THE 1940-1941 SEASON
 
 
The Jell-O cast returns for another season.  This year the status quo remains, with all of the regular cast members back from last season (Jack Benny, Mary Livingstone, Dennis Day, Phil Harris, and Eddie "Rochester" Anderson) returning, with help from the usual "non-cast" members such as Mel Blanc, Verna Felton, and Frank Nelson, among others.  Jack's "real life" old flame Mary (Bubbles) Kelly appears again as the "Blue Fairy" character. 

Jell-O remains the program's sponsor, and "The Jell-O Program Starring Jack Benny" finishes first overall in the radio Hooper ratings, an increase from their second place finish the year previous.  The Jell-O Program Hooper rating for the 1940-1941 season is 36.2, the highest that the show had recorded since the 36.4 rating of the 1934-1935 season, and the second-highest rating that the program would ever record. The program would suffer a relatively dramatic drop to fifth place next season.

The writers for the program remain Ed Beloin and Bill Morrow. Each Jell-O program still begins with a brief musical number from the orchestra prior to Don Wilson doing the Jell-O commercial.
 
On December 23, 1940, TIME magazine publishes a short profile of Jack Benny and the program, mainly focused with monetary issues.  It states that Benny is being paid $630,000 for the season (of which, after paying for "an orchestra, announcer, gagmen and his cast", he nets $350,000).  Discussing the writers, it puts Bill Morrow's salary at $1,500 a week, and "his assistant"' Eddie Beloin's at $560 a week less. Other contemporary articles also describe Morrow as the "main" writer and Beloin as his assistant, but it doesn't seem that they truly regarded each other that way.

This season the program will travel to New York City in December, and feature an extended trip to Palm Springs in February. Also Jack misses an episode in February as Herbert Marshall fills in as host, and as World War II rages on with America still on the sidelines, but not for long (
this is the last full season of shows prior to the United States entering the war): in a sign of things to come, the very last program of the season is broadcast on location from a Naval Base.

The Jell-O Program's first place finish in the 1940-1941 ratings won't be the only good news for Jack this season. In May of 1941, the NBC network pays tribute to Jack Benny's "tenth anniversary in radio" with a large party and a special "Life of Jack Benny" radio program. It is during this time that NBC President Niles Trammell famously guarantees Jack the Sunday evening at 7:00 pm time slot on NBC for "as long as Jack wants it".

Once again recordings circulate of every episode for this season. Also worth noting (well, by me, anyway, your mileage may vary) is that on many occasions this season, the program-opening number by the orchestra is an "original" song with a usually "jokey" title, said title often referring to locations in and around Hollywood, California.

In the 1940-1941 radio season, the NBC Red and Blue Networks once again dominated the Hooper ratings, with the NBC Red repeating last seasons' feat of notching the top four highest rated programs. As noted previously, The Jell-O Program Starring Jack Benny on NBC Red was the nations highest rated radio program, finishing with a 36.2 year-end tally. Last season's ratings winner, NBC Red's Sunday night show The Chase and Sanborn Program Starring Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy, was cut from an hour long program to just thirty minutes, and subsequently fell to second place this season with a 32.2 rating. In third place was NBC Red's The Pepsodent Program Starring Bob Hope, airing Tuesday evenings at 10:00 pm and finishing with a 28.2 total, followed in fourth place by NBC Red's Fibber McGee and Molly, broadcast Tuesday nights at 9:30 pm and ending with a 27.4 total rating. In fifth place overall, breaking the NBC Red monopoly just the same as in last season is the Columbia Broadcasting Systems drama show Lux Radio Theatre, airing Mondays at 9:00 pm and finishing with a 26.8 total. The first newcomer to the top ten since last season was the sixth place NBC Red program The Aldrich Family, sponsored by Jell-O and airing Thursdays at 8:30 pm, coming in with a 26.3 rating. NBC Blue's Walter Winchell-hosted program Jergens Journal, broadcast Sunday evenings at 9:00, finished in seventh place with a 24.8 rating. The eighth place finisher was NBC Red's Maxwell House Coffee Time Starring Frank Morgan and Fanny Brice, aired Thursdays at 8:00 pm, with a 23.4 rating. In ninth place, the same finish as the previous season, was the CBS program The Major Bowes Amateur Hour, still on Thursdays at 9:00 pm; and, once again rounding out the top ten, the same as the previous season, was NBC Red's Kay Kyser's Kollege of Musical Knowledge, sponsored by Lucky Strike.



 
 
1.    10/06/40              JACK TELLS HIS CHILDHOOD STORY (THE BLUE FAIRY RETURNS)
 
Orchestra Opening:

The Show:   Jack and the show return from summer vacation.  The show begins with gentle, soothing music, and then the voice of Frank Nelson:  "Fall is here.  It is the sixth day of October and Jell-O is back on the air. But where are our little playmates? Where are Don-sy and Phil-sy, and Mary and Dennis? And Jackie-boy?  Ahh me, they're still asleep.  For fifteen weeks, they have been in the arms of Morpheus. (sound of snoring) Wake up....wake up little playmates.....alas, they do not heed my summons. However, we must get them up. But how? How can we awaken our Master of Ceremonies? How can we arouse Jackie-boy?"  Mary: "Drop a quarter".  Jack: "You're asleep!".  Nelson: "Alas, my efforts are unavailing. If only someone with magic powers would assist me..."
Then, in her third appearance,  the Blue Fairy (Mary Kelly) appears to wake up the cast (Jack, Mary Livingstone, Phil Harris, Dennis Day, and announcer Don Wilson).  

The title for this episode that appears on many logs/lists, 
"Jack Tells His Childhood Story", is somewhat misleading.  After Dennis asks for a raise, Jack tells Dennis a very brief story about his "poor" childhood. The beginning "fantasy" segment (which during the episode Jack claims he wrote) is much more of the focus of this episode. Unfortunately, despite the unusual beginning, especially for a season opener, it is not one of Beloin and Morrow's strongest scripts.

Dennis' Song:  Dennis sings "When the Swallows Come Back To Capistrano" , although all of the music segments are cut on most (all?) of the circulating copies.

