Jack Benny Poster

Trivia (41)

Interred at Hillside Memorial Park, Culver City, California, USA.

A middle school in his hometown of Waukegan, Illinois, was named after him. The school football team is the "39ers," (in honor of his insistence that he is 39 years old every year).

He once appeared on the TV quiz show The $64,000 Question (1955). After answering the first question correctly he quit and took home $1.00. His category was violins.

His most famous gag was on his radio show when, in his usual character as a comical miser, he's confronted by a robber who says, "Your money or your life." That's followed by two to three minutes of dead silence, except for the audience which laughed with increasing volume as the silence continued. Finally the robber prodded Jack by saying, "Well?" to which Benny responded, "I'm thinking it over!"

At the time of his death, he was scheduled to appear in The Sunshine Boys (1975). After he died, the role was taken over by George Burns.

Two holidays figured prominently in his life: Born on St. Valentine's Day, 1894, he died on the day after Christmas, Boxing Day, 80 years later.

Pictured on one of five 29ยข US commemorative postage stamps celebrating famous comedians, issued in booklet form 29 August 1991. The stamp designs were drawn by caricaturist Al Hirschfeld. The other comedians honored in the set are Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy; Edgar Bergen (with alter ego Charlie McCarthy); Fanny Brice; and Bud Abbott and Lou Costello.

He met his future wife Mary Livingstone while he was appearing at the Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles, and he regularly ate across the street at the lunch counter of the May Company department store, where Mary worked as a lingerie salesgirl. Jack Benny actually first met his wife Mary Livingstone in Vancouver British Columbia when he was appearing there, possibly at the Orpheum there as well.

When he appeared as a celebrity guest on the game show Password All-Stars (1961), he got the word "miser" and gave his first clue as, "Me!" thus bringing down the house.

He was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1989.

Star of "The Canada Dry Program" on NBC Radio (1932) and CBS Radio (1932-1933).

Star of "The Lucky Strike Program" on NBC Radio (1944-1949) and CBS Radio (1949-1955).

1933-34: Star of NBC Radio's "The Chevrolet Show".

1934: Star of NBC Radio's "The General Tire Show".

1942-44: Star of NBC Radio's "The Grape Nuts Flakes Program".

1934-42: Star of NBC Radio's "The Jell-O Program".

He sometimes referred cryptically to "my book" in interviews over the years; the manuscript for his autobiography, "Sunday Nights at Seven," wasn't discovered until years after his death.

He was actually a very competent violin player, although not an expert, and performed a series of benefit concerts with an orchestra. He was similarly generous with money in real life. The bad violin playing and the miserliness was just a part of his act.

A lifelong lover of classical music, he counted the great violinist Isaac Stern among his closest friends and legendary composer/pianist Sergei Rachmaninoff among his greatest fans.

Towards the end of his TV series, he was waiting for his show to air and began watching Bonanza (1959), which started half an hour sooner. He wound up missing his show and said "If I won't even watch me, what chance do I have?".

Biography in: "Who's Who in Comedy" by Ronald L. Smith. pg. 42-44. New York: Facts on File, 1992. ISBN 0816023387

1934: He and his wife adopted a daughter, Joan Benny (aka Joan Naomi).

7/25/55: His first grandchild, Michael, was born to his daughter Joan and Seth Baker.

Took his father to see To Be or Not to Be (1942), but he left the theatre disgusted when he saw Jack in a Nazi uniform. It wasn't until years later that Jack finally managed to convince him that he was making fun of Nazis not supporting them. His father saw the movie again and loved it.

January 1949: A personal friend of Harry S. Truman, he served as Master of Ceremonies for Truman's Inaugural Ball. When he arrived at the White House for the event, a guard pointed to his violin case and asked, "Mr. Benny, what do you have in there?" As a joke, Jack whispered back, "It's a Thompson sub-machine gun." The guard replied, "Oh, that's a relief. I was afraid it was your violin".

Hosted the Academy Awards in 1944 and 1947

One of Benny's best-known schticks as a radio star was his long-standing feud with fellow radio comedian Fred Allen. The two often appeared on each other's radio programs to trade barbs. Sadly, other than an appearance on The Jack Benny Program (1950), in which Allen tries to steal Jack's sponsor, this did not carry over into television, as Allen died shortly after beginning his own TV show. In real life, of course, Benny and Allen were great friends, and Benny even took time on his radio program to eulogize Allen after his death.

Had a rose delivered to his wife Mary Livingstone each day after his death until the day she died, almost nine years later.

At his funeral George Burns began the eulogy but broke down. Bob Hope rose to the podium in a shaky voice and honored the comedian by reading, "for a man who was the undisputed master of comedy timing, you'd have to say that this was the only time when Jack Benny's timing was all wrong. He left us much too soon."

When he died in 1974, he left an estate estimated at $4 million.

Was good friends with singer Gisele MacKenzie--who also played the violin--and often referred to her as "Doll".

For many years he lived at 1002 North Roxbury Drive in Beverly Hills. His neighbors were Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz at 1000 North Roxbury, and Peter Falk and his wife at 1004 North Roxbury.

According to Phyllis Diller's autobiography "Like a Lampshade in a Whorehouse", in the late 1960s Broadway producer David Merrick approached Benny with the idea of him playing Dolly Levi in drag in "Hello, Dolly!" opposite George Burns as Horace Vandergelder. The intention was to turn Broadway on its ear and revive flagging interest in the show, which had been running since 1964, originally with Carol Channing as Dolly Levi. This idea never came to fruition. (Diller did appear in the show for 3 months in 1970.).

In 1948, the radio quiz show "Truth or Consequences" ran a weekly contest to identify the Walking Man. The gag was to guess who the foot steps belonged to. Every week they played the steps. Eventually they revealed it was Jack Benny.

He was awarded three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame--for Motion Pictures at 6650 Hollywood Boulevard, for Radio at 1505 Vine Street and for Television at 6370 Hollywood Boulevard.

Jack's radio program that followed the premature death of Carole Lombard was canceled because Benny, a good friend and admirer, was grief-stricken. The time was filled with music instead. Both had just starred together in To Be or Not to Be (1942).

Was a Democrat.

In 1935, Benny, like most of America, was so captivated by the trial of Bruno Richard Hauptmann, accused of kidnapping Charles Lindbergh's baby boy, that he pulled strings to get himself a seat in the overcrowded New Jersey courtroom.

He turned down a role in The Big Broadcast of 1938 (1938). The role was then given to 'Bob Hope (I)' (q)--his feature-film debut--which began his long and successful film career.

Interviewed in "The Great Comedians Talk About Comedy" by Larry Wilde. [1968]

A pre-adolescent Benny was taught violin by Otto Graham's father. The Grahams and the Bennys were next-door neighbors.