren, populated their cartoon shorts with dancing and singing skeletons.

The early Mickey cartoons followed a loose format of musicality in the first half, with Mickey rescuing Minnie in the second. The Harman-Ising cartoons at Warner Bros. followed the same format (as did Merrie Melodies until some guy named Tex Avery showed up) and you can see it at other studios. “Flowers and Trees” in 1932 wasn’t much different—flora and friends battled flames in the second half—but what made it different was the full spectrum of hues, thanks to the studio’s inaugural use of three-strip Technicolor. The cartoon still has some charm, despite its comparatively languid pace (it wouldn’t be unfair to credit Avery with picking up the overall speed of cartoons in the ‘40s).

If you’re an animation fan, even if you’re not partial to Disney, you’ve seen “The Skeleton Dance” before. But it’s always worth watching again.

Friday 30 October 2015

Murray and Al

Al Molinaro never struck me as being an actor. He was that genuine on camera.

He was a likeable lump of a guy who was perfect in The Odd Couple, which proved in reruns to be one of the best-written and acted sitcoms of all time. The show had to overcome the almost impossible—being inevitably compared to the terrific movie it was based on. It succeeded. The casting was flawless. The TV show included the same poker-playing buddy characters the movie did but, eventually, Molinaro’s Murray was the only one left. The writers found enough in Molinaro’s camera presence to make his character more than one-dimensional.

Molinaro was fortunate enough to appear in the supporting casts of two monster comedies of the ’70s. He moved on to the cast of Happy Days.

Let’s pass on a few newspaper clippings about Molinaro, who died this week at the age of 96. This is an unbylined story, published on this date 44 years ago, not too many weeks after The Odd Couple began its run on TV. His background is quite surprising.
Bungled Assignments Pay Off for TV Actor
Al Molinaro has a generous-size nose, brown eyes as guileless as a puppy's and the overall aspect of a man who keeps taking wooden nickels, misses buses by seconds and gets a busy signal whenever he dials the telephone.
A born loser. A schlemiel.
Al, who plays Murray the Cop on the ABC's "The Odd Couple," has been acting only three years.
No johnny - come - lately to Hollywood, he arrived in lotus land 20 years ago on tour with a four-piece combo, playing piano and guitar. Fancying the idea of doubling in brass as an actor, he remained when the other sidemen split the scene.
He landed a $75-a-week job as staff producer at a local TV outlet, made good contacts, and throe years later quit the job and began packaging and selling his own video shows. Business was good for six years, and when it petered out he took the plunge into commercial TV as a performer. His first effort, selling frying pans on a Joe Pyne show. "It's Your Nickel." was pure disaster.
"It was live television." he recalls, "and if you goofed once there weren't any second chances. I was kicked off the show and out of the studio."
Al also bungled his next assignment, a foreign car commercial. But he was so funny the producer decided to play the blurb for laughs. The commercial ran two years. In another comedy of errors, he landed his first acting job in a TV series when the casting director of "Green Acres" hired him for a role, thinking he was somebody else. His next break came when the producer of "Get Smart" saw Al in a commercial and signed him to play Agent 44. He appeared in six episodes.
To polish his thesping techniques, Al enrolled in a Hollywood school of acting. While performing in one of the school plays, he attracted the attention of writer - producer Garry Marshall. After the performance. Garry went backstage and told Al he'd keep him in mind when he cast "The Odd Couple."
When Garry began auditioning performers to play the poker players in the series. Al sent him a series of blowups of himself in various poses around a poker table. The hint was obvious — and it worked. He was hired as Murray, the Cop.
King Features interviewed Molinaro a couple of times. First up, a piece that ran in newspapers around May 31, 1973. The photo accompanied the story.
Al Molinaro's Finest' Role Extends Security

TV Key, Inc.
NEW YORK (KFS)— The Jewish cop—one of New York's Finest—on ABC's "The Odd Couple" is an Italian from Milwaukee.
Al Molinaro, who is the perfect third party foil for Tony Randall and Jack Klugman on the series, is one of those pleasant success stories that offer hope to all who are approaching the middle-age crisis. Al changed careers about four years ago and, as a featured player in a hit TV series, is now relatively secure in his new profession.
"And if it goes bad, I'll find something else," said Molinaro, laughing. Even as "The Odd Couple" begins its fourth season, he is not completely convinced it has all happened.
Despite the fact that he started acting but a few years ago, Al has lived in Hollywood since the early '50s, when he arrived as part of a 4-piece musical combo touring the country. "I liked California, so I stayed," is his only explanation for abandoning the tour.
He landed a job at a local TV station for a lot less money than he earned as a musician, but he stuck with it for three years learning all he could about the local TV operation. Then he went out on his own and began packaging his own ideas. He developed a business which netted him almost $100,000 a year, but each show he sold was either a hit and stolen, or a flop and cancelled. As a result after some seasons of lucrative returns, the business began to falter and Al looked about for something new.
Since most aspiring actors in Hollywood still haven't heard that this is the era of the average looking guy, Al decided to offer his average, man-in-the-street face around for TV commercials.
His first shot was a live spot selling drying pans, and he was not only fired by tossed out of the studio. His second job was also a disaster, but some astute producer thought it might work as a funny commercial, and the spot played for two years, giving Al his first delightful experience with residuals.
After several years of making a buck in commercials, Al decided he should reinvest some of his money and actually take acting lessons. He was spotted by Harvey Lembeck, who told him he had a lot of natural talent. Lembeck invited Al to join his acting lab which specializes in improvisations.
"That was the turning point for me," said Al. "I really found out what it was all about. Harvey runs it as a labor of love, yet anybody who has spent time in the group not only learns his craft but is seen by producers. That's how Garry Marshall first saw me work, and he came back to tell me he'd keep me in mind for a TV series."
Then Al heard that Marshall was in charge of "The Odd Couple" and was looking for types to appear in the famous poker game scene, which established the characters in the original play and was expected to do the same for the TV version. Al called to remind Marshall about their first meeting.
"I couldn't get past the front office," Al said, "but I sent him pictures and notes reminding him. I finally got through. And I got the job."
Al is the only poker player still with the series. The chemistry he created while working with his co-stars was recognized, and he was signed on as a regular. Despite his success playing a New York cop, Al was on his first visit to the big town when I met him. He was bringing his family East for a vacation, and had come ahead hoping to line up enough commercials to cover expenses.
"It's a great town?" Al said. "And everybody recognizes me."
Molinaro had the unenviable job of coming into a sitcom and replacing a well-liked character. How well did he pull it off? Judging by the fact most of the headlines in his obits refer to his role on Happy Days, I’d say pretty well. This column is from Dec. 22, 1976.
For Molinaro, 'Happy Days' Return

