THE 1932-1933 SEASON

 

“THE CANADA DRY PROGRAM” ran from Monday, May 02, 1932  through Thursday, January 26, 1933 on the NBC Blue network, with the show originating from radio station WJZ in New York City.  There were 78 episodes,  and each episode was 30 minutes long.

The program was broadcast on Mondays and Wednesdays at 9:30pm from May 02, 1932 through October 26, 1932, (52 episodes) with cast members Master of Ceremonies Jack Benny, announcers Alois Havrilla, Ed Thorgerson, Jimmy Wallington and George Hicks, George Olsen and His orchestra, and Vocalists Bobby Borger, Dick Hotcha Gardner, Fran Frey, Dave Marshall, Bob Rice, Paul Small, and Ethel Shutta (aka Ethel Shutte).

The program then switched to Sundays at 10:00pm and Thursdays at 8:15pm from October 30, 1932 through January 26, 1933. (26 episodes). Cast members were Master of Ceremonies Jack Benny, announcers Paul Douglas and Bob Gregory, Ted Weems and His orchestra, and Vocalists Parker Gibbs, Red Ingle,  Andrea Marsh, and Country Washburn.

"The Canada Dry Program" did not make the top 20 chart of the Hooper ratings for the 1932-1933 season.

Unfortunately, only three episodes circulate from the 78 episodes produced this season, and only episode one is complete---the other two are excerpts. The Jack Benny Collection at UCLA only has the premiere episode of May 2, 1932 in their collection. Their copy of the debut program is a tape made from a 33-1/3 RPM transcription, which in turn was created from the original 78 RPM discs.

In contrast to Jack's later shows, which were either sitcoms, or variety shows, this one is primarily a musical program, with light comic commentary.

The episode guide/log for this season was written entirely by Graeme Cree. I have added a few tiny notes here and there, as notated by the (BC) afterwards.


CAST
Jack Benny:        Master of Ceremonies   5/02/32 -  1/26/33
George Olsen:     Orchestra Leader         5/02/32 - 10/26/32
Ted Weems:        Orchestra Leader        10/30/32 -  1/26/33
Ethel Shutta:       Vocalist                        5/02/32 - 10/26/32
Ed Thorgerson:    Announcer                  5/02/32 -  6/22/32
Paul Douglas:       Announcer                  11/17/32 -  1/26/33
Mary Livingston:  A Fan                           7/27/32 -  1/26/33

 

1.             05/02/32          FIRST PROFESSIONAL APPEARANCE       (29:34)

Jack introduces himself, and explains why his presence is unnecessary.  He introduces George Olsen.  The orchestra plays "I Beg Your Pardon, Mademoiselle".  Jack introduces his vocalist, Ethel Shutta.  Ethel sings "I've Found a Million Dollar Baby (In a Five and Ten Cent Store)", assisted by Fran Frey.  Jack discusses his homely girlfriend in Newark, who poses for "Before" ads, and segues this into a Canada Dry commercial.  The orchestra plays "I Love a Parade", with vocals by Fran Frey, Bobby Borger, and Bob Rice.  Jack tells unfunny stories about George Olsen and his uncle.  The orchestra plays "Paradise".  George and his orchestra present a little featurette called "How We Make Music", with George narrating.  Jack introduces the orchestra's next number, Come West, Little Girl, Come West", after another Canada Dry commercial.  Ethel and Jack take a chorus in this number.  Jack talks about his relatives, and whether they're listening to the program.  The orchestra plays "Drums In My Heart", from "Through the Years".  Jack closes the show.

Ed's  Introduction:  "Tonight, Canada Dry, the champagne of ginger ales, presents a series of programs to advertise the new made-to-order Canada Dry.  Which you can now buy by the glass at drugstores and soda fountains.  This series will feature George Olsen and his music, Miss Ethel Shutta, the star of many Broadway successes, and that suave comedian, dry humorist, and famous Master of Ceremonies, Jack Benny."

