Saturday, January 18, 2014

Steven's Mini Projector Video Feature!

As part of my collecting Give-A-Show Projectors, I also collect toys similar to them. Today's feature is based on film strips for Steven's Mini Projector. I got the film strips, but I have yet to find a Steven's Mini Projector for sale anywhere! So here's two Beetle Baileys and one Blondie!

Geek TV: The Invisible Man (1958)

InvismantcConcept: Peter Brady, a scientist trying to achieve invisibility, accidentally becomes permanently invisible, and eventually uses his invisibility to help people in trouble, solve crimes, and defeat spies for the UK.

Total Episodes: 26

Original Air Dates: Sept. 14, 1958-July 5, 1959

Original Network: ITV


Dr. Peter Brady (Voice of Robert Tim Turner): The title character, while he searches for a cure for his condition, he acts as an agent for British Intelligence. In earlier episodes, he wears sunglasses, bandages and gloves when in public, keeping his invisibility a secret, but knowledge of his condition becomes public. Johnny Scripps played Brady when seen without bandages; as a midget, he was able to “hide” inside the clothes.

Diane Brady Wilson (Lisa Daniely): Brady's widowed sister.

Sally Wilson (Deborah Watling): Diane's daughter.

Sir Charles Anderson (Series 1)/Colonel Ward (Series 2) (Ernest Clark): Brady's contact in British Intelligence.

Geek Guest-Stars:

Robert Ragland appeared in three episodes playing Detective Inspector Heath. You may have seen him in single episodes of The Adventures of Robin Hood, two episodes of Danger Man (shown in the USA as Secret Agent), or a 1964 episode of The Saint.

Bruce Seton played three different roles in the series. He appeared in three episodes of The Adventures of Robin Hood, two of them playing Will Scatlock; he was also King Arthur in The Adventures of Sir Lancelot. His biggest geek role was likely as Prof. Flaherty in Gorgo.

Lloyd Lamble played Dr. Hanning in three episodes, you may have seen him as Dr. Hubert Marlow in the Avengers episode “The Gravediggers,” or playing Stapleton in The Prisoner episode “Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling.” He also appeared as a police sergeant in three episodes of Pardon My Genie, a show I've never heard of. But perhaps his most recognizable geek roles were as Inspector in Quatermass II: Enemy From Space or Detective Simmons in Curse of the Demon.

Paul Carpenter also provided the voice of Dr. Brady in a few episodes, but he could actually be seen as Capt. Larson in Fire Maidens of Outer Space, or in his brief part as a reporter from the “Express” in First Men in the Moon.

Derek Sydney played parts in two episodes, you may have seen him as Wilde in The Crawling Eye, or perhaps in his guest appearances on Danger Man (aka Secret Agent), or as Sevcheria in four episodes of Doctor Who in 1965. He also appeared in three episodes of The Saint, as well as playing De Sarem in three episodes of Timeslip, a 1971 show I've not heard of, and sounds like it would be fun viewing!

Derren Nesbitt also appeared in two episodes, he was a radio officer in The Giant Behemoth, appeared in two episodes of Danger Man, an episode of The Saint, played Tegana in seven 1964 episodes of Doctor Who, and also played Inspector Lebec in The Saint and the Brave Goose and Return of the Saint.

Michael Ripper appeared in two episodes likewise, he played the Outer Party Orator in the 1956 version of 1984, was Sgt. Harry Grimsdyke in X: The Unknown, Ernie in Quatermass II: Enemy From Space, Kurt in The Revenge of Frankenstein, Sergeant in the TV series Quatermass and the Pit, the poacher in the 1959 version of The Mummy, Old Soak in Curse of the Werewolf, three roles in Danger Man, Jeremiah Mipps in Night Creatures, Longfaced Cabbie in the 1962 version of The Phantom of the Opera, Achmed in The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb, Sgt. Jack Swift in the Plague of the Zombies, Tom Bailey in The Reptile, Longbarro in The Mummy's Shroud, and a number of other TV and movie geek roles.