TV Key, Inc.
HOLLYWOOD—(KFS)—Needing an exit line on "Happy Days," the fat Italian, Al Molinaro, yells, "Garry, give me a clap-off line" to producer Garry Marshall. Later, during the filming of the show before an audience, Molinaro, as Alfred the new drive-in owner this season replacing Japanese comic Pat Morita, uses the Marshall line and gets a big laugh as he departs.
By now Molinaro knows almost anything Garry Marshall gives him will work. When Al portrayed Murray the poker-playing cop on "The Odd Couple," Marshall always fed him boffo lines. Marshall never had any trouble pegging Al.
When Al protested a line one day as being "hard" during a reading, Marshall urged the staff writers to scan the pudgy actor. "Look at him," said Garry. "He's not a hard man. Write for him, don't worry about the character."
The best thing about Al Molinaro is that he doesn't fit the image of a Hollywood actor. He is the garageman down the street, the Italian minding the store. The body is full of pasta, and the face with the expansive nose can turn dark with fury or light up a gloomy room. On camera beside neatly proportioned actors, Al is reality. Therefore he can say almost anything and be believable.
Hearing about his past, it's apparent Molinaro can do almost anything. Barely out of school in Kenosha, Wis. Al, 17, went to work in a bedspring factory, and soon led the employes out on strike to protest the terrible working conditions. Al didn't know what he was getting into. The strike lasted a month. But the workers stuck by the kid and won.
Next to last in a family of 10 children, Al watched his dad work day and night to keep the family going, but drove his father crazy when he quit a job as assistant city manager to hit the road as a guitar player in a 4-piece band.
Twenty-five years ago, Molinaro the musician hit Hollywood and decided to try acting. Perhaps he was a shade too handsome in his youth. His face needed seasoning. No one would hire the Italian. A girl hit Al with the truth, "How can you get what you never were?"
Television was in its infancy during Al's rounds of rejection, so he decided he would be a TV producer, and muscled his way into an independent station manager's office. Lying about his credits, Al walked out with a $75-a-week job as producer. His tenacity had worn down the manager.
"I moved around the Sunset Boulevard studio with a clipboard under my arm to see what the business was about," Al said. Taking the worst air time available, Molinaro put on a 2-hour square dance party, a show that ran two years. He brokered the air time, fought off an agency man who wanted kickbacks, and got so involved in the rat race his emotions took over. It was time to clear out.
The Molinaro face, and his anger rising up during the reading of a foreign car commercial, changed Al's life not many years ago. Soon that Italian face under a chef's cap appeared on Los Angeles billboards for the gas company. The "Get Smart" producers spotted the billboard and hired Al for six episodes as Agent 44. A "Green Acres" series job followed.
Actor Harvey Lembeck caught his TV roles on the air and asked Al to join Lembeck's comedy improvisational class: "You're a funny guy, but I don't think you know what you're doing."
Al didn't, but he learned with Lembeck. Penny Marshall, Garry's sister of "Laverne & Shirley" fame, was in the class. One night brother Garry came to pick up his sister and watched the final improvisation of the night by Molinaro. It was a rocker, and Marshall came up to congratulate Al: "You are terrific."
Al thought "The Odd Couple" producer was merely another actor, but when auditions for the role of a poker player on "Odd Couple" came up, Al sent Marshall a huge board of Molinaro photos sitting around a poker table. Marshall has never mentioned the promo, but Al's job on the Tony Randall-Jack Klugman comedy speaks for itself.
Al was part of Happy Days when there was far too much applause and cheering from the studio audience greeting every arrival and characters from the ‘50s ridiculously wearing 1970s hairstyles (“Cut it? I’m a star!”). While Happy Days is accused of being the quintessential show that jumped the shark, and despite a best-forgotten spin-off, shark-jumping is something Al Molinaro’s career never did.

Wot a Skeleton Dance

A skeleton playing the piano? It could have happened in any number of cartoon studios in the early 1930s, but the one that seemed the most enamoured with human bones was Van Beuren. Skeletons or skeleton gags appear in a number of its cartoons, including the Tom and Jerry favourite Wot a Night (1931).

In one scene, a skeleton takes a bucket of paint and creates a piano on a ledge against a wall, as well as a piano stool.

The skeleton tries to roll the stool up to its boney butt. The stool just laughs at him. So the skeleton rolls its spinal bone down to the level of the stool and begins to play.

That means it’s dance time for the skeleton population, who perform a minuet before the camera cuts to a scene of a gypsy skeleton with a tambourine.

There’s lots of fun weirdness in this one, though parts of it are really poorly drawn. John Foster and George Stallings get the screen credits, along with musical director Gene Rodemich.

Thursday 29 October 2015

The Bats! They're Coming Toward Us!

There’s nothing in a cartoon like things flying or zooming toward the camera, and Disney was a master at it in the studio’s early sound cartoons.

Mickey Mouse is locked inside a haunted house by the house itself. He looks us.

If you look in the left corner of the room, a couple of bats emerge from a hole.

There are more and more of them as they fly toward the camera. One eventually engulfs the whole thing.

When the bat flies in the opposite direction, Mickey emerges from Disney’s ubiquitous spittoon.

I really like the early Disneys; “The Haunted House” is from late 1929. It has excellent layouts and effects, and fine animation.

Wednesday 28 October 2015

Up in the Morning with Winch

Combining two words into one in the show biz world goes back long before the days of “Sharknado” and “Bennifer.” I don’t know who started it, but I peered at a Walter Winchell column from the late ‘40s the other day and it included such pen-sations as “Chet Howard's crew is swelegant,” “one chorusiren” and “Henry Morgan and his Floridarling.”

Winchell had a radio gossip show for many years where he’d grease the airwaves and slip one of these combo-jumbos at the audience. Leave it to Bob and Ray to make fun of it in a sketch called “Up in the Morning With Winch,” which aired on CBS on October 15, 1959. Their version featured Winch talking to his secretary, Lizzie Outlan. I don’t believe Winchell ever did that on air. His private secretary was Rose Bigman. At the time, Winchell had a 15-minute radio show on Sunday nights on WOR New York. The West Coast copycat in the sketch is undoubtedly Jimmy Fidler.

Bob and Ray’s ear for Winchell’s use of the language was so astute, allow me to transcribe the whole routine. (If anyone knows what stock music they used on CBS, let me know).

Bob: And, hi, gossip fans. This is Ed Winch, with an able assist from my gal/secretary Lizzie Outlan. We’ll be talking about the goings-on in Bigtown, U.S.A. here on “Up in the Morning With Winch.” Liz, what’s new?
Ray: Ed, I hear the Indian playboy, Rumat Singh, is back in town, scattering money around like water.
Bob: Yes, he’s a real maharajerk. He should read what Mr. B. Franklin had to say about exceeding one’s income, etc. etc. etc.
Ray: Are the rumors true about Happy Delmonico, the famous comedian, causing dissention back stage?
Bob: Yes, this teevee tee-hee has his videassociates worried about his late arrivals at the studio, and his constant refusals to leave the backstage area in order to emcee his own show while it’s in progress. From great to ingrate.
Ray: Ed, I hear the Marvin Strobels are expecting their tenth child soon. Is that true?
Bob: Yes, they certainly keep the sparks flying. Mrs. Strobel is former chorinockout, beautieyeful Joan Storm.
Ray: And, Ed, is it true that you’ve been barred from another night spot?
Bob: Yes, and I won’t even mention the club owner’s name. Let’s just say he’s distrodious and forget the item.
Ray: Ed, there’s a man out west who does the same sort of thing you do on radio. Have you heard about him?
Bob: Yes, and I have a message for him, Liz. Mr. Microphoney, while you’re taking bravocades for your broadcast, remember this: imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Now, last week, I came down with a virus. Think you can do the same, Mr. Copy Fathead?
Ray: Is the Al Rockwell/Alma Libby romance off again, Ed?
Bob: Yes, they’re doing their sep-parties at separate tables.
Ray: And I hear the Don Cutlers are having their troubles, too.
Bob: That’s right. Don is a pilot for South Central Airlines and their marriage is up in the air. Mrs. C. is former thrusher-lovely Iris Beechwood.
Ray: Any inside information on gangland, Ed?
Bob: I have a tip for the boys in blue, Liz. Racketsap Eddie Brockway is back on the streets again a free man. None of us will rest until this mad dog, this mongrelomanic is behind bars once more. Are you listening politico R.J.?
Ray: Are there any new hit shows along the Rialto, Ed?
Bob: Yes, a new socko musical called “Meet Me in Pittsburgh.” The firs-snipers couldn’t stop clapplauding. The show is a happy blending of corn and old jokes. I counted 34 standeavesdroppers on opening night. Definitely a cash smash.
Ray: But didn’t “Meet Me in Pittsburgh” close last night, Ed?
Bob: Right, even though the show was good the cast had put on a lemonstration that won’t soon be forgotten in these parts.
Ray: And what is your colorful description of Wall Street, Ed?
Bob: The New York stock yard, a place where millions of people change hands every day.
Ray: I think you mean dollars, not hands, Ed.
Bob: And today’s wrap-up item: Ed Winch’s gal/secretary just became an unemployedope. 30 for now.

