One of the most celebrated comedians of old time radio was Benjamin Kubelsky, aka "Jack Benny." This Waukegan, Illinois native played several iconic roles in the colorful world of the entertainment industry. While his acting roots were born from his days on Vaudeville, his quick wit and rapier-like humor immediately earned him a place in Hollywood.
Benny's rise to stardom began in 1932, where he got his first big break with a guest appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. Network executives noticed his natural talent for radio hosting and he soon landed jobs to star in his own programs.
The most famous among his old radio shows was "The Jack Benny Show" which aired on CBS from the years 1950-1964. This notorious old radio sitcom was widely popular as Benny willingly made a mockery of himself. Benny portrayed a vain and pompous TV star named "Jack Benny" and the show revolved around his interactions with a motley cast and crew of unconventional characters.
In this popular comedy series, Benny delivered some of his finest works as his sharp and sometimes acerbic humor delivered night after night of entertainment to his fans. His flawless delivery of cutting lines and deadpan remarks truly made him one of the greatest comedians of the era.
It was during the program's airing that he met and married his wife, Sadye (Sadie) Marks who played several different roles throughout the series' lifetime. Her character would vary slightly from episode to episode. While the part she took was initially that of a supposed 'fan,' her acting skills inspired Benny's writers to create a more permanent place for her on the program. Thus the persona of Mary Livingstone, Jack's cheeky secretary was born.
What perhaps made "The Jack Benny Show" unique were the different humorous situations Benny constantly found himself in. This coupled with the refreshing and interesting guests who that were featured in the series made for a spectacular show. On an interview with Newsweek in 1947, he went on record to say, "Where would I be today without my writers, without Rochester, Dennis Day, Mary Livingstone, Phil Harris, and Don Wilson?" The colorful mainstays of this old radio show were the perfect foil to both balance and showcase Jack's amazing panache for comedic farce.
Jack Benny's flair for entertainment transcended the realm of old time radio. His long running radio program "The Jack Benny Show" was adapted into a television series where he made a seemingly effortless transition from one media form to another. He also made a name for himself on the big screen with movies like "The Big Broadcast," and even gave an absolutely riveting performance on "To Be or Not to Be."
However, it was later revealed in his memoirs that his passion and first love was old time radio and went so far as to say, "By my second year in television, I saw that the camera was a man-eating monster. It gave a performer a close-up exposure that, week after week, threatened his existence as an interesting entertainer. "