Sunday, 10 October 2021

58 = 39

Today is not Jack Benny’s birthday, but it might as well be. He never changed from 39 any time it came around, so why not make every day a birthday?

Hearst columnist Jack O’Brian decided to play along when Jack’s birthday rolled around in 1952. He did a piece on Jack about once a year for several years. We’ve transcribed others here, over here and here.

Today Benny Is 39 (Again) Years of Age; Radio Writer Traces His Career
NEW YORK, Feb. 14 (INS)—Comic Valentine: Jack Benny is 39 years old today.
Go argue with Jack yourself if you want to take exception. We don't. We're just taking Jack's word, in the same spirit as his announcement.
Seems Jack took another look at his birth certificate (hadn't looked since last Valentine's day) and discovered he had given himself the worst of it by a whole year. He's 39 all over again, he said, and not 58 years old as that nasty, cattish, caddish old world almanac says.
It therefore behooves us to set down a capsule profile of Jack, keeping his “birth day” of Feb. 14, 1913 in mind as we go. No, we didn't actually see Jack's birth certificate, although he said we could drop out to Waukegan any time we like and look.
"Always Look Ahead"
The records of the Barrison Theatre in Waukegan, however, list on its 1909 payroll a violinist in its orchestra named Jack Benny. Since that would have made Jack a pit orchestra violinist four full years before he arrived on this planet, we asked how come. "Oh, I always was a little ahead of the other kids in Waukegan," he explained, modestly.
Still with the 1913 Valentine's, or Benny's, day in mind, we noted the name of a new act in a 1911 vaudeville bill, "Salisbury and Benny." We thought it couldn’t be Jack considering Benny had bottom billing, but, Jack sighed, indeed it was.
Miss Salisbury, first name Cora, was a "pianiste," and Jackson fiddled while we burn midnight oil trying to figure out how he managed it at the age of minus-two.
"Amazing Child"
"I certainly was an amazing child," was Jack's modest explanation.
Top billing was accomplished in a violin-piano act called "Benny and Woods," which appeared at the Palace, capital of vaudeville, in 1917. Age four.
In 1918, five years old, Jack joined the navy for World War 1.
Ten years old—his first appearance at the Palace "in one," meaning a solo spot at last. He was married at 14 (maybe we'd better have a look at that birth record after all), having located the salesgirl of his dreams behind the fountain of youth where he traded in the May store.
In 1929 Jack answered the call of the newly audible films.
At 17 (we will check that certificate, after all), Jack starred in the Vanities and two years later made his radio debut. Within two more years the country celebrated Jack's coming of age and the first Number One rating for his radio show.
The years and honors then started heaping, upon the "youth's" shoulders.
Finally, in 1950 Jack was selected "the greatest radio personality in 25 years" by radio editors of the U. S. and Canada.
Last year he did the Korea route again for the troops—his fifth overseas trip—and this year . . . well, it seems to be most notable so far for his successful if occasional dip into TV. And of course, today for his 39th birthday.
Quite a career—43 fears in the public eye at the age of 39.
Don't quibble: Just say happy birthday with the hope he'll keep right on beings our comic Valentine.

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