Sunday, 31 October 2021

Benny and the Beavers

Jack Benny put some classic Christmas shows on the air. Hallowe’en? Well, not so much.

Oh, he had Hallowe’en shows. The radio broadcast of October 31, 1954 had a couple of perfunctory jokes about trick-or-treating then re-used a script from 1946 about firing the Sportsmen (in 1946, the firing built up over several episodes while, here, it came out of nowhere).

There were a few others, including one with a guest appearance by Basil Rathbone. In 1948 and 1952, he went trick-or-treating with the Beverly Hills Beavers, the neighbourhood kids group where he somehow became treasurer. He spends most of his time making up phoney stories of personal grandeur to the kids, but he displays a fatherly kindness to them, so he’s not a total putz.

The Beavers evolved. Jack used boy characters at the start of the 1947-48 season and it was decided there was a potential for more laughs if they were organised into a club, so the Beavers were born February 15, 1948.

An awful lot of Jack’s radio scripts were adapted for television, including some of the ones involving the Beavers. He’s a story from the Boston Globe of February 27, 1955. Yes, little Harry Shearer grew up to write for Fernwood 2 Night, Saturday Night Live and voice umpteen characters on The Simpsons.

Benny, 39, Still in Quest of His Youth With Bearer Patrol Boys Aged 9 to 12

TV & Radio Editor
Jack Benny's present TV schedule has him on the air every other week. We honestly think he would like to be on camera every day. He is almost alone as a performer who works with ease before the TV cameras. Many stars these days are shouting: "TV Is a killing job. Let me put my shows on film!"
Next Sunday, Benny s telecast will be an all-color presentation and his special guests will be The Beavers. For more than six years, listeners have enjoyed the shenanigans of the Beverly Hills Beaver Patrol. Now the patrol will be seen in action—their first appearance on TV.
The Beavers, ranging in age from 6 to 12, are a mythical group which Benny has featured from time to time on his C. B. S. radio series. On TV, their roles will be enacted by Jimmy Baird, Harry Shearer, Ted Marc and Stevie Wooten. There will be fun galore next Sunday when Benny takes the children to a carnival. And they will have the time of their lives—plenty of it at their host's expense.
Of course, Benny is a member of the patrol. As such, he portrays a frustrated grownup who tries to recapture lost youthful adventures. At one time the boys even honored Benny with an official mantle. To show further esteem, Benny was elected treasurer of the Beavers organization—his reputation for stinginess won him this spot. True to tradition, on one occasion he called an executive meeting to decide whether the patrol should purchase a three-cent stamp.
Benny, the underdog always, had a bitter pill to swallow the year he was up for election. He locked horns with a 12-year-old rival. It was a David-Goliath contest that rocked the film colony. Jack licked his wounds in bitter defeat, went home to devote his undivided attention to his own cash vault.
A few weeks ago viewers saw the Benny vault in a TV skit which included scenes in the Benny boudoir. The safe, hid behind a picture on the wall, was devoid of valuables as a porcupine is of curls!
Other hijinks by Benny with the patrol included Halloween pranks as well as periodic trips to the ole swimming hole. Benny's Gang has come in for its share of jabs. Benny has brought Dennis Day, Mary Livingstone, Mel Blanc and Don Wilson to the Beavers' Clubhouse so that the Beavers could do impersonations of the Gang.
With this introduction of the Beavers to TV, undoubtedly Benny will bring them back occasionally. There should be many laughs in next Sunday’s telecast out of Ch. 7 at 7:30 p.m.
Wife Mary Livingstone appears only rarely on Jack Benny’s TV shows. On a recent visit to Boston, Benny told us Mary prefers not to be on radio or TV!

One pleasant piece of trivia from those 1948 and 1952 shows—the song being parodied during the Lucky Strike commercial is “Ghost Dance.” It was written by Cora Salisbury, Benny’s first partner in vaudeville when he was just out of junior high school. Jack had to have known about this, and perhaps it meant its use would provide a little money to the Salisbury estate.

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