Jack's First Words!:  "Thank you, Mr. Thorgerson.  That's pretty good from a man who doesn't even know me.  Uh, ladies and gentlemen, this is Jack Benny talking, and making my first appearance on the air professionally.  By that, I mean I'm finally getting paid, which, of course, will be a great relief to my creditors.  I, uh, really don't know why I'm here, I'm supposed to be a sort of a Master of Ceremonies, tell you all the things that will happen, which would happen anyway.  I must introduce the different artists, who could easily introduce themselves.  And also talk about the Canada Dry made-to-order-by-the-glass, which is a waste of time.  Because you know all about it.  You drink it, like it, and don't want to hear about it.  So, ladies and gentlemen, a Master of Ceremonies is really a fellow who is unemployed and gets paid for it.  I think you will like the entertainment arranged for tonight.  I hope.  Of course, I haven't seen any of the program myself, but I've spoken to the artists individually, and they seem to think it's awfully good.  The first number will be a selection by George Olsen and His Orchestra.  I think this being our first program together, it is no more than fair that I have you meet Mr. Olsen personally.  He's really a very charming fellow, and one of the few directors who comes to and from his work on roller skates.  That's perhaps the silliest thing that I'll say all night.  I, uh, I might add that Mr. Olsen is very, very handsome.  I told you, George, I'd get that in.  But as long as we are both on the air, of course, I won't have to worry about that.  Oh George, come here, I want you to say hello to the folks."

Note:  Who IS this guy??  He's positively modest!  Could this possibly be "Generous Jack the Plunger", before George Burns hit him over the head with his violin?  (See "The Burns And Allen Show", 3/31/1949).

Note:  Thorgerson introduces Jack as a "dry humorist", a not-so-subtle attempt to link Jack with the product.

Note:  Jack's initial theme-song, a "Little Choo-Choo That Could"-style number, is actually a pretty snappy little ditty, of the kind that's very easy to get stuck in your mind.  In fact, the theme song may be the best thing about the entire show (and that can't be a good sign!).

Note:  This is actually not Jack's first appearance on radio.  He had appeared on Ed Sullivan's show that January.  According to legend, his first words there were “This is Jack Benny. There will be a slight pause while everyone says, ‘who cares?’”  Legend also has it that the Sullivan Show was Jack's first radio appearance, but he had actually appeared on radio in some form in 1931.  We know this because Jack's Tenth Anniversary Radio Show was broadcast in 1941.  According to the following blog, Jack's  radio debut was actually September 4, 1931, on "RKO Theater of the Air", broadcast at  10:30 p.m. over WEAF, the flagship of NBC's Red Network.  And they've got a clipping to prove it:  http://tralfaz.blogspot.com/2012/01/jack-benny-on-air-1931.html

Note:  Hold that thought.  This page (actually the same blog a few days later) claims that Jack actually appeared as the MC for "The MGM Movie Club" on October 9, 1929 on KFRC, and produces another clipping to prove that:

http://tralfaz.blogspot.com/2012/01/jack-benny-on-air-1929.html 

It sounds like Sullivan discovered Benny the same way Columbus discovered America.

Note:  This revelation sheds new light on the Stock Market Crash.  One day all the money in the country disappears, and a few weeks later, Jack Benny shows up on radio.  Hmmm...

Note:  "I Beg Your Pardon, Mademoiselle" sounds like a typical World War I number of the kind that the doughboys sang to Parisian girls.  No doubt accompanied by such other hits as "Which Way to Berlin?" and "I Am a Famous Film Director Back Home."

Note:  Jack mentions that Ethel Shutta is best known for playing Whoopie opposite Eddie Cantor.  (Did he say "playing" Whoopie, or "making" Whoopie?  Note to self to investigate this further.)

Note:  Ethel Shutta is Mrs. George Olsen, which explains why they both left the show at the same time.

Note:  Jack does his own Canada Dry commercials.  In later years, Don Wilson, or whoever the regular announcer was (in this case, Thorgerson) would have done that job.

Note:  "The Champagne of Ginger Ales"?  If Canada Dry is the champagne, do you think Safeway brand Ginger Ale runs commercials describing themselves as "The Muscatel of Ginger Ales"?  And do you suppose it works the other way around?  Would you ever hear a commercial that goes "And now Dom Perignon, the ginger ale of champagnes, presents..."

Note:  In later years, we'll be told that Mary Livingstone and Don Wilson were with the show on this first broadcast.  Who knew?

Note:  Jack is (legitimately) 38 years old at the time of this broadcast.  Thankfully, no reference is made to this fact, as it's just too mind-boggling to think of Jack claiming to be 38 and having it actually be true.  It'll be a couple of years before he'll be old enough for it to be funny for him to claim to be younger.