Willoughby Goddard played Crowther in two episodes, and aside from parts in single episodes of Danger Man, The Avengers, and The Saint, you'd more likely remember him as Taybor the Trader in an episode of Space: 1999, or as an Eggman in Jabberwocky, the Archibishop in an episode of the Black Adder, or the school reverend in Young Sherlock Holmes.

If you get a chance to watch this show, loo for two episodes with an uncredited Oliver Reed, as a man at a roulette table in one, and a cafe patron in the other. Later, he was also uncredited as a tough in The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll before playing his greatest geek role, Leon Coriedo in Curse of the Werewolf. He also played Harry Cobtree in The Night Creatures, appeared in two episodes of The Saint, and of course, you definitely recall him as Athos in The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers.

Geek Pedigree:

Brian Clemens wrote a half dozen episodes of the show, of course he's better known for writing episodes of The Avengers and The New Avengers, but it seems that this show was his start in geek TV writing. While Deborah Watling didn't have any geek credits prior to this show, I can't not mention she played Victoria Waterfield in 41 episodes of Dr. Who from 1967-1968.

DVD Release: Full seasons and complete series.

Website: None that I've found.

Note: This is a show that I remember watching in the 1970s, when it was run in syndication on a local station that was just starting up, along with the Irwin Allen shows, but I must confess, I have no specific memories of it!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Geek Memories #1: Nightmare Theater!

Geek Memories #1: Nightmare Theater!

Growing up in Tacoma, Washington, it was always a treat when I'd be able to stay up late on Friday night to watch Nightmare Theater, which aired on the local CBS station, KIRO Channel 7. It would air after the news, and for the longest time, I'd only be able to watch it if I was spending the night at a friend's house, because my parents didn't want me staying up late, much less watching monster movies. Eventually, they would relent, as I got a bit older (probably about 9 or 10), so I could watch it at home.

The show was hosted by the Count, who was portrayed by Joe Towey. As with many horror movie hosts in other cities, Joe had other duties at KIRO, such as directing the legendary J.P. Patches program, which aired weekday mornings, and featured J.P., a hobo clown living at a city dump, along with his friends and foes, providing skits and fun between airings of old cartoons. Joe also had on-screen appearances, playing the on-screen director “Sam Gefeltafish,” handyman “Mal Content,” and J.P.'s evil brother “I.M. Rags.” Joe died at the age of 55 in 1989. He worked for KIRO for 30 years, directed J.P. Patches for 22 of those years, and played the Count from 1968 to 1977. According to an article published in The Spokesman-Review upon his death, Joe's wife say he first donned his cape and fangs for a 1964 Marine Corps Halloween Party, while she dressed as Morticia from The Addams Family. They won all the best-dressed prizes, and when KIRO decided to do Nightmare Theater, they remembered him, and eventually had him host the show in 1968 (the show went on the air in 1964). His original fangs didn't allow him to speak clearly on TV, so he had a custom set made by a dentist that worked much better.

Like most of the horror hosts, the Count had his opening sequence, as the camera came into his crypt, and his coffin would open slowly before he emerged from it. He would talk directly to us at home (often mentioning “the kid on the couch” – he knew his main audience was children!), and would joke about the movie being shown if it was a stinker.

But not all of the movies were stinkers... many of the classic Universal monster films were shown for the first time (for me) on Nightmare Theater, and I specifically recall seeing House of Frankenstein on that program. I also remember a movie I could've sworn was called The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant, but what I've seen of posters for that movie indicates that the movie I saw was a different one (I know there were at least two movies with a person's head transplanted to another person's body, while the original head remained). The theme song was from a 1966 movie called Lord Love a Duck, while sound effects were cribbed from a record album called Walt Disney's Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House.

