Sunday 27 May 2018

War-Time Benny

What do radio stars do when their show takes a rest for the summer? Well, during World War Two, many of them were involved in war work. Bob Hope was famous for entertaining troops around the world but, at the time, some columnists said Jack Benny did as much as Hope.

This short newspaper column from 1942 gives you an idea of what Benny and his cast did during the show’s down-time. NBC and General Foods might have wished Benny had stayed through the summer. His replacement show was The Remarkable Miss Tuttle. It starred Edna Mae Oliver. Then she became sick and was replaced with Mary Boland. The irony was Boland was ill earlier in the year, but the Theatre Guild was sceptical and went to Actors Equity claiming she had jumped her contract.

Jack’s wife, Mary Livingstone, never travelled overseas with him but still contributed to the war effort. You’ll notice to the reference to her poems. She gained her original fame on the show in 1932 reading silly poems. She had pretty much stopped ten years later, but the reputation lingered.

Benny Back After Busy Vacation
Jack & Co. Return Over WBEN Tomorrow After Many War Shows

HOLLYWOOD, Oct. 3. — Jack Benny's notably longest vacation in radio was not all as Noah Webster defined the word. And that went, too, for other members of the premiere comedian's gang. Since last season's final broadcast on May 31, the NBC funsters worked hard—each in his or her own way—contributing to the welfare and morale of civilians and fighting men.
The program returns to its prized Sunday spot tomorrow evening at 7 o'clock over WBEN.
One of the first comedians to abandon writing new gags for the same old situation, Jack Benny insists on fresh new situation material as soon as he feels that his current idea has reached its peak in audience popularity.
He has popularized the usage of Western situations, of smart-cracking hecklers, of talking maestros, household help, and pet polar bears. This year marks a wide deviation in scenery and characters, for Jack and his troupe plan still more tours of Army and Navy posts and bases; thus comedy routines will be built around them quite often.
Jack himself has been working on a new picture, an adaptation of the stage play, "The Meanest Man In the World." He rallied his cast from far and near for the farewell show of the "Victory Parade" series Aug. 23, with only the touring band leader, Phil Harris, missing.
Mary Entertained, Too
Mary Livingstone, meanwhile, took time out from "po'try writin'" to help entertain soldiers as a member of the VACS (Volunteer Army Canteen Service), steering film stars to West Coast entertainment spots for service men.
Don Wilson, too, did a big job. He worked almost constantly on one war effort program or another. "Victory Parade" and "Command Performance" took many hours. In addition to his radio work, the portly actor-announcer serves at an air-raid listening post.
Rochester was far from idle. While acting in Jack's new picture, he did a lot of outside work entertaining soldiers.
Dennis Sang at Camps
Dennis Day visited many service camps and canteens. Aside from singing in such spots as the Stage Door Canteens of Philadelphia and Cleveland and the Chicago Service Men's Center, Dennis entertained one Naval audience on the afterdeck of a battleship in New York. Phil Harris brought his orchestra's tour to an end in the East in time to join the rest of the cast for the opening program.

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