Note:  The Movie-Radio Guide October 5, 1940 issue noted the return of the Benny program, and shows that the "Tenth Anniversary" hype was building even at the opening of the 1940-1941 season:
"Jack Benny, with a Honolulu vacation and a new movie, Love Thy Neighbor, written into his credit column since radio fans last heard the familiar 'Jell-O again', says it again this Sunday as he begins his tenth big year on the air. With him on the opening program will be the usual gang---Mary Livingstone, Dennis Day, Don Wilson, Phil Harris, Andy Devine and and Rochester"


 
2.    10/13/40            PHIL TRIES TO COLLECT A WORLD SERIES BET

Don's Introduction:    "And now, ladies and gentlemen, I bring you a man who returned to the air last Sunday happy as a June bride, and just as nervous---Jack Benny~!"
 
The Show:   Jack protests to Don that he wasn't the least bit nervous last week, and explains the difference between being jittery and high strung. Jack says he was just "high strung, like anybody who wants to give a good performance":

Mary:   "He's right, Don. Did you ever see a football player before a big game? Or a fighter before he goes into the ring? Did you ever see Helen Hayes before she steps out on the stage? Did you ever see Jack in a bathing suit?"
Jack:   "What's THAT got to do with it~!?"

Jack says that the Blue Fairy fantasy he "wrote" last week received great reviews, and that newspaper columnist Ed Sullivan raved about the little playlet. Jack just happens to have a copy of the review with him to read to Don. After mentioning the other cast members first, by the time Sullivan finally gets to Jack, the review mentions that the fantasy Jack wrote was "puerile and banal", which Jack mistakenly believes are good attributes.

When Phil enters, he mentions the reviews, and doesn't know the meaning of the words "puerile and banal": Jack tells him they're a dance team. Jack teases Phil about not knowing the meaning of the words, when Mary correctly points out that Jack himself didn't know what they meant a few minutes ago. Jack's reply:  "I knew they were words, I didn't think they were PEOPLE!", is an example of Jack's perfect line delivery, an amusingly written line rendered hysterically funny by Jack's delivery.

Jack plays his violin in a number with Phil and the band, "Get the Moon Out of Your Eyes". Phil asks Jack to pay up on their $10 World Series bet, and Jack says he needs to go out into the hall to get the money. It also turns out that Jack bet Don on the World Series as well, but this time Jack bet on Cincinnati, so Don pays Jack the $5.

Mary reads a letter from her mother. Dennis Day enters a bit late; when Jack asks him to be more timely, Dennis replies that he just "stands around like a totem pole". Jack argues that Dennis gets to sing a song every week, but Dennis protests that "Kenny Baker gets dialog~!"

Jack reveals that Rochester has been elected Mayor of Central Avenue (a center of the city's African-American community; see the notes below for more details.

Okay, this is more like it. After a shaky start to the season, Morrow and Beloin are quickly back to the top of their game.  Unlike last week's busy program with the Blue Fairy Fantasy play, on this week's program a positively Seinfeld-ian "nothing" happens.  Well, there is a small plot, of course, or rather, two concurrent running gags...in one, Jack reads a review of last week's Blue Fairy fantasy that mentions it was "puerile and banal"; and in the other, Jack has made bets with everyone on the World Series, wagering on both teams to win in order to cover all his bases, so to speak. Despite the "lack" of structure, this week's program is substantially funnier than last week. Several of the lines are gems: Mary's rapid-fire "did you ever see Jack in a bathing suit", Jack's "....I didn't think they were people~!", and Mary's "you almost missed out on the last war" are just the toppers to a very well-done and entertaining program.

Dennis' song:   Dennis sings "The Nearness of You"

Note:   With the exception of the instrumental that Jack plays with the band, "Get the Moon Out of Your Eyes". all of the musical numbers have been edited out from the circulating copies.

Note:   The 1940 World Series, the focus of all the betting on this episode, pitted the Cincinnati Reds (or "Cincinattah", as pronounced by the Jell-O gang in this episode) versus the Detroit Tigers.  The series went the full seven games, with Cincinnati taking the title by winning the last game 2-1 on October 8, 1940.

Note:   As pointed out in several newspaper articles appearing prior to the start of the season, the 1940-1941 version of the classic Jack Benny-Fred Allen feud centers around their programs' tenors: former Jack Benny tenor Kenny Baker is now part of the Fred Allen cast.

Note:  As alluded to in this episode, on June 7, 1940, Eddie (Rochester) Anderson was elected "Mayor of Central Avenue".  While this was an honorary title, the area was central to the city's African American population and the mayoral role did come with responsibilities. 

The June 8, 1940 edition of "The Afro American" newspaper noted: "In a close contest, Eddie (Rochester) Anderson, following the final count of the ballots, was declared the winner, and the new mayor of Central Avenue here this week. As such, Rochester becomes the "official greeter" on all festival occasions, and will lead parades and delegations in other serious affairs. Six candidates filed for the race for mayor, and finished in the following final order: Rochester (3,376); Eugene Sorral (2,670); Leonard Senters (2,050) Marguerite Carrere, Oscar Smith and L. Bluestein."

The June 8, 1940 Indianapolis Recorder newspaper printed the above paragraph verbatim, but then added this interesting twist to the end of the story:
"The contest, the first sponsored by the L.A. Sentinel, evoked all sorts of concern. It served to divide the townfolk into camps pro and con, almost as bitter as the fight waged by the contestants. Many protested such an election campaign, arguing it was silly, nonsensical, and not productive of any fruitful end".

A section of the book 'The Great Black Way: L.A. in the 1940s and the Lost African-American Renaissance' by R.J. Smith (Public Affairs, 2006) deals with the 1940 Mayoral campaign:
 
"Every detail of Rochester's character was scrutinized by the Central Avenue community; that he called his employer not Sir but simply Boss, for instance, was viewed as a step forward---one man speaking directly to another. When he mentioned Central Avenue, which Rochester often did, the neighborhood went wild.....Rochester freely mocked the boss and was free to laugh at his foibles, like Benny's miserliness and vanity. It was this license to speak openly that made Rochester a hero on Central Avenue. 