A postcard, this might have been what I got from the Count.
The Count, like all of the local TV kids show hosts (like the forementioned J.P. Patches, as well as Brakeman Bill and others) would make local appearances, usually to celebrate store openings and the like. I remember seeing the Count in person but once, at the opening of a store whose name escapes me (the building's been many different things since then... at that time it was a variety store, it's currently a Michaels). He was there in all his glory, signing printed photos of himself. I vaguely remember asking him how a vampire could be out during the daylight, but I don't recall his answer (it could've been something like, “Sunblock,” but as I said, I don't recall. Sadly, I no longer have that photo, having been lost many moves ago).

But like many of the other shows I grew up with, Nightmare Theater holds a special place in my heart. When that show ended in 1977, the only other outlet on TV for monster movies was on Channel 11, which started showing those on Sundays at noon (I forget what they called their show, but there was no host, and it gave way to “Sci-Fi Theater,” which itself would show Godzilla and other monster movies, too).

Sadly, there is very little video footage preserved of this wonderful show. There are a few clips on YouTube... this is probably the best one available, as it has the opening sequence, as well as a bit from the middle of an episode, and the closing sequence.

Fandom Library: Screen Thrills #6


Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Fleischer Popeyes: Shoein' Hosses!

popeye011-01Well, it's been a year and a few weeks since the last installment of this feature, and it's high time I returned to it, isn't it? So here we are with the 11th of the Fleischer Popeye cartoons, which opens with the familiar instrumental of the Popeye theme, going into a song about a village smithy as the cartoon title appears between the sliding doors. As with other Popeyes, the singer of the song sounds like the same person who voiced Bluto.

We open on "Ye Blacksmith Shoppe," run by Olive Oyl, and barely helped by Wimpy. As Olive tries to hammer a horseshoe Wimpy is holding with tongs, he keeps reaching over to bite his hamburger, drawing the horseshoe away. This continues until Olive has a tantrum, and throws the white-hot horseshoe at Wimpy (it falls into the back of his pants burning his buns, if you will) and tells him to get out. As Wimpy runs out, smoke coming from his pants, Olive puts up a sign advertising for a new blacksmith.

Comics They Never Made!


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Government Comics!

Kurt Schaffenberger art in this one!

Comic Book Ads: Gillette Bicycle Tires!

Time to look at some more ads from Golden Age Fawcett Comics, and this time around, we're looking at Gillette Bicycle Tires ads! But first, a bit of backstory... since many of you may be scratching your heads thinking, "When did Gillette make bike tires? I thought they made razors?"

Gillette Safety Tire Company, Inc. was founded by Raymond B. Gillette in 1917, after Gillette and his partner, brother H.B. Gillette, invented a safety interliner that prevented blowouts and punctures in auto tires, and couldn't get anyone interested in manufacturing them, due to the difficulty in manufacturing for the various tire sizes used in the day. The company's first plant was built in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and by 1931, they were one of the world's largest suppliers of original equipment tires, producing not only their own brand, but also Ward, Atlas, and U.S. Royal tires. When Gillette died in 1934, the plant was producing 8,000 tires, 7,000 tubes and 4,500 bike tires a day, and employed 2,000 people. It was so important to the city that the entire city shut down for 30 minutes to honor his passing.

That same year, U.S. Rubber Company purchased a large interest in the Gillette Tire Company, and by 1940, had completely taken it over. In the 1960s, the company was renamed Uniroyal, and the Eau Claire plant was closed in 1992.

Now that you know the background, let's check out the ads!
I'm not sure why Gillette used a bear in their logo... it doesn't seem to really fit, unless one is taking into account that circuses used to have bears riding bicycles in their performances. Anyway, the initial Gillette Bicycle Tires ads in Fawcett Comics featured "Bear Bike Facts," with the Bear himself prominently displayed, as seen above!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

This 'N That Time!

So... time for a round-up of news and tidbits from my life!

ITEM! Just starting to watch Marvel's Agents of SHIELD, I'm on the second episode as I write this. I've read that the show starts out fairly slow, but I don't really see that myself. I do wish that there was more use of Marvel concepts and characters than I've seen so far, but at this point, I like it.

