Tuesday, December 13, 2016

25 More Days of Old Time Radio Christmas - Day 13: More Shopping with Jack Benny (1944)

Jack Benny has a very special place in the history of radio.  In his long running show on radio, he had more than a few Christmas episodes.  Two years ago, I featured two episodes that were focused on shopping (Christmas Shopping with Jack Benny).  What I wanted to do was showcase Jack Benny - but also celebrate (one day late) Frank Sinatra's birthday.  Sinatra was born 101 years ago yesterday - December 12, 1915.  And while it was a small appearance - it made for a great episode for this series!  Here is a link to all the previous OTR Christmas entries.  If you have Sirius/XM, you can listen to Greg Bell's Old time radio channel (#148).  He does a great job of showcasing great holiday themed episodes, especially as we get close to Christmas.

Jack Benny Statue (Waukegan, Illinois)  - October 15, 2016

Jack Benny Statue - Waukegan, Illinois - October 2016

The Jack Benny Program was a national treasure and it is great that we have so many recordings.  Staring in the show was Jack Benny, a vaudeville performer who seemed to hit it big over the airways.  Mary Livingstone played second fiddle (no pun intended) to her real life husband.  She apparently had horrible stage fright, but hardly shows it as the straight person to many of Jack Benny's jokes.  Eddie Anderson played Rochester, Jack's valet and chauffeur.  He was one of the earliest African-Americans on mainstream radio and was one of the most loved characters on the show.  Don Wilson was the show announcer and did the commercials.  He was the constant butt of jokes, primarily about his weight.  Irish Tenor Dennis Day (who was on the 1948 show) also had a show of his own.  Besides being a 'dim bulb' in all the skits, he also sang a song on every episode.  Phil Harris (who also had a show of his own) was the bandleader and the joker on the show.  His real wife, Alice Faye would join him on the show as well.  The last big name was Mel Blanc (of Bugs Bunny fame).  Blanc (who ALSO had his own show) was one of the most famous character actors to play on the Jack Benny Show.  He is very commonly the floorwalkers for the Christmas episodes.  The shows are chock full of laughs, funny stories, corny jokes and great music.

An all-star cast gathered for the episode that aired on December 17, 1944.  Its the week before Christmas and we find Jack getting ready for the holidays, including Rochester filling out Jack's Christmas Cards.  When Jack Benny finds himself at a drugstore, Jack decides that he needs to try Sympathy Soothing Syrup.  They make a running gag about spelling the name backwards - drawing on the commercials for Serutan (the laxative that is 'natures' spelled backwards).  Frank Nelson plays the druggist at the 'old fashioned drug store'.  Its so old that they have some products spelled frontwards. While at the drugstore, he runs into Frank Sinatra who reminds Jack that he promised to be on Sinatra's show the following day - and the take the opportunity to take jabs at each other!

Jack and Mary head out to the department store where Mel Blanc gets to play one of his most famous roles on this show - the floor walker at the department store.  Jack wants to buy a present for his sister in Waukegan, Illinois - Jack's hometown.  While at the store, Jack and Mary run into Joseph Kearns, who plays a confused customer who keeps asking Jack for advice on what to buy his wife!  He also runs into Phil Harris who takes the opportunity poke fun at his boss!  At the end of the program, there are two appeals.  First, he tried to discourage unnecessary travel during the holidays so enlisted men could find space on buses and trains to head home for the holidays.  Jack reminded us of a simple rule: "I promise you I will not travel unless my trip helps us win the war." Second, he encouraged people to purchase Christmas Seals  (which was featured earlier in this series on the Cavalcade of America.  Enjoy this wonderful episode from Jack Benny.

Lucky Strike Program Starring Jack Benny. December 17, 1944

Here are some links to programs relating to Jack Benny:
Another 25 Days of Old Time Radio Christmas (from 2016) & Other Links

25 Days of Old Time Radio Christmas (from 2015) & Other Links

25 Days of Old Time Radio Christmas (from 2014)

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