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Jack Benny

Jack Benny

D.O.B.: February 14, 1894 (Waukegan, IL)

D.O.D.: December 26, 1974

Cause of Death: Pancreatic cancer

Location: Hillside Memorial; Mausoleum, Hall of Graciousness

Biographical Notes:

He was a radio and TV comedian joked for nearly 30 years about his notorious movie flop, The Horn Blows at.

A former vaudevillian (and a violin player), he hit the boards, initially billed as Ben K. Benny, after serving in the Navy during World War 1. After appearing in a few short subjects, he made his feature-film debut in MGM's The Hollywood Revue of 1929 and starred for the first time in The Medicine Man (1930). But Benny wasn't cut out to be a movie star; he fared much better on radio, where he established his persona as a wisecracking tightwad.

He appeared in a number of 1930s musicals and comedies, including Transatlantic Merry-Go-Round (1934), Broadway Melody of 1936, It's in the Air (both 1935), The Big Broadcast of 1937, College Holiday (both 1936), Artists and Models (1937), and Artists and Models Abroad (1938). Man About Town (1939) brought his radio sidekicks Eddie "Rochester" Anderson and Phil Harris along for laughs; they were reunited in Buck Benny Rides Again (1940), this time in their familiar broadcast characterizations. Love Thy Neighbor (also 1940) was a disappointing effort to bring the phony feud between Benny and fellow funster Fred Allen to the screen, but Benny's next two starring vehicles, Charley's Aunt (1941) and To Be or Not to Be (1942), were probably his best films. Ernst Lubitsch directed the latter, with Benny as "that great, great actor, Joseph Tura," whose Polish theater group bravely stands up to the Nazis. It was his finest hour on screen.

He also brightened George Washington Slept Here (also 1942), The Meanest Man in the World (1943, again featuring Rochester), Hollywood Canteen (1944), The Horn Blows at Midnight (1945), It's in the Bag (also 1945, in a guest appearance in this Fred Allen vehicle), and numerous later films in which he took small supporting roles and unbilled cameos, including It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963) and A Guide for the Married Man (1967). "The Jack Benny Show" was a TV staple from 1950 to 1965, and he also appeared in innumerable specials and guest shots. Benny, who in later years always gave his age as 39, married Sadye Marks in 1927; as Mary Livingstone, she costarred with him on radio and TV, and authored a memoir about him in 1978.

Additional Resources:

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