ITEM! So the job could be going better... and that's not to mean that I'm not doing well at the job by any means; they seem very happy with me there. Unfortunately, this time of year, they're looking at cutting ours, and this week, I'm only scheduled to work two days... and those are only seven hour days (although the last seven hour shift I worked stretched to eight). Yesterday, I came across listings for two different jobs that would get me back into graphic design, plus there was a marketing position... any of those three jobs would be more fun than what I'm doing, and get me back into normal working hours -- if nothing else, they'd be a lot less tiring, and less stress on my body!

ITEM! This Friday, I'm finally getting around to getting a medical procedure that all men are supposed to get done when they turn 50... I'm not expecting to get any bad news from this, but good thoughts are always appreciated!

ITEM! One never knows what will spark a memory sometimes... the other day, I saw a post on Facebook of someone's teddy bear, and it reminded me of Bandi.  Bandi was a mascot I made way back in the late 1970s for the Tacoma branch of the Puget Sound Star Trekkers, the local Star Trek club I used to belong to. Bandi was basically a teddy bear in a Star Fleet uniform, all hand-made. As I've written about here and there before, that club eventually broke off from PSST and became independent, and even then went into a few iterations before I pretty much broke off from them just as the club was self-destructing. So seeing the photo reminded me of Bandi (he was named after a David Gerrold story concept for TOS), and wondering what had ever become of him. The club was headed by Sherrill Hendricks, and so far as I know, she kept Bandi once the club ended... or perhaps she passed it on to one of her daughters. I'm no longer in touch with most of the people from that club, so I have no idea of Sherrill is even alive anymore. I posted on Facebook asking if anyone had any contact info or any idea where Bandi might be, but so far, no responses... so Bandi is probably still lost forever to me. It would be nice to have him back.

ITEM! After a bit of an unplanned break in December, I've finally gotten back to work on new posts for this blog, so the May posts are being created as you read this, more or less. There's nothing new coming there that you haven't already seen here (or will be introduced before then), but I thought you regular readers might like to know that there's still at least four and a half months of daily posts coming your way! I know that myself, I hate it when I've been following a blog and it suddenly stops posting (there's a few on my link list that are about ready to be removed due to lack of posts... and nothing had been posted there that said they were going on hiatus), so I want to make sure that doesn't happen here. Believe me, if I end up some day deciding to finish this blog, I'll be posting a farewell message -- but that's not in the cards yet! Worst case scenario if this stops posting, it means something has happened to me, and the blog probably won't be starting up again... but I've been tempted to post a "message from beyond the grave" that would be scheduled to run well after the last posts I prepare, and to keep changing the date, so that won't post prematurely! Kind of morbid, isn't it?

My Latest Pitch: Outer Limits Figures!

OK, stop me if you've heard this one before: I would love for some company to get the license to produce figures based on the monsters, aliens, and others from The Outer Limits. Wouldn't that be a cool line of figures to collect?

The way I see it, they could be done as poseable action figures, or even just as PVC figures. Actually, I'd almost prefer the latter, because then they could be done in sets, say about a half dozen figures per set. Each set could come with a trading card for each figure, with details about the episode it came from.

Just imagine being able to put figures of David McCallum from “The Sixth Finger” or even the “Zanti Misfits” or any of the other memorable creatures from The Outer Limits on your shelves?

Heck, why not make the packaging for the figures work well for displaying them, for those who don't want to take their toys out of the package? Be innovative and make the boxes with some kind of mounting on the back that could be used to place the box on nails or tacks, and you'd really have something. Even cooler would be if when the boxes were placed together just so, they created an extra bonus picture somehow (or maybe it could be the sides of the boxes, I'll let the packagers and licensors work out those details).

I know, this is a short pitch, but when I was posting Outer Limits cards for Cool Stuff (and yeah, it's possible that installment's running after you see this) the thought came into my head, and I had to get it out!