Tuesday 27 October 2015

In One End, Out the Other.

You couldn’t get away from skeletons if you were watching a cartoon made in New York City in 1933. Yet another example is found in the jaunty musical Tropical Fish, made by Terrytoons.

The cartoon abounds in what are now clich├ęs (dog and cat fish, small fish eaten by a succession of larger fish), but they’re presented in such an unassuming way, they’re fun to watch. There’s some social commentary on Wall Street greed and Prohibition and there’s a red-hot, jazz-singing temptress. And there may be the most disconcerting gag in a cartoon.

Some Walt Disney cartoons in the late ‘20s and early ‘30s featured a scene where a character would swallow the camera. Terry goes Disney a little further. The camera goes in one end of the fish and out the other. I’d prefer not to think of what the “other” actually is.

Monday 26 October 2015

Quick, Kangaroos, Hide!

Slap Happy Lion is one of Tex Avery’s reaction cartoons. The lion reacts to its own roar, the lion reacts to the mouse, the animals react to the lion. It doesn’t work as well as Northwest Hounded Police, which was the exact same type of picture. In that one, a bad guy is clearly established at the outset, so he deserves all the things Droopy does to him which brings about the outrageous takes. But in this cartoon, the lion doesn’t deserve anything; he’s not a villain. And who feels anything for the mouse? He neither heroic nor a victim.

But back to the gags. The lion’s roar scares every creature in the forest (except the mouse), and Avery and writer Heck Allen come up with reaction gags. A kangaroo (yes, in Africa) is frightened, looks for a place to hide and jumps in the pouch of another kangaroo who... well, it ends with the final kangaroo not seeing a place to hide—so it jumps into its own pouch and disappears.

Ray Abrams, Walt Clinton and Bob Bentley are the credited animators.

Sunday 25 October 2015

Star of Stage, Screen and Radio

When you don’t have a lot of money, what could be better than free entertainment? That’s what radio provided a Depression-coping society in 1934—and the motion picture companies wanted to get a piece of the action.

Pictures were having problems in 1934. The novelty of sound had worn off. “Decency” groups were complaining about “filth” in movies, and they forced movie companies to start enforcing the 1934 Motion Picture Code. But some companies looked at the sudden popularity of national radio stars and figured signing them to a film deal could bring radio-hungry people into the theatres. And one of those stars was Jack Benny.

On the surface, Benny’s radio track record didn’t look too great. He had been fired by Canada Dry in 1933. A year later, he was about to be fired by General Motors’ Chevrolet division. But his show was among the top ten with listeners and that’s all that counted. So in 1934, The Benny show was picked up by General Tire and Rubber Co., which was disappointed with a dramatic show it had been sponsoring. This meant yet another change in bandleader and announcer. The second of the five major pieces of the Benny cast was now put in place (Mary Livingstone was already ensconced on the programme). Don Wilson answered a casting call and defeated some of NBC’s top mike-men for the announcer’s job. He kept it until Benny’s weekly TV show ended in 1965. As well, bandleader Don Bester came on board. He had started the year on a programme for Nestle’s chocolate featuring Ethel Shutta. Vocalist Frank Parker stayed, though reports had him being replaced.

At the same time, Benny worked out a movie deal and took his radio show moved to California for several months while filming. Bestor stayed behind and played at the Hotel Pennsylvania. Jimmy Grier was hired for the coastal gig; one of the shows he worked on in California was sponsored by Chevrolet. Parker managed to make the trip, though it almost didn’t happen because of a conflict with another show. Benny had a little group of secondary players in New York he called in frequently—Blanche Stewart, Sam Hearn and Ralph Ashe, mainly. Benny replaced them with Joe Franz, Minnie Martin and Rex Weber for the two months he was in Los Angeles. Oddly, none became part of his group when he permanently moved west. Franz had worked in silent pictures in the 1910s; he apparently got out of show biz after 1939 when he worked on films for five weeks and was paid $300. He died in 1970 at the age of 85. Weber appeared with Benny in Transatlantic Merry-Go-Round.

The film shooting ended. And so did Benny’s career with General Tire. The way one trade paper explained it, the company temporarily loaned the Benny show to a new sponsor. Whether that was the real intention is open to debate, but the move was a wonderful stroke of fortune. Benny’s new sponsor was Jell-O, something associated with him for years, even when he was being bankrolled by other companies. And his show was moved to Sunday nights at 7 p.m. Eastern Time, which was etched in stone until he got out of radio in 1955.

Let’s peer through the pages of Variety (NYC edition) to see what Jack Benny was up to 1934. We’ll include a story from Broadcasting magazine which explained the departure of General Tire.

January 9, 1934
Inside Stuff—Radio
Jack Benny is reported to have won an altercation with Detroit over conduct of the Chevrolet program. Following a change of command in Chevrolet that firm is said to have favored the use of slow and classical music, although, it is a well known truism of show business that bright music is necessary, for the proper backgrounding of comedy.
After some quibbling, and an announced willingness by Benny to take a walk on the show, the matter was patched and Benny got his peppy music back.

February 6, 1934
WB Would Bolster Ether Musical With Broadcasting Names
Warner is planning to use three or four name radio acts to embellish ‘Hot Air’, musical with a radio plot, which is now in the Burbank cutting room. Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler top the pic's cast as it now stands.
First personality, contacted here was Jack Benny who refused to entertain the proposition unless he would be worked throughout the film. This could not be done unless the picture was remade entirely.
Not only singers and comedians but WB wants, some name ether band.

February 27, 1934
When the New Prez Likes Soft Music, Brother, It’s Soft Music or Else
M. E. Coyle, new president of Chevrolet, doesn't like comics, but he does go for soft music. Beginning with his firm's April 8 broadcast on NBC, Jack Benny will be out and an 18-piece orchestra, under direction of Victor Young, will unfold pianissimo and romantic tunes.
Benny learned how the how Chevrolet prez felt about comics some eight weeks ago. Agency on the account, Campbell-Ewald, was instructed to cut Benny's patter down to five minutes and have the orchestra, devote more time to romantic melodies. Benny came back with an ultimatum to the effect that if his routine time were reduced he would walk.
Coyle decided, not to make an issue of his likes and dislikes for the time being, so Benny's patter, continued to dominate the program, but the exec got in the last word.
Young's contract, for 13 weeks, handled through the Rockwell-O’Keefe office.

Short Shorts
Victor Young landed the Chevrolet program, while Jack Benny gets the General Tires account.

March 6, 1934
Jack Benny for Film
Jack Benny may within the current week dose with Edward Small for a motion picture. Deal, if agreed upon, will give Small an option on the comic's service for a second feature.
Angle yet to be settled is whether the filming will be done in New York or on the Coast. Metro several months ago approached Benny on a feature proposition but the discussions didn't get beyond the price offering stage.

March 13, 1934
Don Bestor’s combo has been paired with Jack Benny for the General Tires Show, which unveils on NBC's red (WEAF) link April 6. Benny closes for Chevrolet Sunday before. General Tire’s niche is from 10:30 to 11 p. m.
Bestor win double as stooge for Benny.

Dropping Jack Benny As Sales at Height Irks Chev. Dealers
Lincoln, March 12.
Nebraska Chevrolet dealers seemed thunderstruck at the announcement of GM plans to drop Jack Benny in April. Several agency heads called their entire staffs together to ask the general opinion of the change from the comic to just an orchestra on the Sunday nite program. There was general sorrow all around.
Benny's programs rate high in this section and seems to have been a good warming point for the salesmen to start off their song-and-dance with when a customer comes in. Dealers said decision to swap to an orchestra about June, with Benny's return in the fall, wouldn't be bad, but April finds the heavy selling just getting under way and with the good listener out, it's unfortunate.

