Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Comedian, the Legend, Jack Benny

This past weekend here at the Baldpate Inn was special, due in part to the play Seven Keys to Baldpate, which premiered on Friday and Saturday. For those of you that have visited the Key Room here at the Inn, you are probably familiar to the Seven Keys to Baldpate radio play and the stage play of the same name which we show at our Keythedral Theatre. The voice most notable to visitors when they listen to the radio play is that of comedian Jack Benny.


Born Benjamin Kubelsky on Valentine’s Day, 1894 in Chicago, IL, Benny picked up the violin at the age of six, which would become a trademark later in his career. By 17, he was playing violin at local vaudeville theaters. It was during this time that Benny came into contact with the famous Marx Brothers, who not only were working in the same theater as Benny, but would form a lifetime friendship with him as well. After serving duty in the U.S. Navy from 1917 to 1921, where he was considered a comedian and musician by fellow soldiers, Benny would start a one-man act called "Ben K. Benny: Fiddle Funology". It was around this time that he changed his stage name to Jack Benny due to legal pressure from famed violinist, Ben Bernie. 

One night in 1922, Benny was invited over to a Passover Seder by friend Zeppo Marx, where he would meet the love of his life, Sadie Marks, but better known by her stage name, Mary Livingstone. Benny and Livingstone would go on to get married, along with becoming comedic partners, too. Ten years later, after a four-week comedy show stint at nightclubs, Benny was invited onto TV host and writer Ed Sullivan’s radio show. This would eventually lead Benny to get his own radio show, The Jack Benny Program, later that year. The weekly radio show, which ran for a total of 30 years (from 1932 to 1948 on NBC and from 1949 to 1955 on CBS) is generally regarded as a high-water mark in 20th-century American comedy. This radio show would be followed up with a TV show of the same name from 1950-1965.

(Group photograph of Eddie Anderson, Dennis Day, Phil Harris, Mary Livingstone, Jack Benny, Don Wilson, and Mel Blanc)

Here at the Inn we  are honored to have keys to Jack Benny’s dressing room at Paramount Studios. We are glad to have the opportunity to have this key on display for visitors!
Come see!
Key Room Museum Curator