Comic Reading Library: Captain Aero Comics #21

Be prepared for some offensive portrayals of the Japanese people in this war-era comic!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Fandom Library: The Comic Reader #121 and #122


Character Collectible Spotlight: Yogi Bear!

Yes, my friends and readers (I hope you think of yourself as both), it's the triumphant return of "Character Collectible Spotlight," where I present photos of collectible items all pertaining to a specific character! The photos you'll see here include some you may have seen before in an installment of "Cool Stuff," as well as some that have yet to appear there. This is not intended to be an all-inclusive parade of collectibles for each character, naturally. I should also note that, unless noted, none of these photos are of items that I have in my collection, so please don't ask if they're for sale! If you're looking to buy any of these, I recommend eBay, or try looking at toy and collectible shows in your area.

One more thing before the parade: I often get asked (hoo-boy do I often get asked!) how much a particular item is worth, probably all from people who have the same item. You can look at price guides and closed eBay auctions, or ask someone who's considered an expert in that particular collectible, but the fact of the matter is, no matter what you have, it's only worth what someone else is willing to pay for it. It doesn't matter if someone wrote a price guide saying your Captain Gravy action figure near-mint on the card is worth $60, if you can't find someone willing to pay more than $20 for it, that's all it's really worth.

So, without further ado, let's look at some Yogi Bear items!

Boo Boo & the V.I.V.001
First up is this Yogi Bear book, Boo Boo and the V.I.V. It's one I've presented in "Children's Book Theater" before, and it's got very nice art in it. It's just one of many Yogi books out there.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Old-Time Radio Spotlight: The Jack Benny Show

jacknbcmikeNow, on to yet another new feature for Random Acts of Geekery, in which I write about different Old-Time Radio shows. I first got interested in OTR (as it's often abbreviated) at a fairly early age, as my parents bought a few record albums of shows back in the early 1970s to share with my siblings and I. The first ones we listened to were The Chase and Sanborn Show starring Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy and The Abbott and Costello Show. This was followed by listening to some of the broadcasts that used to be aired daily by one of the local radio stations, but it wasn't enough to me.

Fortunately, I was able to check out cassette tapes of OTR shows from the Swasey Library, which I'm sure I've mentioned before was just a few blocks from the house I spent most of my childhood in. Among the tapes I could check out were a few episodes of The Jack Benny Show, which I greatly enjoyed listening to. One episode in particular I recall featured a parody of Casablanca, which I wouldn't see the original film of for decades!

I knew of Jack Benny before, from his annual TV specials, which I'd watch with my family. I was too young, unfortunately, to stay up late to watch his appearances on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, although I've seen a few clips here and there.

While Jack was funny on those specials, it wasn't the same as the old radio shows I started listening to. As time has gone by, I've listened to more and more of the old radio shows, and even managed to find some of his earlier TV shows (based on his radio show) on VHS and later, DVD, and watch and enjoyed those as well. This, naturally, led me to buying and reading at least two different books on Jack's life (neither of which, unfortunately, are in my collection these days... I must see about replacing them sometime!).

Jack's radio career, at least with his own show, began on the NBC Blue Network (they had two at the time, eventually they had to sell off one of their networks, which became ABC) on May 2, 1932. By October 30 of that year, his show had moved to CBS, where it would stay until January 26 of 1933. After a few months off, it resumed on the NBC Red Network on March 3, switching to the Blue Network with the October 14, 1934 episode, then back to the Red Network on October 10, 1936. Starting with the 1949 episodes, Jack's program moved to CBS, where it stayed until the last episode aired on May 22, 1955.

Among the sponsors of the show were Canada Dry, Chevrolet, General Tire, Jell-O, Grape Nuts, and Lucky Strikes. Jell-O was a new product when they started sponsoring the radio show, and thanks to the humorous advertising (back then, radio shows would often make the commercials part of the show... in this case, it would be Don Wilson, the announcer, who would start talking about Jell-O in the middle of a sketch, with the first commercial coming during the opening number played by the band. Jell-O owes its success to the show, and at one point, it was flying off the shelves faster than it could be manufactured and shipped!