What is described a serious meeting is tentatively penciled for Thursday (15) of this week. Groucho Marx and Jack Pearl are ringleaders of a miniature invention of radio comedians who propose to discuss the merits and demerits of studio audiences for air comedy.
Invitations to the meeting have been extended to Al Jolson, Eddie Cantor, George Jessel, Jack Benny, Fred Allen, Goodman Ace, Ray Perkins, Arthur Boran, George Beatty, and others.
A proclamation as befits working conditions for comedians is expected to be issued.

March 20, 1934
Just Talk
Don Bestor and Jack Benny have worked together before, their new General Tire program being a reunion. With their respective wives they were on the old Orpheum circuit in 1927. Bestor's wife is the former Frankie Klassen, dancer.

March 27, 1934
Air Line News
By Nellie Revell
Robert Simmons is the tenor selected for the Jack Benny-Don Bestor General Tires commercial starting April 6 at NBC. Bob will also be on the new Lucky Strike program.
Florence Case will be the girl singer with Don Bestor's band when he goes with Jack Benny.

Inside Stuff—Radio
Contract between General Tires and Jack Benny calls for the comedian to be paid $4,000 weekly for 26 weeks. Company also pays for Benny's scripts. This is an increase for Benny of $500 weekly over his last contract with Chevrolet.
General Tires also holds an option on Benny for 13 additional weeks at $4,500. Program starts April 6.

April 10, 1934
General Tire Revue, with Don Bestor, Frank Parker, Mary Livingstone, Don Wilson Comedy, Songs, Band
30 Mins.
WEAF, New York
It would seem from the unveiling performance that Jack Benny put on Friday night (6) for General Tire that the switch in sponsors was a happy break for both the listeners and the comic himself. Relieved, of having to give thought to what the fellow who signed the check personally liked. Benny delivered a series of laugh interludes that rate among the very best of his air career. It was a species of tomfoolery that found its mark for the most part around the midsection. The event also served to re-establish the fact that as a smooth-working aggregation of mirth specialists the Benny menage can give the Fred Allen troupe a tight run for top position.
For his new stand Benny has moved over his style of comedy intact. Only changes, in his support are the band and the stooge doubling announcer. With Don Bestor, one of the near topliner dance organizations in the business, replacing the Frank Black NBC studio unit and Don Wilson, the Coast emigre who has been making good on the bigtime, holding down what had been Alois Havrllla's assignment on the Chevrolet session, the exchange stacks up as at least, an even one. Wilson proved quick at weaving in on the stooge-announcer requirements of a Benny set-to, while Don Bestor unlimbered a mode of dansapation that registers fetchingly on both the ear and the tootsies.
Bestor also managed deftly on the line delivery. Continuity has him doing a straight dressed up in an Oxford accent and a penchant for multi-syllable words. Bestor stumbled over a couple of the longer ones but a little more experience with Benny on the give-and-take should ease things up for him.
As it did on the previous series, ‘Daring Lives’, General Tire is stressing here the non-skid and non blowout features of its product. Odec.

Cohan and Harris at Guild Dinner Take Ribbing, Do a Song and Dance
Testimonial dinner to two pals and former partners, George M. Cohan and Sam H. Harris, at the Astor Sunday (8) under auspices of the Jewish Theatrical Guild of America, proved the most diverting affair of the season. Expert handling of the event both on the dais and during the show which followed held the guests without a walk-out. Speeches went on the air, all being limited and completed within the allotted broadcasting hour.
Dais had a horde of celebs introduced by the master of toastmasters, George Jessel, whose kidding with Eddie Cantor drew much of the laughter. For a moment Joe Humphries appeared with the honor guests, kissed them both on the cheek, then held their arms aloft for the photographers.
Irving Berlin sang ‘Easter Parade’ from ‘As Thousands Cheer,’ and one of the best laughs was its parodied version ‘Pessach Parade’ with Cantor and Jack Benny in costume (Cantor doing dame).

April 17, 1934
15 Mins.
WJZ, New York
Nellie Revell's afternoon series of interview broadcasts rates among the best in that field of ether presentation if not tops. For Miss Revell manifests a keen sense of audience values in not making it the commonplace puff-blog of the guest star.
Instead she presents her subject humorously, novelly and interestingly, as in the Jack Benny gabfest. The latter, of course, is of more than normal assistance through his unctious delivery of the lines allotted him. The script may or may hot have been his own mike-literary contribution, although it is more likely that Miss Revell authored the continuity in toto, seeing to it that it conformed with the personality and character of her subject.
There is a good-humored, authoritative conviction to her style of address as she puts Benny through the routine interrogatories which she enhances with a rather distinctive dress.
Miss Revell tops off with a recitation on 'Courage.' Harold Levey's orchestra accompanies, all combining into an above par quarter hour.
She was caught last Tuesday afternoon at 2:45-3 o'clock. Abel.

Radio Chatter
New York

Don Bestor will make the Hollywood trek with Jack Benny this summer.

May 15, 1934
First Frolic of the reorganized Friars Club will be staged Sunday night (20) at the 44th Street theatre, New York.
Instead of the usual single Frolicker, there will be three emcees on top of the show this year—George Burns, Jack Benny and Lou Holtz. Irving Caesar is writing the lyrics. Abe Lastfogel arranging the show.

May 19, 1934 (Daily)
New York. May 18.—Jack Benny leaves May 26 for Hollywood. He has eight weeks work on 'Transatlantic Showboat' for Reliance, which is first of two pictures he toils on for United Artists release. Other is for Twentieth Century.
Benny cannot be away from New York for more than eight weeks at a time with General tires agreeing to pick up broadcasts from the Coast during these two month intervals. Understood that Benny is getting $35,000 per picture.
Other radio names from the East set for 'Transatlantic Show Boat' are Jean Sargent and Frank Parker, latter on Benny's radio program. Mary Livingstone, otherwise Mrs. Benny, is not in the film deal.

May 22, 1934
Benny's Two Films With One Heavy On Radio Names
The Edward Small – Reliance ‘Transatlantic Showboat,’ for United Artists release, will be bullish on eastern radio names. Jack Benny is in and signatured at $35,000 for the film. Benny is also set for another film for UA (20th Century) at a tilt.
Benny with Arthur S. Lyons, of Lyons and Lyons who placed him, depart for the Coast next Saturday (26). Harry W. Conn, Benny's radio author and Mary Livingstone (Mrs. Benny), go along. Latter will not be in the film but Conn may contribute to the dialog in between scripting the air programs which will be picked up from Hollywood.
General Tires has agreed to an eight weeks Coast siesta for remote control pickup, but no longer. Benny must then come back east for his future radio dates and then go back to Hollywood for his second UA film.
Jean Sargent, also from radio, is already on the Coast and set for the same picture. Frank Parker, who works in Benny's air show, is another Coast departer but will do one picture for Radio although possibly also working into ‘Transatlantic Showboat.’ Gene Raymond, Edmund Lowe and Madeleine Carroll are to be in it with Ben Stoloft directing.

Hollywood, May 21.
Helen Morgan and the Mills Bros. join Jack Benny in Edward Small’s Reliance production of ‘Transatlantic Showboat.’

New Friars to Pay Off Loans with $4,500 Obtained from Frolic Show
The Friars garnered about $4,500 from the sell-out, $10 top Frolic at the 44th St., New York, Sunday night (20). Understood the proceeds will pay a dividend to members who loaned the Friars the money which financed the recent reorganization and removal to new clubrooms atop the Hollywood theatre building.
Frolic was the niftiest in years, as an entertainment as well as a grosser. It contained special lyrics by Irving Caesar, a set playing routine and a flock of star talent that, on their regular salaries, would pay off a large section of Insull's crediters.
In place, of the customary single Frolicker, (the Friar name for m.c.), there were three of ‘em—George (Nat) Burns, Jack Benny and Lou Holtz. In the script the three comics were 'plotting' the show, and as each name was mentioned, as a possibility, the name would appear for a specialty. That provided a sort of continuity that held the disjointed specialty show together quite well.
Benny's Bath
Burns, Benny and Holtz, seated at a table off to the side of the stage, were exceptionally congenial for three comedians under the conditions.
They didn't try to top each other by pulling a radio author out of hat, or anything like that. Only one flash of competition, and that wasn't in the script. Holtz picked up a seltzer bottle and doused Benny's double-breasted tux. The guy must have been mad when Benny brought the suit back.

