Showing posts with label Jack Benny. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jack Benny. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

September 18, Happy Birthday, Eddie "Rochester" Anderson



When people talk about African-American show biz pioneers such as Sammy Davis, Jr., Sidney Poitier, and Hattie McDaniel, it's a bit surprising that Eddie "Rochester" Anderson's name doesn't come up a bit more often.  Anderson was the first Black actor to land a regular spot on the prevailing media of the time, radio.

In 1937, Anderson played the role of a porter on The Jack Benny Program and the rest is history.  He would later land the role of Benny's personal house man, Rochester.  The cachet from this huge radio program would allow the actor and comedian to land subsequent television roles.

Anderson was born into a show business family in Oakland, CA, the son of a minstrel performer and a tightrope walker. While Anderson started performing at a young age, it was a job outside of show business that would affect his later life.  Working as a newspaper salesman, he was in the habit of trying to shout as loud as possible to help his sales, and as a result, he injured his vocal cords.  As a radio performer, he'd showcase a raw, sandpapery voice.  We salute you, Rochester, on the day of your birth in 1905.

September 18, Happy Birthday, Eddie "Rochester" Anderson



When people talk about African-American show biz pioneers such as Sammy Davis, Jr., Sidney Poitier, and Hattie McDaniel, it's a bit surprising that Eddie "Rochester" Anderson's name doesn't come up a bit more often.  Anderson was the first Black actor to land a regular spot on the prevailing media of the time, radio.

In 1937, Anderson played the role of a porter on The Jack Benny Program and the rest is history.  He would later land the role of Benny's personal house man, Rochester.  The cachet from this huge radio program would allow the actor and comedian to land subsequent television roles.

Anderson was born into a show business family in Oakland, CA, the son of a minstrel performer and a tightrope walker. While Anderson started performing at a young age, it was a job outside of show business that would affect his later life.  Working as a newspaper salesman, he was in the habit of trying to shout as loud as possible to help his sales, and as a result, he injured his vocal cords.  As a radio performer, he'd showcase a raw, sandpapery voice.  We salute you, Rochester, on the day of your birth in 1905.

Monday, June 24, 2013

June 24: Happy Birthday, Phil Harris

On June 24 of 1904, Baloo...well the voice of Baloo...was born. Phil Harris (first name Wonga) was an actor, jazz musician, singer, comedian and so many other talents. Raised in Tennessee, Harris began his foray into entertainment as a drummer for a circus. 

He later formed a band that many runs at the St. Francis Hotel. Following a dissolution of the band, Harris formed a new band that still exists to this day. Through the 1930’s, Phil Harris made recordings for a variety of major labels, including Columbia, Decca and Victor. From the 30’s through the 50’s, Harris would be cast alongside some of the big names in the industry, like Walter Brennan. 

He also performed in a film that also created Flying Down to Rio, which set in motion a couple of top names in Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. During the 1930’s, Harris made his radio debut by being the Musical Director and comic relief for the Jack Benny Program. The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show also spent time on the airwaves as a coast to coast favorite. 

His southern charm and accent played to the masses in this period of Americana. That was due in large part to the fact harris knew how to reach to the heart of people and not be stand-offish. Married to Alice Faye much of his adult life, Harris would go on to do television and host celebrity golf matches. Harris passed away in 1995 and his wife three years later. It was said that Harris loved his southern beginnings...well, America loved Phil Harris.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

May 5: Happy Birthday, Alice Faye


Alice Faye was born on this day in 1915, and took a somewhat circuitous path to eminence in the universe of old time radio. She started in vaudeville and went on to a brief but very successful film career.

Her leap to radio came from very personal circumstances. After ending her first marriage in 1940, Faye began a romantic relationship with radio icon Phil Harris. We know Harris has the hipster bandleader of The Jack Benny Show. After Faye married Harris, she joined him in his radio career. It began with their collaboration on the music show The Fitch Bandwagon, which aired on NBC. That show evolved into a sitcom and was re-named The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show. Their real-life marriage and family was re-created--to perhaps some small degree of realism--on the show, with actors playing equivalents or their two young daughters.

The couple remained married until Harris's 1995 death. Faye died three years later. We salute this talented actress and songstress.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

February 14: Happy Birthday, Jack Benny

February 14: Happy Birthday, Jack Benny

I guess we should say "Happy 39th!" Today we cordially commemorate the birthday of the man who had roughly 18 39ths, even if he'd actually be 118 today if he were still alive.

The 39th birthday was a running--we could say annual--gag on "The Jello Program," a.k.a. The Jack Benny Radio Program. Each year would be a birthday program, whether it entailed cast members Don Wilson, George Hicks, Ethel Shutta and Sadye Marks presenting their boss with gifts, or a sketch in which Jack was treated to three different surprise parties.

It's hard to say how common it was to jokingly claim to be 39 at an age that made it clear one was sixty or so, but Benny elevated it to an art form through repetition. The third or fourth year, it probably got old, but by the seventh or eighth it was funny that he kept doing it, and then it was just a tradition.

Why did he pretend to always be 39? "Wellll?" Because it was funny and because it fit in with the radio persona that made Benny's career. Happy 39th, Jack!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

December 9: Happy Birthday, Kirk Douglas!

December 9: Happy Birthday, Kirk Douglas!

Issur Danielovitch is considered one of the all-time leading American movie actors of all time. Issur, aka Kirk Douglas, holds the title of living all-time movie actor. Born in 1916, Kirk Douglas has spent over half a century as an actor, producer and author. As a youth, Douglas was on the wrestling team in college and worked as a gardener to pay for his college education. Kirk served in the military during WWII, which added credibility and expertise to the many war movies he performed in. Douglas’s career lent him opportunity to act in all types of movies; from a gladiator in Spartacus to riding the range with legendary John Wayne. Kirk Douglas made a few on-air radio appearances with certain legendaries, such as Jack Benny. Douglas was married twice and had four sons (including famous actor Michael Douglas), one of which he lost to a drug overdose in 2004. In his later years, Douglas returned to his religious roots of Judaism and is a staunch supporter of the people of Israel. Although his acting has curtailed significantly in his later years, Mr. Douglas still stands as a symbol of longevity and talent in a profession that sees the transition of many actors and actresses out of the limelight.To this date, Kirk Douglas commends the movie profession as a true art form that has depth and meaning.