Sunday, 16 December 2018

He's Walking

It’s a bit of an overstatement to say everything Jack Benny touched turned to ratings, but there was a time when he sure helped. And we’re not talking about his own show.

Jack made guest appearances on a number of radio shows—Fred Allen’s may be the most memorable—but his presence on one particular programme helped a widow and the American Heart Fund. That’s when Jack was the Walking Man on Truth or Consequences (to the right you see host Ralph Edwards and Benny).

Benny was revealed as the Walking Man after a correct answer on the March 6, 1948 edition of Edwards’ stunt show. You can read a very excellent time frame on Martin Grams’ blog. Two days before a widow from Chicago named Florence Hubbard blurted out Benny’s name to Edwards, speculation ran through a newspaper column in the United Press.


United Press Hollywood Correspondent
HOLLYWOOD, March 4. — The suspicion that he might be "the Walking Man" dawned upon Jack Benny today. It isn't anything definite... but, uh, he's been thinking about it and, well, there have been a few things.
Benny has something in common with 2,000,000 Americans. They've been thinking "the Walking Man" over, too, since he began to clop his feet and make noises on Ralph Edwards' "Truth or Consequences?' NBC radio show. [Mr. Edwards' show is heard at 8:30 P.M. Saturdays and Benny is heard on the same station at 7 P. M. Sunday.]
Guess who the feet belong to, and you collect $22,000 worth of loot. This includes the usual car trailer, houseful of furniture, trip to Sun Valley, diamond watch, coat, etc.
Every Saturday night Edwards phones three people who've written the best letters on why they sent in money for the American Heart Association.
Heifitz, Fidler or Devine
To date the show has collected than 2,000,000 letters and than a million bucks—an all-time radio record.
For seven weeks unhappy guessers have made wild stabs at names like Louis B. Mayer and President Truman. Folks were in the lying-awake-nights stage—until last Saturday's noise clue. A squeaky violin.
We called up a guy who owns such a violin. Who, we inquired, did he figure 'the Walking Man' might be?
Bing Bong Bell
"It might be me," he reflected.
"No!" we said.
"Yeah," said Benny. "You know, people have been stopping me on the street and writing letters asking me if I'm the Walking Man. The boys on my show have mentioned it, too.
"Oh, and Mary said something about it. I suppose we should have put the clues together, but we never listen to the program. We're usually out on Saturday nights. We haven't paid much attention to it, frankly."
If Benny had, he might've figured out the riddle Edwards repeats like this:
"Bing bong bell church bells (Benny's program is on Sunday).
"It's ten and only one can tell" (tenth alphabet letter J is for Jack).
"The master of the metropolis fits his name quite well" (Benny is the master of his radio-show valet, Rochester. That's the name of a metropolis in New York).
Are You Or Aren't You
Benny might also discover the horse-and-gunfire sounds on "the Walking Man" show could indicate his motto "Buck Benny Rides Again!" The Walking Man played Auld Lang Syne on the trumpet, too. Jack's last movie, he might recall, was "The Horn Blows at Midnight."
The mysterious gent also whistled "Annie Laurie" which begins, "Maxwellton Braes Are Bonnie." Benny's jalopy is a Maxwell. And the cat's wail could signify what violin strings are made of.
"Come to think of it, I have been doing a lot of walking on my program lately. Mentioned 'The Horn Blows st Midnight,' too," said Benny.
We said: "Well, are you or aren't you the walking man?
"Hmmmmmmm," said Benny.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, two of "the boys" {Hilliard Marks and Milt Josefsberg} KNEW it was Jack, and he told Ralph Edwards his concern about them. Ralph told him to swear them to secrecy until the contest was over...which was a short time afterwards.