On May 23, 1940, an advertisement appeared in the California Eagle: "Vote for Eddie "Rochester" Anderson for mayor of Central Avenue in Election Today"
.  The mock election of a black leader had long been a rite on the street. In the ad Rochester vows "If I am elected, I will pave Central Avenue with pancakes and flood it with molasses!" His platform ascends from there. "I believe the people of the Eastside are entitled to the same civil, political and social rights as people of other communities...I believe that our streets should be cleaned, that we should have more efficient police protection, that police officers should be promoted according to ability, not because of race or creed". The ad finishes with "a vote for Rochester is a vote for yourself".....Rochester was a work of fiction stepping into a real political void. He took his campaign more or less seriously, headquartering his effort in the Dunbar Hotel. His main competition was Eugene Sorrell, Exalted Ruler of the Golden West Lodge of the Elks. Rochester's platform promoted the recruitment of blacks into aviation jobs, and after the campaign he continued to advocate the creation of a training school for Negro aviators, even calling for Congress to establish a Negro flying corps. Rochester felt so strongly about the issue, he was taking a flying course himself and lecturing with a representative from the Tuskegee Institute.

....in the end, Rochester won the honorific title of mayor of Central Avenue. Being mayor was not without meaning. It was a safe way to register criticism of police tactics, of the lack of black political representation, of the city's neglect of Central Avenue. Rochester bamboozled Benny on radio and in movies that gave him as much face time as the boss, and then invested his wealth in a parachute company, part of his aviation dream. His symbolism had weight. Still, while his fame grew events were transpiring that would alter the dynamics of black power in Los Angeles. Real leaders were emerging. The smile was turning inside out, and Rochester would be, if not turned out of office, then replaced by leaders who were more than symbols".


 
3.    10/20/40            JACK TRIES TO TRADE IN HIS MAXWELL
 
Orchestra opening:  The orchestra opens the show with "The Sun Will Be Up in the Morning". 

Don's Introduction:    "And now, ladies and gentlemen, this being the hottest week of the year in Southern California, we bring you a man who can hardly stand it in his long underwear---Jack Benny~!"

The Show:   This is a recording of the "late" West Coast version of the show.  Jack complains to Don Wilson how busy he is;  he had to do the 4:00pm (PST) broadcast of this show, then do the early broadcast of his guest appearance on the "Screen Guild" program, then do this current "repeat" broadcast of his own show, then the "repeat" version of the "Screen Guild" program...and then MC the opening of a new "Chili Bowl" in Tarzana~!  Then the Benny program skirts the censors with Jack's explanation of how he can do it all:  " I tell you Don, if it wasn't for the vitamin B-1, and the cigarettes that Phil's drummer gives me, I doubt I would be able to go on~!" The line gets a huge laugh from the studio audience.

Jack goes to trade in his Maxwell car for a new 1941 Packard at the Packard dealership.  Although Jack thinks the Maxwell should be worth $700 in trade, the dealer offers him $40.  Jack takes the trade-in....until he hears the dealer say to scrap the Maxwell. Jack gets emotional and can't go through the scrapping of his beloved Maxwell, so he calls the deal off.  A much funnier show than the first two of the season, the show seems to have righted itself from it's brief little slump.

Dennis' Song:  Dennis sings "Trade Winds"

Note:   Dennis sings "Trade Winds", although, like many of these early 1940-41 season recordings, it is cut on most (all?) of the circulating tapes. On these shows the songs by Dennis and the musical numbers by the orchestra have both been cut, but they're relatively clean edits, mostly,  indicating they may have been done at the initial dubbing stage from the original recording. If these recordings were created for Jack, due to the very limited time constraints of acetate recordings during this era they may have felt they just needed to focus on the scripted portions of the program, and didn't record any of the musical numbers.


 
4.    10/27/40            HOLD THAT LINE

Orchestra Opening:  The orchestra opens the show with "Just Like Taking Candy from a Baby" (the very beginning is cut off).

Don's Introduction:   
Don:   "And now, ladie
s and gentlemen, without further ado, we bring you our modest, unassuming Master of Ceremonies; a man who is never too busy too say hello.."
Jack:   "Hello"
Don:   "...Jack Benny~!"
 
The Show:   Since Mary is out sick this week, Jack wants Dennis to take her place in the show. Dennis protests, but when the "Blue Fairy" (Mary Kelly) offers to take Mary's part Jack says that she can't because she is "too fat". Phil reveals to Jack that he has been going to night school before playing at the Wilshire Bowl.  The big word he's learned is "derogatory".
Then Jack announces that they're going to perform that "gridiron classic"  "Hold That Line or; One Moment, Please". As the cast is short on actors, Jack calls in Rochester to take part in the play, but tells him he'll be playing the water boy. Rochester answers "that's a little bit derogatory, ain't it?"

Dennis announces that, for Navy Day, he's going to sing a "special arrangement" of a brand new number, "He's My Uncle". Unfortunately the entire song is cut from the circulating recording, as is the rest of the music again this week.

The "annual" football play begins with a running joke from week two, by noting that the play takes place in "Puerile, Indiana, which is just three miles north of Banal". Although Coach Benny's team is being crushed, it's revealed that their secret, sensational new player is Shlepperman (Sam Hearn). The Blue Fairy returns to win the game by carrying twenty-one footballs across the goal line, all at once.

The show slips back slightly in quality again this week, at least for me. I'm not the world's biggest fan of the Blue Fairy character, nor of the gang's football plays, and the episode as a whole just isn't quite as funny as last week.

Dennis' Song:    Dennis sings "He's My Uncle", which, as noted above, is cut from the recording.


 
5.     11/03/40            JACK'S HALLOWEEN PARTY

Orchestra opening: The orchestra opens the program with "Let's Be Buddies".

Don's Introduction:    "And now, ladies and gentlemen, as you all know, last Thursday evening was Halloween, and Jack celebrated by throwing his annual costume party for the Jell-O gang. So, this evening we will turn back the clock. The time: last Thursday night. The place: Jack's house in Beverly Hills. Take it awayyyyy..."

The Show:   Then we flash back to Thursday night (Halloween) to Jack's annual Halloween costume party at his house. Jack's costume is a hula girl; Dennis is dressed in a Navy uniform; Mary, back on the show after missing last week with a cold, borrows one of Jack's old vaudeville outfits; Don is dressed as a skeleton, and Phil is Julius Caesar. Mary and Phil sing a duet, "You Catch On Quick" (eventually the whole "Jell-O gang" join in).

