Jack Benny was born Benjamin Kubelsky in Chicago, Illinois, on February 14,1894, and grew up in nearby Waukegan.
48 Facts About Jack Benny
Jack Benny was the son of Jewish immigrants Meyer Kubelsky and Naomi Emma Sachs Kubelsky.
At the age of 6, Jack Benny began studying violin, an instrument that became his trademark; his parents hoped for him to become a professional violinist.
At 14, Jack Benny was playing in dance bands and his high school orchestra.
Jack Benny was a dreamer and poor at his studies, ultimately getting expelled from high school.
Jack Benny later did poorly in business school and in attempts to join his father's business.
Jack Benny was joined on the circuit by Ned Miller, a young composer and singer.
That same year, Jack Benny was playing in the same theater as the young Marx Brothers.
Minnie, their mother, enjoyed Jack Benny's violin playing and invited him to accompany her boys in their act.
Jack Benny's parents refused to let their son go on the road at 17, but it was the beginning of his long friendship with the Marx Brothers, especially Zeppo Marx.
The next year, Jack Benny formed a vaudeville musical duo with pianist Cora Folsom Salisbury, who needed a partner for her act.
When Salisbury left the act, Jack Benny found a new pianist, Lyman Woods, and renamed the act "From Grand Opera to Ragtime".
Jack Benny left show business briefly in 1917 to join the United States Navy during World War I, often entertaining fellow sailors with his violin playing.
Jack Benny received more comedy spots in the revues and did well, earning a reputation as a comedian and musician.
Shortly after the war, Benny developed a one-man act, "Ben K Benny: Fiddle Funology".
Jack Benny then received legal pressure from Ben Bernie, a "patter-and-fiddle" performer, regarding his name, so he adopted the sailor's nickname of Jack.
Jack Benny had some romantic encounters, including one with dancer Mary Kelly, whose devoutly Catholic family forced her to turn down his proposal because he was Jewish.
In 1922, Jack Benny accompanied Zeppo Marx to a Passover Seder in Vancouver at the residence where he met 17-year-old Sadie Marks.
Jack Benny had not remembered their earlier meeting and instantly fell for her.
Jack Benny signed a five-year contract with MGM, where his first role was in The Hollywood Revue of 1929.
The next film, Chasing Rainbows, did not do well, and after several months Jack Benny was released from his contract and returned to Broadway in Earl Carroll's Vanities.
At first dubious about the viability of radio, Jack Benny grew eager to break into the new medium.
Unlike later incarnations of the Jack Benny show, The Canada Dry Program was primarily a musical program.
Jack Benny then appeared on The Chevrolet Program, airing on the NBC Red Network between March 17,1933, until April 1,1934, initially airing on Fridays, moving to Sunday nights in the fall.
On March 28,1954, Jack Benny co-hosted General Foods 25th Anniversary Show: A Salute to Rodgers and Hammerstein with Groucho Marx and Mary Martin.
When Jack Benny moved to television, audiences learned that his verbal talent was matched by his controlled repertory of dead-pan facial expressions and gesture.
Jack Benny did his opening and closing monologues before a live audience, which he regarded as essential to timing of the material.
Jack Benny was able to attract guests who rarely, if ever, appeared on television.
Jack Benny continued to make occasional specials into the 1970s, the last one airing in January 1974.
Jack Benny said that while the ratings were still very good, advertisers were complaining that commercial time on his show was costing nearly twice as much as what they paid for most other shows, and he had grown tired of what was called the "rate race".
In fairness, Jack Benny himself shared Fred Allen's ambivalence about television, though not quite to Allen's extent.
Jack Benny acted in films, including the Academy Award-winning The Hollywood Revue of 1929, Broadway Melody of 1936, George Washington Slept Here, and notably, Charley's Aunt and To Be or Not to Be.
Jack Benny often parodied contemporary films and genres on the radio program, and the 1940 film Buck Jack Benny Rides Again features all the main radio characters in a funny Western parody adapted from program skits.
The cartoon ends with a classic Jack Benny look of befuddlement.
Jack Benny made a cameo appearance in It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.
Jack Benny made one of his final television appearances on January 23,1974, as a guest on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, during which he recreated several classic radio skits with Mel Blanc the day before his final television special aired.
Jack Benny was preparing to star in the film version of Neil Simon's The Sunshine Boys when his health failed later the same year.
Jack Benny prevailed upon his longtime best friend, George Burns, to take his place on a nightclub tour while preparing for the film.
Jack Benny made several appearances on The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast in his final 18 months, roasting Ronald Reagan, Johnny Carson, Bob Hope and Lucille Ball, in addition to himself being roasted in February 1974.
In October 1974, Jack Benny cancelled a performance in Dallas after suffering a dizzy spell, coupled with numbness in his arms.
Jack Benny went into a coma at home on December 22,1974.
Jack Benny's will arranged for a single long-stemmed red rose to be delivered to his widow, Mary Livingstone, every day for the rest of her life.
Jack Benny donated a Stradivarius violin to the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra.
In 1960, Jack Benny was inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame with three stars.
Jack Benny was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1988 and the National Radio Hall of Fame in 1989.
Jack Benny was inducted into the Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame.
Jack Benny was inducted as a laureate of The Lincoln Academy of Illinois and awarded the Order of Lincoln by the governor of Illinois in 1972 in the area of the performing arts.
Jack Benny was mentioned by Doc Brown in Back to the Future, in which Doc guesses who would be Secretary of the Treasury by 1985, not believing Ronald Reagan was President of the United States of America.