Inside Stuff—Pictures
Jack Benny's film contract with Reliance (Edward Small) for United Artists' release is complicated by sundry agents claiming commish.
Walter Meyers (Bestry-Meyers-Romm-Scheuing) claims he started negotiations for Benny last January with his then Coast affiliates, the Small-Landau agency. Since then Meyers and Small-Landau have split. Lyons & Lyons also figure through being Benny's personal managers. Bob Goldstein, now in New York, interposes through now acting for Small-Landau in the east.

May 29, 1934
Air Line News
By Nellie Revell
Frank Parker will not go to the Coast, despite reports to the contrary. The artists bureau at NBC left it up to the Revelers to find a replacement for Parker—one whose voice would blend with the quartet and still be able to do Frank's solos. Last Saturday morning the 'Revelers' had not found a suitable substitute, which resulted in George Engels advising Parker that he was expected to remain. Jack Benny left for the Coast Saturday and will probably recruit someone there.

Jimmy Grier Orchestra Set for Benny Programs
NBC's proposal that the Jimmy Grier unit be used during the run of the Jack Benny stanza from Hollywood has been okayed by General Tire. Grier and the comic get together for the first time this Friday (1).
Grier's previous commercial contact was with Bing Crosby for Woodbury soap on CBS. This program folded last night (28).

Inside Stuff—Radio
General Tire is ceding its Friday night spot this week (1) to the City of Chicago for an hour's program over both NBC and CBS as a ballyhoo for the exposition. Show will run from 10:30 to 11:30 EDST.
Tire company has also okayed the inclusion of Jack Benny on the World's Fair broadcast of that night.

News From the Dailies
Jack Benny to have the lead in 'Bring on the Girls,' which Kaufman and Ryskind are writing for next season.

May 31, 1934 (Daily)
Bennys Arrive, Pic Begins June 5
Jack Benny arrived yesterday afternoon on the Chief to go into Edward Small's 'Transatlantic Showboat.' Accompanying Benny were Mary Livingston (Mrs. Benny) and Don Wilson, Benny's radio announcer.
Picture starts June 5 at Pathe studio with Ben Stoloff directing. Jean Sargent, another New Yorker imported by Reliance for the film, arrived last week. Frank Parker is still due.

June 5, 1934
With Rufus Dawes, Mayor E. J. Kelly, Jack Benny, Clara, Lu and Em, James Melton, Joseph Pasternack, Morin Sisters, Anson Weeks, Fred Waring, Ted Weems.
60 Mins.
WEAF, New York
This is one of a couple of full-hour programs co-operatively financed by participants in the second semester of the Chicago exposition. Obviously it's a whooper-upper for tourists. And as promotional publicity on the grand scale it unquestionably will help.
Descriptions of the exposition grounds supposedly from an airplane circling 1,500 feet overhead gives a clear picture of one model factory after another. Which just possibly is not much of a spending inducement for many a vacationist more anxious to get away from commerce than deeper into it.
That plane trip is divided into two installments separated by a half hour. First the plane is described as heading south, later as returning north, as heading south, later as returning synthetic enthusiasm that arouses wonder as to what sort of capsules announcers feed themselves to keep up that artificial pressure. Over-selling, over-dramatic, it may envelop some mentalities with a sense Of something terrific, but to others it may seem like patent medicine pitching at its worse.
Great stress is made upon the new factories and attractions at the expo this year. Mayor Kelly, Clara, Lu and Em, and others continually hammered the thought that it wasn’t expensive, that there was plenty of cheap sleeping and eating available, Mayor Kelly's remark about not having any traffic problems was a bit thick to those who visited the Fair last year. If there ever were traffic problems, Chicago had 'em in 1933.
Program credits General Tire, Gillette Razor and Pepsodent companies for stepping aside and giving the World's Fair program right-of-way between 9:30-10:30 p. m. (Central) Friday night (1). Ample credits of a commercial and advertising nature were sprinkled through the whole program.
Effectiveness of the program probably hinges upon the reaction of multitudes of people to a money-spending appeal premised upon the fascination of the processes of industrialism glorified in buildings. Just what, it may be asked is the average American's idea of a good time on his annual fortnight of liberty, and does the auspices of the expo paint a picture calculated to fit into that conception? It's anybody's guess no doubt. Meanwhile, the expo is probably sensible that many disappointees went back to their native villages to spread the cynical viewpoint.
Against this, of course, were hundreds of thousands of truly awed and pleased tourists. How, again, do these pros and cons balance themselves? Obviously the expo is taking no chances. The radio programs are designed to generate new enthusiasm where interest may lag.
As to the program gotten together for the occasion, it relied chiefly on Jack Benny (General Tires) and Fred Waring (Ford) for its name strength. It was a good show most of the time but pretty shy on laughs and overboard on commercial plugs. Few 60-minute revues on the air attempt to jam so much selling across. Land.

Inside Stuff—Radio
Jack Benny, doing ‘Transatlantic Show Boat’ for Edward Small at United Artists, Hollywood, has provision in his contract that he works only five days a week, Friday being the extra oft day. This is to enable him to rehearse his broadcast for General Tires that evening.

Inside Stuff—Pictures
Jack Benny told Walter Meyers he'd straighten out the commish tangle for his booking into Ed Small-Reliance picture, ‘Transatlantic Showboat.’ Benny stated he knew that Meyers started the deal, but since Meyers and the Small-Landau (Hollywood) agency split on their east-west representation, new complications arose.
Small and Lyons & Lyons, acting for Benny, consummated the deal, but the actor promised to take care of Meyers regardless.

June 7, 1934 (Daily)
Jack Benny and Jimmie Durante will do the m.c. chores tonight at the benefit dinner for the Jewish Consumptive home at Denver, in the Colony Club. Filmland will be heavily represented as more than 200 dinner reservations have been made. Harry Rapf and Jake Milstein are in charge of the affair.

June 12, 1934
News From the Dailies
George Jessel elected Abbot of the Friars at the annual meeting last week. Rudy Vallee is Dean, Jack Benny the Prior and Ben Piermont and Pat Rooney the secs.
Charles F. Pope remains executive sec. and William D. Weinberger, treas.

Jell-O—Adult Style
When Jell-O, a General Foods product, returns to the air this fall it will be a night-time show directed at adult attention. CBS will be the release.
Last season the dessert base supported a dramatized version of ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ specifically framed for kid appeal.

Chatter (Daily)
Jack BENNY for refusing to attend an orchestra rehearsal for his broadcasts, saying he only wants to enjoy tunes once in each show.

June 19, 1934
Air Line News
By Nellie Revell
Don Bestor renewed for 26 weeks, on Jack Benny show, effective when Benny returns.

June 25, 1934 (Daily)
Mary LIVINGSTON for arriving at the surprise party her husband, Jack Benny, gave in her honor, before the gueets got there.

July 10, 1934
Jell-O and Sanka coffee, both of the General Foods group, will each be represented with a half hour show on CBS this fall. One will be of a variety type and the other dramatic.
Young & Rubicam agency, which handles both accounts, is figuring on having one program follow the other on the same evening's schedule.

July 23, 1934 (Daily)
Jack Benny Goes East July 27
Jack Benny, having completed his work as the lead in ‘Transatlantic Merry-Go-Round’ for Edward Small, leaves for New York July 27, to resume his broadcasting. His wife, Mary Livingston, accompanies him east.

