Saturday, July 31, 2010
COMIC MASTERWORK: JACK BENNY & FRIENDS - MONROE AND MARX - CBS-TV - CIRCA 1953 & 1955
Seven decades before digital media could bring a viral video world-wide recognition in a matter of minutes, a gentle, affable comic genius and violin virtuoso became one of history's first ,global ,multi-platform superstars.
He did it the old fashioned way: by plying his many talents with tenacity, consistency and commitment.
Jack Benny achieved success in vaudeville, films, nightclubs, radio, television and on Broadway. His talents were internationally acclaimed. But,his work didn't travel the world on the information super highway.
His reputation was formed and re-enforced by acetate discs of radio shows, newspaper accounts of live performances and reels of Hollywood celluloid that were shipped around the planet by snail mail.By LIVE, shortwave broadcasts of his radio shows beamed to American Troops stationed around the world.By Television appearances on Britain's BBC, Italy's Rai and Canada's CBC.
As a performer with masterful timing, meticulous editing skills and the ability to fire -off high velocity, high quality ad-lib's, Jack Benny worked without A Net and did it, long before we learned of THE NET.
Born Benny Kubelsky, the son of a Waukeegan, Illinois saloon keeper,on February 18, 1894, the beloved icon spent years, laboriously crafting his comic persona. On stage he was a vain, skinflint, who fancied himself a master violinist and an irresistible ladies man. His character usually failed on all counts.
In films, on radio and on television, the surrogate Benny was surrounded by laughable lunatics who always provoked and aggravated him to titanic comic proportions. Announcer Don Wilson, Radio Girlfriend(& Real-World Wife) Mary Livingstone,comic sidekick Eddie" Rochester" Anderson and singer Dennis Day provided the nutty nucleus of the first situation comedy.Their characters provided the challenges from which rich comedy was mined,in every episode.
Benny once described his character as a cheap schnook. But In real life , appearing as himself on the concert stage with legends of classical music like Issac Stern and Itzhak Perlman, Benny was a true violin prodigy.
Thanks to longtime writers Sam Perrin,George Balzer,Milt Josefsberg & John Tackaberry , with producer/directors Ralph Levy and Fred de Cordova, the artistic integrity of Benny's parsimonious personage was scrupulously maintained on the radio and television versions of THE JACK BENNY PROGRAM ( he liked that word, and disdained NBC and CBS branding his seriesTHE JACK BENNY SHOW).
Like his contemporaries, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, Benny made a successful transition from network radio to network television, and like them,refused to do a weekly video show. He felt it was more of an event to appear every month or every two weeks, as opposed to showing up every seven days.
In demand, right to the day of his death, December 26, 1974, Jack Benny was still doing occasional comedy specials for NBC-TV and was set to star in the film version of Neil Simon's THE SUNSHINE BOYS.He was replaced by his longtime friend, George Burns.
Posted below , from the AATRAGON & MARILYN FAN YOU TUBE sites,are two of Benny's best television performances from his landmark, CBS-TV program, in the early 1950's.
His 1953 outing with Marilyn Monroe shows him as a seagoing romeo, who tries to find snug harbor with the star of GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES. The 1955 face-off with friend Groucho Marx shows how far cheapskate comic will go ( and will drag fellow contestant Irene Tedrow) to win the jackpot on YOU BET YOUR LIFE. Enjoy!!!!!
Jack Benny VS Groucho - April 3, 1955
CBS-TV - LIVE FROM TELEVISION CITY
Jack Benny Meets Marilyn Monroe - Sept.13,1953
CBS-TV - LIVE FROM TELEVISION CITY