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Saturday, November 25, 2006

Jack Benny's Making His List

Some of us are getting Christmas shopping underway this weekend, so it seemed as good a time as any to pass along one of Jack Benny’s ideas for gift giving. How could Jack have known back in the forties (?) how controversial that carton of Luckies would become in any number of households within a few decades? I just read about one town where they’ve outlawed smoking in homes. Wonder how Benny would have reacted to a headline like that! He’s certainly laid in a supply, and among the list of recipients, I do recognize George Burns, Gracie Allen, and --- is that Merle Oberon’s name? His neat little miniature violin model would be a Christmas gift I’d welcome. Anyone care to guess the date of this ad? I’m going to say late forties/early fifties…


Anonymous Eric O. Costello said...

It could actually cover more ground than the late 40s/early 50s, since Lucky Strike also sponsored Jack Benny's television shows until 1960.

9:32 AM  
Anonymous Larry said...

Another product that has fallen out of favor as Christmas gifts is liquor. I owned a commercial printing company from the late 60s through the mid 80s and it was not uncommon to receive 20-25 bottles of high end liquor from my bigger customers.

10:41 AM  
Anonymous John Larrabee said...

They're actually auctioning copies of this ad on eBay. According to the sellers, the ad dates from 1958.


11:11 AM  
Blogger Booksteve said...

Yeah, based on Jack's look alone I'd say late-fifties to early sixties.

12:39 PM  
Blogger Bay Gelldawg said...

I'd like to get a closer look at that watch. An expert could probably identify the year the watch was made.

GPS, where did you find this photo?

2:02 PM  
Anonymous Spencer Gill ( said...

As a lifetime NON-smoker I still have significant damage to my respiratory system from second hand smoke since I grew up in Virginia where (and when) everyone smoked all the damned time. My dad and all of his friends died from the damned things too. And yet we could pay the same small farmers (hell, the billions we hand over to major agribusinesses that managed to turn farms into toxic waste dumps is a bad idea) whom we pay to grow tobacco to grow something healthy like real tomatoes and still keep the family farm alive.

That said I think that the bans have gone a little too far. I'm a couple of miles from Santa Monica where outdoor smoking is banned. I knew that a major change had occurred when the French banned smoking in restaurants.

Still there is a lot of nostalgia (see how I got back on topic) connected with cigarette ads and paraphernalia. As to the movie connection … well try to sit though THE BIG SLEEP and NOW VOYAGER and not crave a smoke.

Still, what's a nice Jewish boy like Jack Benny doing observing Christmas?

6:08 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Spencer, I always love your comments, and John, Thanks for confirming that date! There's something about Jack Benny that inspires the most creative input from readers. I'll have to do more on him (now, if only Fox would release "Charly's Aunt" and "The Meanest Man In The World", and Universal, how about "Love Thy Neighbor" and "Buck Benny Rides Again"?).

7:00 PM  
Blogger Poptique said...

Hi John - my thoughts exactly. A DVD box set of Jack Benny starring features? I'd like that for Christmas...

10:37 AM  
Blogger J.C. Loophole said...

John, I believe that Charly's Aunt is on tap for release in 2007, and so is either The Meanest Man in the World or The Horn Blows at Midnight. Being the huge Jack Benny fan that I am, I would mail you some info, but that would cost a stamp...
Kidding aside, I will try to confirm my info and get back to you.

3:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regarding Jack Benny celebrating Christmas: in his autobiography (which daughter Joan found in a shoebox, and published with her reminisces thrown in), Joan recalls that they always had a Christmas tree growing up. So did everybody else in their neighborhood and social circle, be they Jew or gentile. And Jack definitely celebrated Christmas on many, many radio and TV episodes. (The best ones involve him driving sales clerk Mel Blanc to suicide--somehow it doesn't sound very funny when you summarize it like that, but it's really a scream on the air.)

Most of the great Jewish radio comedians (a phrase that is almost redundant) made a big deal out of Christmas on their programs. You can't get more Jewish than Eddie Cantor or Al Jolson, for example, but their holiday programs have a strong focus on Christmas. (I don't think I've ever heard Hannukah mentioned in old-time radio, now that I think about it.)


12:39 PM  

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