July 24, 1934
Jack Benny’s last broadcast from the Coast is July 27 and his next from N.Y. Aug. 3.
Benny has finished his film for Reliance-Edward Small, ‘Transatlantic Showboat,’ and is coming east.

July 31, 1934 (Daily)
Mitzi Green On Benny Airing
Mitzi Green will be on the Jack Benny program tonight, the last of eight emanating from the coast.
Jack Benny, completing his picture for Eddie Small, returns to New York after tonight’s airing.

July 31, 1934
Benny East After Stay on Coast for Picture
Jack Benny and party arrived from Coast, where he played in ‘Transatlantic Merry-Go-Round.’ put in the can at Reliance last week. Benny left right after his broadcast from Los Angeles, Friday (27). With him came Mary Livingston (Mrs. Benny), Frank Parker, Harry Conn, Don Wilson, Dorothy Martin and Arthur S. Lyons. Lyons closed deal for his N. Y. agency to represent Berg, Stebbins, Allenberg & Blum, and goes back in couple of weeks with contract to tie up agreement.

‘Bring on the Girls,’ the George S. Kaufman-Morrie Ryskind play which Sam H. Harris is readying, is booked to open the Morosco, N. Y., Nov. 9. Jack Benny will be the male lead.
‘Girl’ is the second production on the Harris schedule for the new season. First to reach the boards will be ‘Merrily We Roll Along,’ authored by Kaufman and Moss Hart. It will go into the Music Box Sept. 29.

August 14, 1934
Jack Benny leaves General Tire at the end of September and after a two week vacation resumes on NBC for Jell-O (General Foods).
It will make Benny’s fourth commercial commitment.

August 18, 1934
Stand By Harry (Morgan) Lee ... playing on the Jack Benny show. [Note: Lee’s debut was on the August 3th show. A "Lee" is listed on scripts until November 1935].

August 21, 1934
Benny’s $5,750 Weekly
Salary that Jack Benny is slated to draw from his Jell-O contract represents the heftiest money progress made by any artist in radio. Within a period of two years his income has gone from $2,250 to $5,750 a week. Latter figure is what he’ll be getting from the dessert contract.
Benny’s deal with his present account, General Tire, calls for $4,500 a week.

September 4, 1934
News From the Dailies
Jack Benny has arrived in New York after a short vacation at the Spa. He starts work in ‘Bring on the Girls’ immediately. This is the George Kaufman-Morrie Riskind farce to be produced by Sam Harris in November.

September 15, 1934
To Jack Benny and Results of National Radio Drive — As Artist is “Farmed Out” to Jello

BEST PROOF that Jack Benny’s weekly radio program over an NBC-WEAF network has been getting: results for the General Tire & Rubber Co, lies in the fact that the sponsor, through President William O’Neil, has just contracted with the comedian and his troupe for a new series of coast-to-coast programs starting next spring and extending through the summer of 1935, according to a statement to BROADCASTING by the General Tire Company.
Next month Benny goes on the air for General Foods, Inc., New York (Jello) in a 26-week schedule over an NBC-WEAF network, but he returns to General Feb. 26 by mutual agreement between the companies. Hays MacFarland & Co., Chicago agency, handles the General account, while Young & Rubicam is handling the Jello account.
Story of Success
FOLLOWING is the story of the General Tire Co. on the success of the Benny program and how it has sold tires:
“While Benny and his associates, Mary Livingstone (or Mrs. Jack Benny), Frank Parker and Don Bestor’s orchestra are to be “farmed out,” after a manner of speaking, to another sponsor for the winter months, during which the tire activities of all rubber companies are at their lowest ebb of the year, they will again be broadcasting under the General Tire banner long before warm weather comes next spring.
“General Tire has formed its opinion of the value of Benny and his associates as tire merchandisers from an informal survey of the dealers who distribute its products. Reports from distributors of General Tires in all parts of the country indicate that his programs have had a nation-wide appeal and that thev have been clicking equally well in the far West and the solid South as in the Northwest and the New England states.
“In many cities, dealers have been supplementing Benny’s programs with local newspaper advertising in which they remind readers of the station and of the time when Benny and his cast may be heard each week.
Like Commercial Jibing
“COMPANY sales representatives have reported that, in numerous cases, Benny’s programs and clever “plugging” of General Tires have been instrumental in persuading prospective General Tire dealers to apply for General franchises in, their particular localities.
“From many cities have come reports that radio listeners like the unusual manner in which Benny introduces the name of his sponsor’s product at occasional intervals in the programs. The fact that he does not permit either himself or the announcer to become too serious in their references to the product not only does not detract from the value of the commercial references but adds both to their interest and effectiveness, many General Tire dealers have reported. Benny’s particular type of commercial “plug” was tried as more or less of an experiment after General had sponsored a previous program in which all references to the product were in a serious, business-like vein.
“An analysis of comments made by radio editors of daily newspapers throughout the country indicates that their composite opinion of the Benny programs coincides very closely with that of the majority of General Tire dealers. Reflecting as they do the cross-section of the average opinion of their readers on the more important programs, General Tire advertising officials say they feel that Benny’s programs have been making and keeping many friends for General in all parts of the country.
“Naturally, it is impossible to arrive, even approximately, at an idea of the actual concrete results of a national, radio program in the matter of sales.. Many kinds of radio listener surveys have been made with a view to determining this but all have necessarily lacked definiteness in actual results.
Good Salesman
“GENERAL TIRE dealers, as a rule, however, say that they find that Benny’s programs appeal to nearly all classes of listeners and that, because of their variety and apparently spontaneous informality, they are looked forward to every week by many thousands of dialers.
“Good music is an important part of a program such as Jack Benny presents and critics who have commented on the excellence of the Benny broadcasts give no small part of the credit for their results to the tenor voice of Frank Parker and the intriguing melodies of Don Bestor and his musicians. No small part of the success of Benny himself is generally attribututed [sic] to the excellent complementary fun provided by his wife, Mary Livingstone.
“General Tire believes that people, generally, like to listen to Jack Benny and do not tire of him and that, therefore, he is a good product merchandiser. Believers in quality always, General Tire believes that its entertainers correspond in quality with its merchandise.

September 18, 1934
For the first time in the history of the web NBC has one day’s schedule that is booked solid with commercials from 1 in the afternoon until 11 o’clock at night. It’s the Sunday stretch on the red (WEAF) loop.
This unbroken run of sponsored programs won’t, however, become effective until Oct. 14. On that date Jell-O debuts its Jack Benny show and in the meantime (30) the Pontiac and American Rolling Mills are each due to bow in with a half-hour stanza.

October 9, 1934
Network Premieres
Oct. 14—Jack Benny, Mary Livingston, Frank Parker, Don Bestor orchestra (General Foods-Jell-O, 7, WJZ).

Guest Stars, John B. Kennedy
15 Mins.
WJZ, New York
This is a program that should find followers. Tube firm (NBC cousin) calls upon the full resources of network broadcasting for personalities and stars.
Program caught (6) had Jack Benny, Mary Livingstone, Frank Parker as guests. More of Livingstone than is generally vouchsafed. But no offhand matter with the comic who gave the guest stunt seemingly as much attention as he gives his regular broadcasts.
There is one of those workmanlike but undistinguished NBC house orchestras doing the musical background. This is batoned by frank Black under contract to the network and hence bobbing up all over the schedule whenever the sponsor hasn’t any contrary ideas of just wants everyday music. John B. Kennedy is the permanent name on the program.
Kennedy is getting a big play this year. He’s a clever gent. Glib and versatile. Can hop from the ridic to the sobs. There’s lots of water in that Kennedy well.