On the program, Jack was the main character, portrayed as a vain miser, always claiming to be 39, and playing the violin badly. Most of the jokes were at Jack's expense, with the punchlines going to the other cast members. A lot of comedians on the radio wouldn't put up with this, but Jack knew that this just made his show funnier, and would keep the audience coming back for more every week. Jack's sense of timing was impeccable, and he inspired comedians after him, among them Johnny Carson, especially when it came to pauses. Jack could get more laughs from his pauses than some radio comics could make with their jokes! His catch-phrases on the show were “Well...” or “Well!” (often said when someone caught him in a lie, or a situation caught him by surprise) and “Now cut that out!” (said when things were getting out of control, and he was trying to regain control of the show).

Eddie Anderson played Rochester Van Jones, Jack's valet and chauffeur. He wasn't one of the original cast members of the show. He'd been performing in vaudeville, films and radio since the early 1930s, and made his first appearance on the show in 1937, originally as a porter on a train who didn't put up with anything from Jack, followed by other occasional roles on the show. The response to his appearances led them to bring him back on a regular basis, and he continued playing Rochester when the show moved to television. Rochester's gravelly voice was instantly recognizable, and he may have been the strongest role portrayed by a black person on radio, because he did not put up with Jack's vanity at all; in addition, he was the first black to have a regular role on a nationwide radio program. The most popular black characters on radio up to that point were the characters on Amos 'n Andy, and they were played by white men!

Don Wilson was the announcer on all episodes of the show, and his broad voice was also quite distinctive. He would open the show by announcing the cast, then the band would play their opening number, during which he'd do the first commercial. Afterward, he'd introduce Jack (except in those episodes Jack wasn't on immediately), and there'd be some byplay between them. Jack's jokes on the show often targeted Don, especially about his weight. Don would do much more than announce, playing characters during skits and the like.

Dennis Day played himself on the program, as the show's tenor singer in most of the episodes. No matter his real age, he acted as if he was in his early 20s, sweet but not very bright. About 10 minutes into each episode, Dennis would sing his song, usually preceded by some comedy bit with Jack and/or other cast members. Dennis was also talented with accents, which came in handy during skits. A recurring role (sometimes not seen or heard, just referred to) was Dennis' mother, who was always out to have Dennis get paid more and do more on the show.

Mary Livingstone was played by the former Sadie Marks, who changed her name legally thanks to the character's popularity. She was Jack's wife in real life, but her role on the show was as a friend to Jack. Mary first appeared on the show by accident; a role had been written for Jack's biggest fan, and the actress who was to play the part didn't show, and Sadie was recruited on the spot. This role was in two episodes in a row, but as would later happen with Rochester, Mary Livingstone turned out to be so popular that she was brought back, going from fan to secretary-foil. Sarcastic and wisecracking, when Jack would start bragging too much about some accomplishment or the like, she'd burst out with an “Oh, shut up!” that would achieve that goal! Her laugh was infectious, and would often cause the audience to laugh as well. In real-life, Mary was nervous about performing, but you could never tell from the show, where her timing was pitch-perfect. A regular bit for her on the show was to read aloud a supposed letter from her mother, which would often tell comical stories about Mary's sister Babe (she really had a sister named Babe, but the stories had nothing to do with real life). Mary's mother always wanted her to quit the show. Some of the famous incidents on the show with Mary occurred when she'd deliver a flubbed line, often as a malapropism. The most famous of these were when she said “chiss sweese” instead of “swiss cheese,” “grass reek” instead of “grease rack,” and even referring to Drew Pearson as “Drear Pooson” (the latter fluff was quickly incorporated into the script as the show was live, with a different character's line changed to, “Who did you think I was, Drear Pooson?”).