Dennis' Song:  Dennis sings "Do You Know Why?"

 
 
6.    11/10/40             DOG CATCHER OF BEVERLY HILLS

Orchestra opening:   The orchestra opens the program with "I Just Want to Be With You"

Don's Introduction:

Don: The Jell-O Program Starring Jack Benny,with Mary Livingstone, Phil Harris, Dennis Day, and yours truly, Don Wilson. The orchestra opens the program...
Phil:  "Wait a minute, Don, hold it, hold it.We can't start the show yet".
Don:  "What's the matter?"
Phil:  "Well, Jack isn't here"
Don:  "Well,we're on the air...where is he?"
Dennis:   "I saw him a little while ago..."
Phil:  (interrupting) "Beats me, Don, I haven't seem him"
Don:  "Well he should be here, look what time it is!
Phil:  "Yeah"
Dennis:  "I saw him a little while ago..."
Phil:  (interrupting) "Do you think I ought to go out and look for him, Don? Maybe he's in the drugstore"
Don:   "No, he left there an hour ago...I wonder if anything could have happened..."
Phil:   "Gee, I don't know"
Dennis:   "I saw him a little while ago..."
Phil:  (interrupting)  "Sayyy, maybe he's in the dressing room...you know, he said he was gonna take a nap"
Don:  "Oh, that's right...go see if he's there, will you Phil?"
Phil:   "Okay"
Dennis:   "I saw him a little while ago..."
Phil:   "Here comes Mary, uh, maybe she knows...hello, Mary"
Mary:   "Hiya fellas"
Don:   "Say Mary, have you seen Jack?"
Mary:   "Yes, he's out in the hall talking to Mark Sandrich on the telephone"
Dennis:   "That's what I've been telling you!"
Phil and Don:   "Oh, hello Dennis!"
Dennis:   "Hello, fellas"

The Show:   Jack tries to convince the director Mark Sandrich to world premiere their movie "Love Thy Neighbor" in Jack's hometown of Waukegan, Illinois. Jack is elected Dog Catcher of Beverly Hills.

Dennis' Song:  Dennis sings "Blueberry Hill"

Note:   "Love Thy Neighbor", directed by Mark Sandrich and starring Jack Benny and Fred Allen, had it's world premiere on December 17, 1940 in New York City.

 
 
7.    11/17/40            JACK WANTS TO SEE A MOVIE DIRECTOR
 
Orchestra opening:     The orchestra opens the program with "You Walked By"

Don's Introduction:
 
Don: "And now, ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to explain why Jack Benny is not here for his customary introduction. As you may remember, Jack has been having a lot of trouble lately with Paramount regarding the premiere of his picture that he recently made with Fred Allen."
Dennis: "Yeah that's right, alright".
Don: "Last week Jack spoke on the telephone to Mark Sandrich, his director, about this matter but got absolutely no satisfaction."
Dennis: "Yeah, he spoke on the phone."
Don: "Then he got in touch with Mr. Lebaron, who is in charge of production at Paramount, and also Mr. Freeman, the head of the studio. But in neither instance was Jack successful in achieving his purpose."
Dennis: "Oooh, it was awful~!"
Don: "Dennis, please, I'm trying to explain something."
Phil: "Say Don, I thought Jack had that premiere all set for Waukegan, what's he beefing about?"
Don: "It's not settled yet, Phil.  In fact Jack is over at Paramount right now trying to sell Mr. Sandrich the idea.  Mary is with him, and...(fades out)

The Show:   Jack can't get any attention in the director's office; everyone else gets ahead of him. Mary Martin is the guest star and sings. (KH).

Dennis' Song:  Dennis appears on the episode but does not sing.

Note:
   I love this episodes' introduction;  Don's use of big words, and the reverence shown to the movie studio executives (all called MR. so-and-so) are interesting, but what makes it truly great is that Dennis' three lines are really quite funny. Sure, on paper they're no so impressive, but Dennis' delivery of them is fantastic.  The "Yeah, he spoke on the phone" is delivered so deadpan that it's particularly  funny.
 


8.    11/24/40            JACK IS HELD UP ON HIS WAY TO DON'S HOUSE

Orchestra opening:   The orchestra opens the program with "Meet the People"

Don's Introduction:
  
Don:   "And now, ladies and gentlemen, as is customary every Sunday night at this time..."
Jack:   "Wait a minute Don, wait a minute...hold everything~! This introduction is on me. All right boys, let's have it (orchestra starts playing "The Wedding March"). Ladies and gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure to present the bridegroom of the Jell-O program, Don Wilson!"
 
The Show:    Good quality. Everybody congratulates Don on his recent marriage. Don invites everybody back to his house, but at Jack's suggestion, he doesn't phone home first to see if it is okay with his new bride. After getting home, Don realizes the imposition of the five extra guests. He has them wait outside and one by one calls them to come in. Jack, of course, is last, and before he is called to come in, a thief appears and robs him. Note that this is NOT the famous scene where the thief demands "your money or your life" and Jack replies "I'm thinking it over". (KH).

Dennis' Song:  Dennis sings "Two Dreams Met" (cut on the circulating copies).

Note:   Don Wilson married Peggy Ann Kent five days prior to this broadcast, on November 19, 140.


 
9.    12/01/40              JACK CATCHES COLD AT DON'S HOUSE

Orchestra opening:  The orchestra opens the show with "You Say The Sweetest Things".

Don's Introduction:    "And now, ladies and gentlemen, I regret to announce that Jack Benny has been confined to his bed for the past week with a severe cold, due to an unfortunate occurrence at my house last Sunday.  It seems that I invited Jack and the rest of the gang over to meet my wife, and while Jack was waiting outside, it started to rain....."

The Show:    Jack is flat on his back, sick in bed with a cold, which he blames on Don Wilson:
Jack:  "If I told the guy once, I told him FIVE times...I said, Don, call up your wife...call her up I said. Let's not barge in on the little woman. But nooo, Peggy's a peach, she won't mind....."

