SUNDAY NIGHTS AT SEVEN: The Jack Benny Story by Jack & Joan Benny Benny
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Sheer heaven, Benny on Benny. This book was undertaken and filled out by Jack's daughter Joan when she found an unpublished, complete manuscript in a closet in 1984 (Jack died in 1974). As Joan explains, Benny's wife Mary--upon reading Jack's autobiography--had vetoed his publishing it because of her jealousy toward the early love affairs he records. After a brief tour of his youth and violin lessons in Waukegan, and a decade in vaudeville, first as a second-banana comedy violinist, then as top banana in a two-man comedy act and then as a solo who only carried but rarely played his violin onstage, Benny here focuses at greatest length upon his radio days; yet we get his ideas about the differing demands of his vaudeville, radio, film, stage, and TV work--not to mention the many concerts at which he played his violin for fund drives for faltering orchestras. Despite an anecdotal delivery that strings stories together and avoids the endless detail beloved by professional biographers, Benny cannot write a dull word, and a sense of his whole life comes through strongly. The often long passages of commentary by his daughter Joan also show the book firmly in hand and tell readers exactly what they want to know--especially about the not-too-great division between Benny at home and Benny at work. Joan's intimate view never grows wearisome, and in fact adds a kind of stereoptical effect to the figure of Benny that emerges. The joy here is Benny at work, creating scripts with his writers, working with Mel Blanc, Eddie ""Rochester"" Anderson, Mary Living-stone, Phil Harris, Dennis Day, Don Wilson, the sound-effects men; inventing his world-famed feud with Fred Allen; finding Marilyn Monroe a superb foil and comedienne; being distraught with laughter while trying to play against Percy Kilbride, and so on. Reprise on a great career, fabulous talent, wonderful man.

Pub Date: Nov. 5th, 1990
Publisher: Warner