Comedian Jack Benny mastered comedy timing and expression over a career that spanned 65 years. He was one of America's greatest and most enduring entertainers.
Benny made his radio debut in 1932 when Ed Sullivan — later to win fame on television — invited him to appear on his show.
His first words on radio were, "Ladies and gentleman, this is Jack Benny talking. There will be a slight pause while you say 'who cares?!' "
That millions cared became thunderingly clear as Benny went on to become a household name for 27 years on the radio and 14 years in a weekly television series.
He had many trademarks over the long years, among which was his insistence that he was 39 and his stage stinginess.
The stinginess was strictly show business, for in reality Benny was considered a generous man. At the time of his death, he was believed to have raised more than a million dollars for charity.
Yet a comedy routine based on penny-pinching became an American classic. When a hold-up man demanded of Benny, "Your money or your life," he remained silent and looked away, convulsing the audience. Only when the gunman pressed for an answer did he reply, "I'm thinking, I'm thinking."
"The Jack Benny Show" won an Emmy in 1959 as the best comedy series on television. Prior to that, honors had been heaped on him for his radio show.
Benny's first movie role was in the MGM production "Hollywood Revue of 1929" — his last was a brief appearance in the 1962 Warner Bros. film "Gypsy." Other roles included "The Horn Blows at Midnight" (1945), "George Washington Slept Here" (1942), "Charlie's Aunt" (1941), "Buck Benny Rides Again" (1940) and "To Be or Not To Be" (1942).
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