October 16, 1934
Mary Livingston, Frank Parker, Don Bester, Don Wilson
Comedy, Songs, Band
30 mins.
WJZ, New York
Jack Benny took fourth network backer, Jell-O, last Sunday evening (14) and laid down an introductory performance that moved on all comedy cylinders. With him Benny brought over his entire stock company, stooges, warbler, band and announcer, and smacked out a series of solid chuckles with the deft way he went about weaving each of the principals into the proceedings. It’s the earliest spot (7 p.m. EST) that Benny has ever filled in his stepping from account to account, but that should be of no worry to General Foods. They’ll get home in time to tune in on him.
Account attempts something new in the way of credit ballyhoo by opening and fading out with a collegiate cheer spelling the word Jell-O. Thing is adroitly handled, although the connection of a grandstand by-product with a kitchen article might impress as not only confusing but farfetched. Inclusion of a newsboy shouting, ‘Extra! Extra! the new Jell-O has extra rich flavor,’ is another one of those attempts to get away from the stereotyped. Latter resort registered effectively.
General Foods took advantage of the Benny inning to put in a plug for its Log Cabin Syrup affair on the same network Wednesday nights. This was done by the device on having read a wire from Lanny Ross, central figure in the Wednesday show, congratulating Benny on his new connection. Odec.

3 Out-of-Town Weeks to Set ‘Girls’ Gags
‘Bring on the Girls,’ by George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind, with Jack Benny starred, will be tried out of town for three weeks by Sam H. Harris. Play is a laugh show and timing of lines is the reason for keeping it out.
‘Girls’ opens in Washington next week, followed by a two-week date in Philadelphia. It is slated for the Morosco, N. Y., about mid-November.

October 23, 1934
New York Radio Parade
By Nellie Revell
Jello with Jack Benny at NBC enlarges the network on Nov. 4 to include KGU at Honolulu.

October 30, 1934
‘Transatlantic Merry-Go-Round’ Billed in K.C. as World Premiere, Only Fair $7,500
Kansas City. Oct. 29.
Managers really went to town for their current attractions and amusements are looking up.
For in return to vaudeville and the picture ‘Happiness Ahead,’ the Mainstreet put on the most extensive publicity campaign the house has had for months and the weekend crowds were evidence that the Mainstreet’s customers like their flesh.
Midland, with ‘Transatlantic Merry-Go-Round’ and the Newman showing ‘Cleopatra’ also spread plenty of printers’ ink and are doing business.
Estimates for the Week
Midland (Loew) (4,000; 25-40)—‘Transatlantic Merry-Go-Round’ (UA).—Billed heavily as a world’s premiere, this first Jack Benny feature just fair. Close to $7,500. Last week ‘What Every Woman Knows’ (MG). Failed to show the strength expected and finished with $8,100.

Inside Stuff—Legit
Despite that Sam H. Harris decided to temporarily close ‘Bring on the Girls’ after its initial tryout performance in Washington last week, satire on the New Deal drew business in the Capital for the balance of the date. Jack Benny tops cast of show which was slated for two weeks in Philadelphia.
George Kaufman and Morris Ryskind, who authored, agreed with the producer that the last act should be entirely rewritten. Rather than attempt the revision during continuous rehearsals, they deemed it beat to come back to New York. Harris used the same procedure before, notably with ‘June Moon,’ withdrawn at tryout but later a Broadway success.
Did You Know That—
The Jack Bennys have ordered a cute nursery at Essex House for their child.

October 31, 1934 (Daily)
‘Transatlantic Merry-Go-Round’ Whirls In 26 Cities
New York, Oct. 30. Eddie Small’s Reliance production, ‘Transatlantic Merry-Go-Round,’ has opened to solid business in 26 cities outside New York, with Cincinnati already marking it in for a second week.
Picture, which has Jack Benny and a surrounding name cast, gets its start here at the Rivoli within the week.

November 6, 1934
Transatlantic Merry-Go-Round
United Artists release of Reliance-Edward Small production. Features Gene Raymond, Nancy Carroll, Jack Benny. Directed by Benjamin Stoloff. Story, Leon Gordon; additional dialog and scenes, Joneph M. March: comedy dialog, Harry W. Conn; camera, Ted Tetzlaff; songs by Dick Whiting and Sidney Clare; numbers staged by Sammy Leo and Larry Seballos; musical direction, Al Newman. At Rivoli, N. Y., on grind run Oct. 31. Running time, 88 mins.
Cast: Gene Raymond, Jack Benny, Nancy Carroll, Sydney Howard, Mitzi Green, Sid Silvers, Sidney Blackmer, Ralph Morgan, Shirley Grey, Sam Hardy, William Boyd, Robert Elliott, Frank Parker, Carlyle Moore, Jean Sargent, Boswell Sisters, Rex Weber, Jimmy Grier orchestra and other specialty people.
‘Transatlantic Merry-Go-Round’ is good, popular screen entertainment. It may be likened to a seagoing ‘Grand Hotel’; its general number-staging may hard back to the Warner-Busby Berekley technique; its plot may be melodramatically familiar, and its general structure may remind of one or another American or British-made flicker, but in toto this Eddie Small-Reliance film has enough of each, and lots more of its own identity to stand up alone and on its own as okay film fare.
It's a musical which was originally captioned ‘Transatlantic Showboat’ as a working title until Universal objected this would jeopardize its own planned ‘Show Boat’ remake. Hence it became ‘Transatlantic Merry-Go-Round.’ But as the original title indicates, it's a showboat, and what a showboat.
Even on terra firma they couldn't they couldn’t put on those Sammy Lee-Larry Ceballos numbers with dozens of adagio teams, blackouts and stop-camera choreography which gives the lens technique such a great advantage over the actual stage.
But it’s all nice, clean fun. Thrown against this is a melodrama in which Jack Benny is the affable m.c., and wisely not too prominently propelled, but more than adequately pleasing for he is at home pacing the ship’s entertainments. In between he acts as Nancy Carroll’s big brother, although Benny’s juvenile personality is such that he makes the unrequited love equation ring true.
Interesting to the trade is the manner in which it brings Nancy Carroll, Gene Raymond and Sidney Blackmer to the fore as highly potent screen personalities. Always one of celluloid's champ lookers Miss Carroll has developed excellently as an actress and she'll go places. Gene Raymond has lost his boyishness and taken on firmness as a juvenile lead which, too, will carry the former Schubert’s Raymond Guion (from legit) further in celluloid dialog. Sidney Blackmer also impresses with each successive film as a highly effective personality heavy, playing his role to the hilt. Shirley Gray is a looker and an effective vamp as vis-a-vis.
There are a number of other excellent performances. Sam Hardy, as the pseudo-Montana come-on gambler who works the ocean liners; Robert Elliott, again tiptop as a dick (but on a vacash this time, until thrown into this dual murder mystery, larceny and intrigue on the Atlantic); Bill Boyd as a bad ‘un; Ralph Morgan as a duped husband who trails the two-timing Shirley Grey, and Carlyle Moore in a weakling assignment all register. Ditto Sydney Howard’s o.k. drunk.
Of the radio-recording musical people Sid Silvers, as Raymond’s stooge and ally, is in general good tempo. Silvers, of course, is now more Hollywood than musical comedy.
Frank Parker (of the Benny radio program) tenors the ‘Sweet of You’ theme song to a signal solo click, opposite Miss Carroll. The Boswell Sisters have two vocals with their trick harmonics, first in ‘Rock and Roll’ as a followup to Jean Sargent, who intros the song with Jimmy Grier’s band. The three Boswells then handle ‘If I Had a Million Dollars’ all alone. The Grier band (Los Angeles), accomps throughout.
Benny’s ‘Grind Hotel’ nonsense from the airwaves is good visual audience stuff (although very insidey and tipper-offer on how they fake the sound effects within a radio studio) as they burlesque the Metro-Garbo-all star screen version. It’s here that Mitzi Green slips in her canny George Arliss impression with ‘It’s Love.’ (Little Mitzi is now looking her 15 or 16 years of age, quite grown up and in pretty formal frock). Rex Weber also shows for a flash but he’s not even billed in the credits.
By the same token, the brought-to-Hollywood-from-radio Jean Sargent, Boswells and Frank Parker are not overworked, although the sum total has been wisely paced to emphasize the straight story and use the radio-musico stuff secondarily. The ether rep of the personnel obviously has various values. For example, the Broadway run gives Benny top billing, although he is officially third to Carroll and Raymond.
The number staging isn’t too lavish and elaborate, but highly effective.
Same goes for the film in general as certain box office fodder which possesses the additional virtue of having done something for some of its individual components. Abel

‘Girls’ Out Again After Kaufman-Ryskind Fixing
‘Bring On the Girls,’ the farce which Sam H. Harris withdrew after playing a week in Washington, will again take to the boards in two weeks. After three days in New Haven, it will play the Plymouth, Boston, prior to Broadway. Jack Benny remains at the head of the cast.
Last half of the show was entirely rewritten by George S. Kaufman and Morris Ryskind.