Rochester is Jack's "nurse". He answers the telephone:
Rochester:   "Hello? Yes? He's feeling much better, Mrs. Lamarr"
Jack:   "Well~!"
Rochester:   "Yes ma'am. I'll tell him, Mrs. Lamarr. Thanks for calling"
Jack:   "Hmm, that was sweet. Who was that, Rochester, Hedy Lamar?"
Rochester:   "No, Dorothy"
Jack:   "Oh...you mean Dorothy Lamour"
Rochester: "No, Dorothy Lamar, she's the cook next door".

The Jell-O gang all visit Jack at his house; when Don shows up to apologize to Jack for last week, Jack is still mad at him. They get into an argument, and an angry Don shouts the Jell-O commercial at Jack. Jack: "I'm going to tell the sponsor on him...he yelled about Jell-O~!".

Dennis' Song:  Dennis sings "A Nightingale Sang in Berkley Square".

Notes:
  Another funny episode. After starting the season off slowly, writers Morrow and Beloin are back on track the last few shows.  Frank Nelson plays Dr. Leroy, and Jack's boarder Mr. Billingsley appears. Some circulating copies run at a too slow speed.
  At the very beginning of the recording the studio audience is laughing at something  that happens right before the "J-E-L-L----OOOO" jingle.


10.    12/08/40            DON IS MAD AND WALKS OUT

Orchestra opening:   The orchestra opens the program with "You Walked By"

Don's Introduction:

Don:   "And now, ladies and gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure to present a man I've been associated with many years, and whom I'm proud to call my friend.
Jack:   "Oh sure, he invites his friend over to his house and leaves his friend standing out in the rain"
Don:   "A man whose generosity and forgiving nature permits him to harbor no grudge against anyone..."
Jack:   "Anyone but you. You don't have to give me that soft soap, I was in bed with a cold for a week"
Don:   "Now Jack, please~! I bring you a man who always..."
Jack:   "A man who, a man who...get it over with, you big fat hypocrite. Well, go ahead..."
Don:   "Jack, if you don't stop interrupting I won't introduce you at all~!"
Jack:   "Well, wouldn't that be a tragedy...I think I'll tie my shoelaces together and hang myself. He won't introduce me, boo hoo hoo..."
Don:   "Aww, nuts~! Goodbye~! {door slam}
 
The Show:    Good quality. Jack gives Don a hard time over last week's episode and the normally jovial Don walks out (KH).

Dennis' Song:  Dennis sings "I'd Know You Anywhere"


 
11.    12/15/40          FROM THE RITZ HOTEL IN NEW YORK---JACK HAS A BODYGUARD
 
Orchestra opening:   The orchestra opens the program with "Cheerio"

Don's Introduction:

On Location:   The show is broadcast from the Ritz Hotel New York City, NY.

The Show:    This episode is frequently mislabeled as 04/21/1940, among other dates,  in MP3 sets of Jack Benny programs; the correct opening for this show is, as noted above, the orchestra playing "Cheerio". 

Jack then makes a few jokes at Fred Allen's expense. When Don reminds Jack that he should be careful because Allen does his show in New York, Jack says he's not afraid of Allen, and anyway, he's hired a bodyguard--Killer Hogan ("one of the toughest mugs in New York City"). When Hogan pops in and Jack says "oh, hello Hogan", Hogan answers in an very exaggeratedly effeminate voice "Everything's okay outside, Chief". The audience roars at the joke, and Jack's "gay" bodyguard is a quite funny running gag for the rest of the episode.
(Hogan keeps asking Jack if he should give visitors "the old one-two".)
 
The episode also features a Mary flub: when Don says that he and Mary went to see Ed Wynn's show in New York, Mary says "You should have been there, Jack.  You know Jack, Dan....Don" As the audience cracks up Jack says "That's Don, he's been with us for 7 years.."  Later, Jack keeps trying to track down Rochester, who has gone missing since the cast arrived in New York City. After making a few calls, Jack next phones Rochester's "girlfriend", who answers her phone "Susan Brown, the sweetest girl in town talking".  Jack asks if Rochester is there, and she answers that he was there, but left.  When Jack asks if she thinks Rochester will be back, she says "In all modesty, I can guarantee that", which gets a huge laugh from the audience.

The 'elephant in the room' of this episode, so to speak,  is the slightly exaggerated, stereotypical speaking voices given to most of the African-American characters that Jack calls while looking for Rochester. While this segment of the episode wouldn't exactly pass muster if it were broadcast today, one could argue that those character voices are just as exaggerated as, say, Phil Harris' southerner, or "Killer" Hogan's effeminate voice, and that the characters themselves are obviously intelligent, and not belittled in any way.  And of course Jack himself was a fairly outspoken proponent of equal rights and brotherhood, as we'll go into elsewhere on the site. However, is this episode "politically correct" as of 2012? No, and if one were searching for a Jack Benny episode to, say, play on the radio or play for friends, this probably would not be the best episode to pick.

Mayor Mancel "Bide" Talcott of Waukegan, Illinois (Jack's home town) is the guest. Frank Nelson appears again as Doctor Leroy from Hollywood.  This is the "early" broadcast of the program....according to a contemporary newspaper account, by the time of the "late" program, Frank Nelson had fallen ill, and writer Ed Beloin filled in for him as Doctor Leroy. The paper records a pretty horrible set of circumstances surrounding this New York show...Mary Kelly was supposed to appear as the Blue Fairy but had a bad cold, as did Frank Nelson. Don Wilson and two other cast members were grounded in Texas by bad weather, and Mayor Talcott could not arrive until Sunday morning. Frank Nelson recovered enough to perform on the "early" show but not on the "late".  It seems that the "late" broadcast may possibly circulate.  The audio quality for this episode is excellent.  I've also seen this episode titled "Rochester Is Missing".

Guest Star:   Mayor Mancel "Bide" Talcott

Dennis' Song:  Dennis sings "There I Go"


 
12.    12/22/40          ANNUAL CHRISTMAS SHOPPING EPISODE
 
Orchestra opening:  The orchestra opens the program with "Tookie".

