Sunday, June 29, 2014

Jack Benny and Mary Livingston

Hello, everybody!

Today is another beautiful day here at the Baldpate Inn! I've had some great conversations in the Key Room today, and I hope that I'll have the opportunity to talk to all of you soon. Between conversations, I've been trying to decide which key to blog about. As I was thinking about it, I was listening to the radio play version of Seven Keys to Baldpate, which plays on repeat in the Key Room. I've listened to this show many times, and I never get tired of it! In all honesty, it is a great show, starring some great actors.
Two of the actors whose voices are featured in the radio play include Jack Benny and Mary Livingstone. We actually have a key in our collection that was donated by Benny and Livingstone. The key is to Jack Benny's Paramount Studios dressing room. On the tag, he wrote, "Jello again, and here's a key to health for every Baldpate Inn visitor." Mary Livingstone wrote, "Me too." I know Benny's and Livingstone's voices very well, but I didn't know that much about their life stories; therefore, I would like to share a little bit of what I have learned about these two Baldpate legends.

Jack Benny was born as Benjamin Kubelsky in 1894 in Illinois. Benny learned to play the violin at an early age and found work in theatre orchestras. He became a vaudeville performer when he was a teenager, teaming up with pianist Cora Salisbury. He had the oportunity to tour with the Marx Brothers, but his parents would not let him go on tour at 17 years old. Benny's comedy career began during World War I when he was assigned to the Great Lakes Naval Training Centre. He used to try to entertain the men with his violin, but he did not receive a lot of appreciation from them. At one point, his friend whispered, "For heaven's sake, Ben, put down the damn fiddle and talk to 'em." Then, Benny told a joke that truly entertained the men.

Benny continued to make vaudeville performances after the war and began using the name "Jack Benny". He made his first radio appearance on Ed Sullivan's interview show on March 29, 1932. Within a year of this interview, Benny became a radio star. He starred in The Canada Dry Program, The Jell-O Program, and The Lucky Strike Program. Jack Benny eventually starred in his own television show, The Jack Benny Show. Benny even starred in Hollywood movies; although, his film appearances were largely poorly received. His movies include The Hollywood Revue of 1929, The Medicine Man, and To Be or Not To Be.

Jack Benny met Mary Livingstone while he was appearing in the Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles, and they were later married. They had one daughter, Joan Naomi Benny, and remained together until the end of his life. Benny died of cancer on December 26, 1974. He suffered for a short time before his death, but he continued to perform. After his death, a red rose began appearing at the Benny home every day. Eventually, Mary asked the florist about this. Apparently Jack Benny had been purchasing flowers one day and said, "If anything should happen to me, I want you to send my Doll a red rose every day." Mary received these roses until the day she rejoined Jack.

I hope you enjoyed today's blog! Please comment if you have more information you would like to share about Jack Benny and Mary Livingstone.

Have a great day!

Key Room Museum Curator