Full Cast:  Jack Benny (MC), George Olsen (Orchestra Leader), Ethel Shutta (Vocalist), Ed Thorgerson (Announcer).  Bobby Borger, Fran Frey, Bob Rice (vocalists for "I Love a Parade").

Joke:

Jack:  "One thing I'd like to know, George.  If the band didn't show up, what would you do with that stick?"
Geoge Olsen:  "Why, I'd throw it away and do what you're doing."
Jack:  "Heh, heh, heh, always kidding, eh?
"
[I'll say it again.  WHO IS THIS GUY???]

Joke:

Jack:  "Ethel, come over here and say hello."
Ethel Shutta:  "Oh, hello."
Jack:  "Isn't that clever?
"
[And who are his writers???]

Joke:  (Jack discussing his girlfriend in Newark)

Jack:  "And she comes from a very fine family, although her father often partakes of the forbidden beverage.  It's all right for me to mention that, as they have no radio.  In fact, her father drank everything in the United States and then went up north to drink Canada Dry....  Boy, I'm glad I thought of that joke!  You know, the one about Canada Dry.  I'm really supposed to mention it occasionally, after all, I owe it to my sponsors, and they might be listening in."
[Finally, we see something recognizable.  Even this early, Jack has a tendency to puff poor jokes with the idea that the act of overselling them is itself funny.]

Joke:

Jack:  "Now folks, in case you've forgotten, this is Jack Benny again.  You know, the Canada Dry humorist?  Hey, I thought that was good.  The Canada Dry humorist.  I made that up myself."
Olsen:  "It sounds like it."

Joke:

Jack:  "[The Doctor] told him that at no time was he to lift anything heavy.  So, his uncle got a job as a garbage collector in Scotland."
[No laughter.  Either there's no studio audience, or they're dead by this point.]

Joke:

Jack:  "[George] paid the check with a five dollar bill that was in his pocket so long that Lincoln's eyes were bloodshot.  That's a fact."
[slight titters at this, so at least we know they're not dead.]

Joke:

Jack:  "That, ladies and gentlemen, was the last number on our first program, on the second of May.  Are ya sleepin'??  Huh??"
[slight murmers of laughter of this, which may actually qualify it as the biggest laugh of the night]

Bottom Line: 

More historical than hysterical.  And would you believe this ran for 76 more episodes?  I bet the audience needed something a lot stronger than ginger ale after hearing this.



 [EPISODES 2-69:  Lost]


70. 01/01/33          OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENTS OF 1932 REVIEW         (13:56)


Paul introduces the first number.  The orchestra plays "Rise and Shine" from "Take a Chance", with vocals by [?].  Paul introduces Jack, who wishes everyone Happy New Year.  He introduces their first Guest Star, Father Time of Times Square.  Time turns out to be Old Man 1932, who hung around an extra day at Jack's request, and offers mealy-mouthed excuses for things that went wrong last year.  When he gets thirsty, Jack offers him a glass of Canada Dry that turns him into the baby New Year.  Jack requests no more news about Gandhi dieting in 1933.  Jack and Paul discuss the money Jack spent on Christmas.  Jack, Mary, Ted, Andrea and Paul discuss their New Years Resolutions.  The orchestra and Andrea perform an unidentified song.  Jack reviews outstanding stories of 1932.  He mentions Amelia Earhart's solo flight to Ireland.  Miss Earhart can't be there, but Jack has a woman who flew to Ireland, then swam the English Channel to France to win the Ladies Open Golf Championship, at the Pate de Fois Gras course, Miss Violet Ray.  Miss Ray owes to a soap, but is convinced to owe it to Canada Dry ginger ale instead.  Andrea sings an unidentified number as the tape cuts out.

Cast:  Jack Benny (MC), Mary Livingstone (the fan from Plainsfield), Ted Weems (Orchestra Leader), Paul Douglas (Announcer), Andrea Marsh (Vocalist).  Also featuring Brad Barker, Blanche Stewart.

Note:  By this time, Jack has a new theme song.  It's rather dreary, and not nearly as catchy as that Choo-Choo song from Episode 1.

Note:  The announcer describes the show as "a half hour of sparkling entertainment", another not-so-subtle attempt to subliminally persuade the audience to drink Ginger Ale.

Joke:  

Mary:  "Jack?  Did you make any resolutions this year?"
Jack:  "I made one, Mary, and here it is.  I resolve that I, Jack Benny, during the coming year, refrain from smoking, drinking, swearing, and staying up late at night."
Mary:  "Do you really mean that?"
Jack:  "I certainly do."
Mary:  "Then you might as well take this crocheting outfit.  You'll need it more than I will."