Don's Introduction:   "And now, ladies and gentlemen, there being just two more shopping days 'til Christmas, we bring you that fugitive from Gimbels' basement, Jack Benny~!"

On Location: 
The show is broadcast from from the Ritz Theatre in New York City, NY.

The Show:    This is apparently the "late" program, per this bit of dialog from Jack: "That was Jingle Bells played by Phil Harris and his Central Park Troubadours.  Troubadours meaning they are traveling musicians, and Central park meaning they oughta get a room tonight.....that joke went over better the first show. Shows you we should change for the night show".  Rochester finally calls Jack after being missing in New York for two weeks.  Then Jack, Mary and Phil go Christmas shopping.  While shopping at the store Jack and Mary meet their old tenor singer, Kenny Baker.  The final words on the broadcast are: "Merry Christmas...see you Wednesday, Mrs. Benny".

Guest Star:   Kenny Baker

Dennis' Song:  Dennis sings a Christmas medley of "The First Noel", "Away in a Manger", and "O Come All Ye Faithful".


 
13.    12/29/40          FATHER TIME RIDES AGAIN

Don's Introduction:
 
The Show:   The program returns to Hollywood. Good quality. Dennis is a little vocal in helping Don announce the show. The show cuts to the train returning from New York and Jack trying to trim a tree with makeshift ornaments. Guest star Walter Tetley plays the wisecracking kid. Back in the studio the gang get back in the swing of celebrating the holidays (KH).

Dennis' Song:  Dennis sings "Perfidia"

 
14.    01/05/41              CHRISTMAS GIFT EXCHANGE/ROSE BOWL GAME

Orchestra opening:  The orchestra opens the program with "Tookie".

Don's Introduction:   "And now, ladies and gentlemen, this being the fifth day of January, we bring you a man who is still doing his Christmas shopping...Jack Benny~!"

The Show:    The main portion of the program concerns Mary telling Don what happened at the Rose Bowl game on New Year's Day (Stanford vs. Nebraska).  As we "flashback", Mary, Dennis, and Phil are outside the game waiting for Jack and Gladys Zabisco to arrive with the tickets.  After they go in, Jack goes to get hot dogs for everyone, only to find the hot dog vendor is Shlepperman~!  In a funny little moment, when Jack gets back to their seats with the hot dogs, he asks where Dennis is.  Phil answers "uh, he'll be back in a minute". A slow steady laugh builds to a huge laugh from the studio audience, who obviously have inferred that Dennis had to answer nature's call.  A running gag this episode is that every guy that Jack and Gladys meet knows Gladys...even the football team~! 

Dennis' Song:  Dennis sings "I'm Going to Round Up My Love"


 
15.    01/12/41            JACK IS LATE FOR THE SHOW, WITH NO SCRIPT

Orchestra opening: The orchestra opens the program with "Grounded in Glendale".

Don's Introduction:

The Show:    As the program begins, we find out that Jack is late because he is in a room yelling at the show's writers, Bill Morrow and Ed Beloin. They don't have a script ready for the program that's already started (they think it's still Friday). Jack asks that them to write a murder mystery for the show. While Morrow and Beloin work on it, Jack and the cast try to ad-lib the show, to little success. When Jack says that they'll just have to stall until the script is ready, Mary says "Gee, if this was television you could take your teeth out and make like Popeye". The first few pages of the script done, the cast performs "The Murder of Malcolm Smith, or: Although he Wasn't Drafted, He Was Drilled".

Dennis' Song:  Dennis sings "The Rose of Tralee"


 
16.    01/19/41            CITY FOR CONQUEST

Orchestra opening:  The orchestra opens the program with "On the Road to Pismo Beach".

Don's Introduction:  
Don:   "And now, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to announce that last Monday, a great and well-deserved honor was bestowed upon our illustrious master of ceremonies"
Jack:   "Oh, Don, do you have to tell everything?"
Don:   "For many years now the outstanding stars of Hollywood have been selected to inscribe their footprints in the forecourt of Grauman's Chinese Theatre, as a tribute to their supreme artistry"
Jack:   "Don, Don, please...I'm so flustered"
Don:  "So, without further ado, I bring you the latest celebrity to achieve this great distinction, Jack Benny~!"

The Show:    After the opening segment discussing and kidding around about Jack leaving his footprints in the Hollywood forecourt at Grauman's Chinese Theatre (the theatre is still open in 2014, and it's front sidewalk still features footprints and handprints of many Hollywood celebrities through the years. Jack actually did leave his footprints there this week, as you can see from the picture below this episode description), the cast perform a play, "City for Conquest". Set in New York City, Phil plays Eddie, a musical genius attempting to write a symphony for New York, and Jack is his brother Danny, a truck driver. Mary plays Danny's girl, Peggy. When Eddie needs money to finish his symphony, Danny becomes a prizefighter, "Kid Sampson". Kid Sampson fights champion Dennis "Killer" Day, and Jack gets upset when Dennis "really" punches him at the end of the play.

The "Brooklyn" accents used by Jack and Mary during the play are hilarious.  Overall a very good episode, available in good audio quality.

Dennis' Song:  Dennis sings "I Hear A Rhapsody".

Note:  The Movie-Radio Guide noted: "Jack Benny finally has left his impressions in the cement in the forecourt of the Grauman's Chinese Theatre---but the footprints are those of  Rochester's shoes, and Benny gagged further by impressing a miniature fiddle in his honor square" . It is difficult however to see in the picture below any impression of a miniature fiddle.





 
17.    01/26/41            JACK PACKS FOR NEW YORK

Orchestra opening:  The orchestra opens the program with "You Should Be Set to Music".

Don's Introduction:    "And now, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to announce that Jack Benny is at home this evening, where he is packing for a sudden and unexpected trip to New York City. Mary Livingstone is with him. So, without further ado we take you to Jack's home in Beverly Hills. Take it awayy..."

The Show:    A very loose seeming show, with quite a few amusing flubs by Jack, Don, and Rochester.  Jack is at home packing for a sudden trip to New York; he tells Mary he is being considered for a part in a Broadway play. When Mary says she doesn't think Jack would do well on Broadway, Jack makes a flub: "you can jest, Mary, but with a little experience, I may become one of the leading interpretators.....interpretators? What the...if I don't get away from Phil Harris I'll go nuts~!". Dennis sings "It Will All Come Back to Me One Day" and Mr. Billingsley makes a cameo. Then Don Wilson makes a flub: "Well, Jack, here are those ice cream puffs...er, cream puffs that you asked me to bring over.." Rochester also makes a flub, saying that the Maxwell can't pass a "catalog" instead of a Cadillac.

