- Benny, Jack
- (1894-1974)Comedian Jack Benny was born Benjamin Kubelsky to a Russian immigrant father and Lithuanian mother in Chicago. He began his career in vaudeville at the age of 18 as Ben K. Benny. During World War I, Benny served in the navy and perfected his comedy routine performing to naval audiences. After the war, he took the name Jack and presented himself as a “monologist.” In 1926 Benny performed on Broadway in the musical revue The Great Temptations, and his success led to a film contract with Metro- Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) film studios. After appearing in a number of films, including Hollywood Revue of 1929 (1929), Chasing Rainbows (1930), and The Medicine Man (1930), Benny returned to the stage to do a musical revue. This led to a radio performance and the beginning of a radio show that ran from 1932 until 1955. More than a series of jokes, Benny’s program involved a narrative of regular characters, most notably “Rochester,” played by Eddie Anderson. Benny continued to appear in movies, most famously To Be or Not to Be (1942). Others included George Washington Slept Here (1942), The Meanest Man in the World (1943), and The Horn Blows at Midnight (1945). In 1948, Benny switched from NBC to CBS, and his radio program ran on the CBS network until 1955 when it transferred to television. After a slow start, the television program established itself and ran until 1965. Benny continued to appear in nightclub shows and gave “musical” performances with his violin for charitable causes almost until his death.See also Cinema.
Historical Dictionary of the Roosevelt–Truman Era . Neil A. Wynn . 2015.