Sunday, 2 May 2021

No. 1 Jack

Besides the big-name gossip columnists working for various syndicates, the wire services had entertainment reporters, too, though they tended to write profiles, reviews or talk about current projects with the stars. At one time, the Associated Press had Charles Mercer and Wayne Oliver in New York, and Bob Thomas and Cynthia Lowry in Hollywood. United Press International had Fred Danzig and William Ewald in New York, and Vernon Scott and Aline Mosby (later Rick DuBrow) in Hollywood.

All of them, I’m pretty certain, interviewed Jack Benny on more than one occasion. Here’s a column by Oliver published February 9, 1955. In looking it over, Jack isn’t quoted at all. It’s more of a review with some facts tossed in. There’s little new. Jack works a lot and has good ratings.

At 60, Benny's Ambition Makes Some Think He's 39

NEW YORK (AP) — A youngster by the name of Jack Benny who takes television in a breeze must confound some of the older comics who are in and out of hospitals with video fatigue.
Nearly 23 years after he first took to the air. Jack continues a weekly radio show that currently is No. 1 in the ratings and takes a turn on TV every second week. Jack has moved to seventh among the American Research Bureau’s ten most popular shows. I Love Lucy, seen Monday nights at 9, still ranks as No. 1.
While many comics are considering a cutback in the frequency of their appearances, Benny is pondering the possibility of stepping his video visits up to one a week next season. His contemporaries must wonder if he isn't serious after all about being only 39.
Even on his occasional filmed TV shows, such as last Sunday night’s program, Benny's performances seem as relaxed and spontaneous as a first rehearsal although his superb timing must require plenty of practice and polish. Benny and his writers also have the knack of mixing the believeable and the ridiculous to get a blend of pure fun.
Sunday night, for example, Benny's experience in being wakened by the telephone at 4 a.m. was one that has happened to most viewers. On the other extreme was his wonder at the unusual visibility in the early morning in Los Angeles that enabled him to see the Statue of Liberty without his glasses and the Eiffel Tower when he put them on.
Benny was already a show business veteran when he made his first radio broadcast in March, 1932, as a guest on a CBS program. He became master of ceremonies on a weekly NBC radio show in May, 1932, and in October the same year started his full comedy routine.
Benny switched from NBC to CBS radio Jan. 2, 1949, as a result of a famous capital gains deal reportedly involving $2,260,000.
The Waukegan Wit made his TV debut on CBS Oct. 28, 1950, but limited himself to six appearances the first season. He stepped it up to every sixth week the next season, every fourth week the one after that, every third week last season and every second week this season.
For the record, Benny will be 61 next Monday, Valentine Day.

Newspapers could spike wire service columns for use when they wanted, so this particular column may not have appeared on February 9th. For example, some papers on February 8th ran an Oliver story on Charles McGraw. Others ran a review of NBC’s “The Women.” Another published a column about Leontyne Price that had been published elsewhere the day before. Newspapers were not beholden to use any of the wire material; it was there if necessary, especially for smaller papers, to be chopped to fit space requirements.

However, if you’ve been reading the blog for some time, you’ll notice a wealth of wire service columns and feature stories about Jack Benny. That’s what happens when you’re Number One.

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