Overall a very funny episode, including the flubs, although the circulating audio quality is pretty terrible, and runs at too slow of a speed.


Dennis' Song:   Dennis sings "It Will All Come Back to Me"

 
18.    02/02/41              HERBERT MARSHALL HOSTS THE SHOW

Orchestra opening:     The orchestra opens the program with "Way Down Yonder in Seattle"

Don's Introduction:   "And now, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to announce that Jack Benny has not yet returned from his trip to New York City. however he will be back with us next Sunday, and in the meantime..."

Guest Star:   Herbert Marshall

The Show:   Jack is absent from the program this week. Phil interrupts Don's introduction to ask about Jack, and Don tells him that Jack sent a wire that he was delayed in New York by a "big business deal" (Mary: "He's probably sitting in a restaurant waiting for the other guy to pick up the check"). Although Phil Harris tries to host the show, Don tells Phil that Jack arranged to have his place this week taken by Herbert Marshall.

Dennis' Song:    Dennis sings "Yours"

Note: The "Hollywood" column in the February 15, 1941 issue of Movie-Radio Guide noted: "As exclusively promised here, Jack Benny did his disappearing act, and thereby hangs a funny story. The Sunday previous, the Jell-O show led up to an appearance next week by Ronald Colman---but at the last minute Colman got buck ague fright over filling Benny's shoes and suggested Herbert Marshall instead!"

19.    02/09/41              THE SPONSORS LIKE HERBERT MARSHALL

Orchestra opening:    The orchestra opens with "The Emporia Kansas Stomp"

Don's Introduction:

Dennis' Song:    Dennis sings "You Should Be Set to Music"


 
20.    02/16/41               SURPRISE BIRTHDAY PARTY
 
Orchestra opening:    The orchestra opens with "San Diego Serenade"

Don's Introduction:

Guest Star:
    
Herbert Marshall is the guest star.

Dennis' Song:      Dennis sings "I'll Take You Home Again, Kathleen"



 
21.    02/23/41           TEE PEE HOTEL
 
Orchestra opening:     The orchestra opens the program with "When the Midnight Choo-Choo Leaves for Beaumont and Banning"

Don's Introduction:


On Location:
   The show is broadcast from Palm Springs, California

Dennis' Song:     Dennis sings "Perfidia"


 
22.    03/02/41              CLIMB TO TAQUITZ FALLS
 
Orchestra opening:     The orchestra opens the program with "I'm Going to El Centro with a Banjo on My Knee"

On Location:
   
The show is broadcast from Palm Springs, California

Dennis' Song:     Dennis sings "It All Comes Back to Me Now"


 
23.    03/09/41              MURDER AT THE RACQUET CLUB
 
Orchestra opening:     The orchestra opens the program with "The Phil Harris Concerto # 6 for Oboe and Drum"

On Location:
   The show is broadcast from Palm Springs, California.

Guest Stars:   Guests are Charles Farrell, Charles Butterworth, Peter Lorre, and the Guadalojama Trio.

Dennis' Song:      Dennis sings "Frenesi"


 
24    03/16/41              PALM SPRINGS' PRICES

Orchestra opening:     The orchestra opens the program with "I See the Moon at Noon"

Dennis' Song:      Dennis sings "In Dublin's Fair City"



25.   03/23/41             TOBACCO ROAD

Orchestra opening:    The orchestra opens the program with "Goodbye Broadway, Hello Figueroa Street"

Dennis' Song:     Dennis sings "High on a Windy Hill"


 
26.    03/30/41             JACK WORKS IN HIS GARDEN

Orchestra opening:    The orchestra opens the program with "Way Down Yonder Upon the Los Angeles River"

Dennis' Song:     Dennis sings "High on a Windy Hill"


 
27.    04/06/41             QUIZ KIDS VS. JELLO KIDS
 
Orchestra opening:     The orchestra opens the program with "Silver Threads Among the Brass Section"

Guest Stars:   Guests are the Quiz Kids, from the radio show---Richard Williams, Gerrard Darrow, Claude Brenner, and Joan Bishop.

Dennis' Song:    Dennis sings "Two Ships That Pass in the Night"

 
 
28.    04/13/41           JACK PREPARES FOR AN APPEARANCE ON "THE QUIZ KIDS"
 
Orchestra opening:    The orchestra opens the program with "Wyoming, Why Do You Start with W?"

Guest Stars:   Guests are the Quiz Kids again---Richard Williams, Gerrard Darrow and Claude Brenner

Dennis' Song:     Dennis appears on the episode but does not sing


 
29.    04/20/41            JACK IS UPSET ABOUT HIS APPEARANCE ON "THE QUIZ KIDS"
 
Orchestra opening:      The orchestra opens the program with "The Vine Street Viggle"

Guest Stars:   The Quiz Kids guest again---Richard, Gerrard, and Claude

Dennis' Song:     Dennis sings "Once Upon a Summertime"


 
30.    04/27/41            MURDER AT THE MOVIES
 
Orchestra opening: The orchestra opens with "I'm Building a Palace for Alice in Dallas". 

The Show:    After Don gives Jack an uncharacteristically flattering introduction, it is revealed that it is once again time to renew the cast's contracts.  Don reports the "little woman" is unhappy with his salary of $2.00 a pound, Mary balks about the clause requiring her to mend Jack's socks, and Phil begrudgingly agrees to keep a 3am bedtime.  The contracts and Jack's former job as a tailor will be recurring gags throughout the program.
 
The Benny "if you like us tell your friends even though you'll lose them" Players present "Murder at the Movies" (or "No Croaking on The Main Floor", or "He Took the Count at the Paramount".)  This crime drama spoof stars Jack as the Police Captain, Don as the Sargent, Mary as the Ticket Seller, Dennis as the Ticket Taker, and Phil as himself.  Pulling up to the Paramount Theatre, Jack says "Look at the marquee---Bing Crosby and Bob Hope in 'The Road to Zanzibar', and Phil Harris on the road to any bar!"
 
