Sunday 24 July 2016

More Lolly on Jack

Not one of the Hollywood gossip columnists ever wrote a bad thing about Jack Benny, at least that I can tell. All the columns I’ve ever run across praise him for being a kind and gentle man and not anything like his radio character (a point I suspect Mr. B. wanted the columnists to make clear, considering how many times he talked about it himself).

Louella Parsons of the Hearst chain was particularly friendly. Perhaps it’s because Benny fed her ego by inviting her to appear on his radio show three times (something he never did with her rival, Hedda Hopper). She devoted her entire column to Jack on a number of occasions. We’ve posted a couple of them here. Here’s another one from newspapers of November 30, 1952.

Mrs. Parsons never hesitated to make herself part of the story. She does so again in this column.
Jack Benny Is Generous, Not Stingy

Motion Picture Editor
International News Service

HOLLYWOOD—I was rushing to meet Jack Benny at my house, and as we drove up to the door, I said to Collins, my driver, "Oh, dear, that's Jack Benny's car now."
"No ma'am, Miss Parsons," said Collins, "Mr. Benny drives an old Maxwell."
This will give an idea of the impact of Jack's Jokes. All of his radio listeners firmly believe Jack is the stingiest man in Hollywood, and that he wants all the glory for himself. Nothing could be farther from the truth. After 20 years. Jack still makes these gags seem true, but in reality he is one of the most generous of men, the kindest, and the people who work with him swear by him.
He will never do anything to keep others on his show from going out on their own and making good, as witness Dennis Day and Phil Harris, both of whom started with Jackson (as they call him) and now have successful shows of their own.
Jack is one of the few entertainers who has stayed on radio, and can stay as long as he wishes. His format, which varies little throughout the years, is still a must in many, many homes. However, he is going to do a TV show once a month. "There are so many places where television does not reach," said Jack, "so I will do both radio and TV this year."
He takes radio in his stride, and everyone has a good time on his show. That's one of the reasons it's a success—the merriment comes over the microphone. I told him I can always hear Mary Livingston's laugh above all else.
"Mary doesn't care at all about show business," he said, "and she is so good. She would bow out anytime. She's also a wonderful critic but do you know where I go when I want to know whether my show is good or bad?"
"To Mary's great friend Barbara Stanwyck," he answered. "Barbara is completely honest. She'll say, 'you missed the boat' or 'that is a good show.' When she says the show is good she means it."
In the course of our conversation I told Jack another reason I think he is so loved is because he never resorts to off color jokes. His shows are for the whole family. Other comedians often say something so suggestive it brings a blush to people who aren't used to innuendo, but Jack never offends in the slightest.
Jack was born near Waukegan, Illinois (not far from my hometown, Freeport), on Valentine's Day, and still says he is 39 years old. His real name is Benny Kubelsky, and the boy who became Jack Benny and played on the fiddle has come a long way.
The Bennys have been married since January, 1927—and in all those years there has never been a breath of scandal connected with either of them, Jack has made "The Horn Blows at Midnight" pay off by kidding himself and the picture, which isn't in any language, a work of art. But I happen to know that it made money anyway. In fact Jack has never made a picture that didn't.
Rochester calls Jack, "Mr. Benny, star of stage, radio and screen." Now he'll have to add "and television" to the list.
If there were more Jack Bennys, Hollywood would be a better place. But I feel as do those who love him, that they broke the mold when they made this fine person.
A number of people in Hollywood didn’t have as high of an opinion about Parsons as she did about Jack Benny. Eventually, Parsons simply became irrelevant. The studio system that kept the stars—and her—in business disintegrated. In the meantime, Jack Benny, who had been in show business even longer than Parsons, carried on into the 1960s and 1970s. He was still a star when he died in 1974. When Parsons died in 1972, she was part of the past.


  1. At least "Lolly" had the distinction of being featured in two Bugs Bunny cartoons, A Hare Grows in Manhattan (1947) and A Star Is Bored (1956).

    1. A photo of the storyboard for "A Hare Grows in Manhattan" was featured in "Of Mice and Magic"; in it, Bugs was to have been interviewed by "Hedda Hopscotch."