Phil Harris played himself, he was the real bandleader for the show's orchestra. He was portrayed as a skirt-chasing, arrogant, hip talker who called Mary “Livvy” or “Liv,” and Jack “Jackson.” He left the show in 1952, not making the transition to television. He'd occasionally sing on the show as well.

Mel Blanc was a Jack of all trades, providing the voices of Carmichael the Polar Bear (who guarded Jack's money vault), Professor Pierre LeBlanc (Jack's violin teacher), Sy the Mexican, Jack's parrot Polly, many other assorted voices, and provided the sound for Jack's legendary, if temperamental, Maxwell automobile (improvised live, on the spot, when the recording that had been prepared didn't work). Another of his famous characters on the show would be the train announcer whenever the plot of the episode had the cast taking a train somewhere. Always, the announcer would announce, “Train leaving on Track five for Anaheim, Azusa and Cuc---amonga.” Sometimes the first two towns would be different, but Cucamonga was always there. As the show went on, the space between the first syllable and the rest of the word was longer and longer, getting bigger laughs every time, and once, several minutes went by between them, bringing a huge laugh!

Other regular cast members included: Frank Nelson, the “Yeeeeeee-essss?” man, a clerk Jack kept encountering, whether at a store, ticket window, etc. Sheldon Leonard was a racetrack tout (originally played by Benny Rubin) who kept offering Jack unsolicited advice about everything, even if it had nothing to do with horse-racing. Leonard also played a stick-up man in what is regarded as the biggest laugh the show ever got, when he held up Jack and demanded, “Your money or your life!” Jack didn't respond for some time, causing Leonard to say, “Well?!?” and Jack responding, “I'm thinking it over!” Joseph Kearns played Ed, the security guard for Jack's money vault, allegedly guarding it for years and years (the start of his job varied from the founding of Los Angeles to when Jack turned 38). There were a number of other characters on the show who recurred as well.

The format of the show was pretty much set in stone, rarely varying. The show would open with a song by the orchestra, banter between Jack and Don Wilson, then bits with the other characters, often incorporating running gags, then a song by Dennis (or his predecessor, Kenny Baker – no relation to the actor who was R2-D2 on Star Wars), then the situation comedy bit, often a parody of a current movie or a mini-play. On those rare occasions the show format varied, it was usually in the form of a domestic sitcom, portraying something that was supposed to have happened in the past week, or trying to prepare for the show the audience was then hearing.

One famous aspect of Jack's show was the rivalry between himself and Fred Allen. I believe it started with Fred making a joke on his show about something that was mentioned on Jack's previous show (I know one episode had it as Fred doubting Jack could play “Flight of the Bumblebee” on the violin, Wikipedia says it started when a child prodigy played on Allen's show, and Allen said “a certain alleged violinist” should hide in shame over his poor playing), and Jack reacted in the following week's episode. Fred's jokes would often be about the same character foibles that Jack's cast members would joke about, while Jack would often make fun of Fred's age, as well as his nasal voice (Jack could do a pretty fair imitation of Fred Allen). This led to each of them appearing on each other's programs, and there was even a boxing match held between them (not that it was taken seriously at all). Rochester even guested on at least one episode of Allen's program. The pair co-starred in a few movies together.

Jack remains one of my favorite comedians of all time, and The Jack Benny Program, whatever it was called over the years, one of my favorite radio shows. An impressive number of the episodes are available for download on the internet, although the sound quality is rather poor on the earliest ones. That's not necessarily a bad thing, as the earliest episodes are not nearly as funny as the later ones, as the show's format and characters got more settled in place. While the show never hit the number one spot on radio, I still consider it to be one of the all-time great shows of Old Time Radio. If you've never heard the show, I recommend you check it out, you'll be in for a treat!

You can download episodes at and – there are over 600 episodes on the first site, and about 143 at the latter. 

Puzzle Time!

More from Fun and Games Magazine #1! Solutions after the jump!