Rochester calls in and reports that his lawyers disapprove of Rochester's contract. Jack seeks to reassure Rochester:

Jack: "Rochester, you've got nothing to worry bout. I'm giving you a substantial raise next year"
Rochester: "Substantial?"
Jack: "Yes. You know what the word means, don't you?"
Rochester: "I ain't illiterate, I'm skeptical!"
 
Reference is also made to the missing gas man, whom Rochester is convinced was consumed by Carmichael the Polar Bear.
 
Dennis' Song:   Dennis sings "Amapola (Pretty Little Poppy)" (the sound quality on my copy of the show dropped considerably midway through this song and remained poor through the program's conclusion)

Note:  Don closes the show with an offer for a "handsomely illustrated" 48 page book boasting 365 Jell-O recipes and suggestions, available for a mere "ten cents in coin or stamp" sent to Don Wilson c/o General Foods, Battle Creek Michigan (GRP)


 
31.    05/04/41              JACK'S 10th ANNIVERSARY IN RADIO
 
Orchestra opening:     The orchestra opens the program with "I Wonder Who's Kissing Her, Now That I'm Drafted?"

The Show:   This episode, and the following, are often confused with one another in logs and on some  program and MP3 lists.  See the next episode for more information. The opening for this episode is the orchestra playing "I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now That I'm Drafted"

Dennis' Song:     Dennis sings "My Sister and I"


 
32.    05/11/41            NBC TRIBUTE TO JACK BENNY'S 10th ANNIVERSARY
 
Orchestra opening:   The orchestra opens the program with "Brown Eyes, Why Are You So Close To My Nose?"

The Show:   As written in the NBC Program analysis cards: "On tonight's program, part of the program was devoted to 'The Life of Jack Benny', which had been done at the dinner given for him in connection with his 10th anniversary in radio--with Ken Carpenter as narrator, Gordon Jenkins' orchestra, and actors.
 
Note:   This program, the preceding program, and an un-broadcast but circulating "NBC Tribute to Jack Benny's Tenth Anniversary"  aka "Testimonial on Tenth Anniversary" that took place on May 09, 1941, are frequently confused with one another.  As noted above, the opening of the May 04, 1941 program is the orchestra playing "I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now That I'm Drafted".  This episode begins with the orchestra playing "Brown Eyes, Why Are You So Close To My Nose".  And just to confuse things a little more,  the "NBC Tribute/Testimonial on Tenth Anniversary", a one hour and forty-five minute "not for broadcast" version from May 09, 1941,  opens with the singing of the National Anthem. Jack also took part in the May 04, 1941 broadcast of "Behind The Mic", offering a behind-the-scenes look at his program.

Dennis' Song:     Dennis appears on the episode but does not sing.


. 
33.    05/18/41            CHARLEY'S AUNT
 
Orchestra opening:     The orchestra opens the program with "The Knot Was Tied In Ensenotta"

Guest Stars:   Guests are Kay Francis, and director Archie Mayo.

Dennis' Song:      Dennis appears on the episode but does not sing.

Note:   Often variously (mis) spelled "Charlie's",  including by yours truly,  "Charley's Aunt" is the correct spelling of the 1892 play by Brandon Thomas, and the various movie adaptations.


 
34.    05/25/41            THE LIFE OF PHILBERT HARRIS
 
Orchestra opening:  The orchestra opens the show with "Beat Me Daddy, with a Pickled Beet".  

The Show:   Jack complains about his writers, Corn and Pone:

"A fine team. I bought 'em a typewriter the other day and they did a Maypole dance with the ribbon".  In response to Don's questioning whether they are professional writers, Jack: "I met them in a drugstore in New York. One of them used to demonstrate hair tonic. And the other one drank it."
 
Jack's such an exhausted wreck after 30-plus weeks of broadcasts that he mistakenly refers to Dennis as Kenny Baker, bruising the ego of the fragile tenor.  "The Life of Philbert Harris" is a lulu of a playlet credited to Don Wilson. Phil objects, but Jack and Don insist the play is in no way based on Phil's personal life.  Jack and Mary play orchestra leader Philbert and his wife, "Alyce", and hilariously spoof Phil's bombastic style.  Don gets into the act as well, imitating Phil in his Jell-O commercial.
 
With the season drawing to a close, the conversation turns to summer vacations. Jack: "I'm gonna rough it. I'm going to a little place in the High Sierras called Eagle Nook Lodge, and just fish my head off...just give me a mountain stream and a fishing rod and brother, those trout better watch out."  Mary : "Oh, sure".  Jack: "You wait and see".  Mary: "you couldn't catch a herring in Lindy's with Abe Lyman for bait".
 
Jack plugs the summer replacement series, "Reg'lar Fellas", based on Gene Byrnes' 1917-1949 syndicated comic strip.
 
Rochester calls in with concerns about the summer plans of their eccentric boarder Mr. Billingsley.
 
The final few minutes of the program turn serious as Jack welcomes a "distinguished guest", Thomas E. Dewey, then Manhattan District Attorney as well as National Campaign Chairman for the USO. Dewey banters (rather stiffly) with Jack while promoting the June 5, 1941 kickoff of a nationwide fundraising campaign to raise $10 million to finance the operation of USO centers.  Jack closes the segment by declaring "I'm sure everyone realizes that taking care of our boys is our job.  And I assure you we Americans will do it". (Thomas Dewey went on to serve as governor of New York from 1943-1954 and ran unsuccessfully for president in 1944 and 1948).  (entry by GRP)

Dennis' Song:  
Dennis sings "You and I" (composed by Meredith Wilson)


 
35.    06/01/41               FROM SAN DIEGO NAVAL BASE            
 
Orchestra Opening:    The orchestra opens the program with "Coronado Corn"

The opening is missing on my copy (most?) of this episode.   The last show before summer vacation. "Reg'lar Fellers" is the summer replacement show.

Note:  Some circulating copies with this date are actually a mislabeled March 30, 1952.

Dennis' Song:   Dennis sings "'Til Reveille"