November 13, 1934
Friars Club reviving its Saturday night gag fests this Sat. (17), with Dr. S. L. Meylackson the season’s initial ribbee. Nat Burns, Jack Benny and Jay C. Flippen comprise the burn-up committee.

November 20, 1934
Here and There
Sam Hearn, vaude comic, did four different characterizations last week on three different network commercials. Appearances were with Eddie Cantor, Jack Benny and the Gibson Family.

November 27, 1934
New Haven, Nov. 22.
Farce in prolog and three acts by George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind. Sets by Arthur Segal. Incidental music, with song by Arthur Schwartz and lyrics by Morrie Ryskind. Play staged by George S. Kaufman and presented by Sam H. Harris at Schubert, Nov. 22-24. Cast, Jack Benny, Porter Hall, Harry Levian, Edward Nannery, William J. Kelly, Claire Carleton, Muriel Campbell, Oscar Polk, Melba Kruger, Marion Volk, Rene Damur, Alice Burrage, George Anderson, Griffin Crafts, Richard Ogden and Alan Hewit.
Looks like the boys will have to try again on this one. After an initial tryout a few weeks ago, play was lifted in order to doctor up tje last half. Authors haven’t hit the nail on the head yet, even though the production docs contain a good deal of worthwhile stuff. Local reaction to the new Kaufman-Ryskind work classified it as a disappointment. An opening night audience of seasoned playgoers that was decidedly ‘with’ the production throughout the prologue had difficulty in holding its enthusiasm during the last half of the play. Play sets a fast pace in opening hour, but can’t hold it.
Inevitably, ‘Girls’ will be compared with ‘Of Thee I Sing,’ and this brings up a double question. Would ‘Sing’ have been such a smash on the strength of its comedy alone, as in the present case; and could Girls’ be lifted into the hit class by swinging it over to a musical to bolster its sagging moments? Kaufman himself states there never was a musical tangent in mind, while writing it, and he thinks it isn’t particularly adaptable to such, but a load of first-nighters as well as local crix disagree with that opinion.
Like ‘Sing,’ the new play takes a hefty whack at governmental policies, via the farce route. In general less devastating than in ‘Sing,’ is along the lines of suave ribbing. Play occasionally topples from the classification of straight farce into the depths of burlesque, it had a lot of laughs, but falls to sustain interest beyond 10:30 p. m. and, with an 11:10 curtain, that means too much deadwood. Written by less well known authors, the play might almost be accepted as is, but with two such writing names behind it, maybe the customers expected too much. Perhaps that’s the penalty that goes with Pulitzer prize winning. Harris and Kaufman have given the production all they had in putting it on.
It’s elaborately staged as to detail (they even spot a live cow eating from a baby grand in an apartment) and contains some nice technical work. Plenty has boon spent on sets and costumes, and cast looks to be rather expensive, too.
Authors have made the RFC the butt of their ribbing this time. A couple of bankers, fresh from a five-year stretch in Atlanta, try to acquire a failing railroad in order to get a loan from RFC on the strength of rebuilding the road. A slip-up in the proceedings find the bankers landing the loan, but not really in possession of the road. When the dept. of Justice man, who originally took them to Atlanta and is now keeping an eye on thorn, clamps down on them for fraud, the bankers turn their N. Y. apartment into a farm because the RFC lends to farms as well as railroads. Just as it looks as though they’re not going to get away with it, a telegram arrives advising they own the railroad after all and everything is jake.
A half-dozen chorus girls lend color to the proceedings as officers and stockholders of the in-again-out-again railroad and a bit of love interest is worked in by having the bankers matrimonially bound with a couple of the girls at the finish.
Jack Benny and Porter Hall are the bankers and are well cast. As far as funny is concerned, the play is an ambitious step-up for the vaude-air comedian and he handles himself creditably. Slow on picking up cues at times, but it’s no cinch to break in a long part and at the same time rehearse for a weekly air show. On the whole, Benny’s work was satisfactory.
Porter Hall offers a more polished performance. As Charley, the not-too-bright fall guy who accompanied Benny to Atlanta because he signed a fluke bank statement without understanding it, he fits his part in appearance, delivery and action. William J. Kelly is aces as Crawford, the dept. of justice man, and George Anderson and Griffin Crafts make a couple of good ex-professors turned brain-trusters for the RFC. Femme leads are handled well by Claire Carleton and Muriel Campbell. Oscar Polk gets some comedy out of a colored elevator boy role, and the beautiful-but-dumb chorus girls parts are authentic.
Play's title is misleading, with everybody looking for a musical. Bone.

December 4, 1934
‘All Stars’ Sock $25,000, Boston; Benny Show 12G; Both Held Over
Boston, Dec. 3
Leading grosser on Hub boards is still ‘Calling All Stars’ at the Shubert, now going into its third week. ‘Bring on the Girls’ opened inauspiciously last week, but over the week-end showed encouraging pick-up.
‘Bring on the Girls,’ Plymouth. Jack Benny and company not up to expectations on opening, but packed up last three days. Looks like $12,000 for first stanza, eight performances. In for a second week.

December 11, 1934
Gen. Foods Gives Local Sponsor 2 Periods as Exchange for Sun. Time
St. Paul, Dec. 10.
Filled niches on KSTP’s schedule had several sponsors in a froth until switches were effected—and now everybody’s happy.
General Foods wanting to air Jack Benny over KSTP but found the Sunday night spot occupied by Juster Bros. men’s clothiers. Foods promptly offered to give Juster two 15-minute week-time spots, on Tuesday and Thursday, for the one 15-minute Sunday night period. New deal begins Dec. 16.
Similarly, Johnson Wax has bought Knox Co.’s Cystex 4:45-5:00 P. M. Sunday niche in order to air Tony Wons. New arrangement effective Dec. 23.

‘Bring on the Girls,’ Plymouth. Left town after two-week run. Second week a puny $7,000 for Jack Benny and his farceurs.

December 18, 1934
Sam H. Harris has decided to indefinitely postpone the presentation ‘Bring on the Girls.’ Broadway probably will not see the play until next season, it needing still further script changes.
Show starred Jack Benny. It was sent out twice for try-outs, most recently playing two weeks in Boston and a split week between Springfield and Hartford. Business was fairly good. First half of the play is highly satisfactory to the producer on comedy strength but a wholly new last act is to be contrived by the authors, George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind.
Harris has booked ‘As Thousands Cheer’ until April, the revue possibly touring throughout the season. Plan to follow it with ‘More Cheers,’ with the same cast virtually intact, is off until next season. ‘Cheer’ is laying off in Chicago this week and resumes there next week.
Producer goes to Palm Springs this week, remaining west through the winter.

December 25, 1934
Warner booking office has added two houses, one of them, the Earle, Atlantic City, having opened Friday (21) on a three-day stand. It will play five acts or units on an indefinite basis.
Stanley, Jersey City, starts Friday (28) as a spot-booked full-weeker, playing stage shows only when a name act or attraction is available.
Jack Benny will headline the first J.C. bill.