 

[EPISODES 71-75:  Lost]

 

76.  01/22/33          BERTHA THE SEWING MACHINE GIRL       (14:28)


The orchestra opens with "Roll Up the Carpet".  Jack does a News Roundup.  The orchestra plays an unidentified number.  Jack introduces the play, then reads original reviews of it.  The orchestra plays "12th Street Rag".  The play begins, but the tape cuts out less than 2 minutes in, meaning this forgotten classic must remain forgotten.

Play:   "Bertha, the Sewing Machine Girl", a forgotten 1890 classic which once ran for one consecutive night in both Perth Amboy and Asbury Park.

Paul's Introduction:  "And now, ladies and gentlemen, we bring you the man of the half-hour, Jack Benny!"

Cast:  Jack Benny, Mary Livingston, Ralph Ashe, Paul Douglas, Red Ingle, Andrea Marsh, and Ted Weems

News Roundup:  This is a semi-regular feature from some of Jack's early shows.  Each gag involved reading the name of a town, and a faux news headline from that town.  It wasn't a bad idea, the problem was that none of the jokes were particularly funny.  A typical example, ran something like:  "Flash!  Union Square, New York:  Man Found hitting self over head with club.  When asked why he was doing it, he said he was a Red, and missed the last meeting."  "The Onion", it ain't.

Commercial Interruptions:  We hear an impromptu commercial of the type heard frequently on the Chevrolet Show, and for a while after.  When Jack says the word "Minnesota", Paul breaks in to say that you can buy Canada Dry at "many soda" fountains.

Jokes:  Original Reviews of Bertha:

"Walter Winchell's Father:  Bertha - as fine a play as I've ever looked over a transom at."
"Ed Sullivan, Sr.:  'Bertha, the Sewing Machine Girl' will have you in stitches."


 [EPISODE 76:  Lost]


BEST MOMENTS 1932-1933 SEASON

BEST MOMENT OF THE SEASON:

Jack walks out in Episode 1, what else?

BEST GAG OF THE SEASON:

Jack: "I resolve that I, Jack Benny, during the coming year, refrain from smoking, drinking, swearing, and staying up late at night."
Mary: "Do you really mean that?"
Jack: "I certainly do."
Mary: "Then you might as well take this crocheting outfit. You'll need it more than I will."
 

NOTES ON THE CHARACTERS, 1932-1933 SEASON

JACK BENNYThey call him Jack Benny, and he sounds like Jack Benny, but nothing about this guy is at all recognizable as the Jack Benny we know and love.  I still hold to the theory that this is Generous Jack the Plunger before being hit over the head with his own violin.

GEORGE OLSEN1893-1971 - Jack's first orchestra leader.  Left the show after the 10/26/32 episode.  Reason unknown.  Not much can be said about his personality from one surviving episode.

ETHEL SHUTTA1896-1976 - Originally Ethel Schutte.  Jack's first vocalist.  Left the show after the 10/26/32 episode.  Reason:  She and George were a package deal.  Famous at age 7 as "The Little Girl With the Big Voice".  Debuted on Broadway in 1922.  Played in the musical "Whoopee!" with Eddie Cantor in 1928.  Married to George Olson from 1926-1936.  Last Broadway appearance in "Follies" in 1972-1973 at age 73.

ED THORGERSON:  Jack's first announcer.  Introduces Jack at the beginning of Episode 1, and that's the last you hear of him.  Talk about a cushy job.

TED WEEMS1901-1963 - Replacement for George Olson.  Active from 1923-1953.  Has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1680 Vine, if you're out that way.

MARY LIVINGSTONE Jack's wife, added to the program on 7/27/32 as a fan from Plainsfield, NJ, and who stayed around for the next 23 years, without ever having a clearly defined role on the show.  Her unofficial role, however, is as a co-comedian, and foil to Jack.  Their relationship is similar to that between Steed and Mrs. Peel in The Avengers, but using comedians rather than spies.  They're both comedians of a sort, but Jack/Steed is the professional, while Mary/Emma is the "talented amateur" who often outshines the pro.

 

BOTTOM LINE:

From humble beginnings, great things are born. And with beginnings as humble as this,  it's no wonder Jack went on to become a mega-star.