Every night as I cook dinner, I have been listening to Jack Benny radio shows (particularly from the war years).
I simply adore Old Time Radio (OTR). I’ve been a devoted fan ever since I was about 12 years old.
And it is truly fun to busy about the house, while I tune in. I can pretend I am a house frau from way-back.
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What I have noticed so particularly, in listening lately, is that there is someone else who is standing out to me in the Jack Benny stable of cast-mates. Someone who consistently holds her own to the wonder wit of Benny.
And I suppose it should be no surprise. It’s his real life wife, Mary Livingstone.
I am delighting in her ability to sling it right back at him. At her relaxed approach to the material. And especially her little giggle. She really seems to be having the time of her life.
Which is pretty amazing, considering. Mary was not really from show-biz stock. Just like her on-air personality, she sold hosiery at the May Co. department store in downtown LA. She met Mr. Benny when she was 12 and he was calling in on her older sister. They met later, at the May Co., in fact! And began their romance.
Her first appearance on the radio show was in 1932, when she filled in, ad-libbing a bit with Jack. And she was a hit! Which is no surprise. This girl had game.
She officially retired from show-business in the 60’s, apparently having struggled for years with stage fright.
She and Jack were married for nigh-on 50 years. The quality of their relationship can be, I think, exemplified in the clause that he had put in his will: that she receive one red rose for each day for the rest of her life. What class.
What more can I say–I can’t more highly recommend that you check out Old Time Radio programs, in any format. These days you can *watch* them on YouTube. And download them any which way for free, via ITunes or phone Apps. Do it. It is a very pleasant form of armchair travel. And don’t forget to tune into the Jack Benny Show.
And listen out for Miss Mary Livingstone. I guarantee that you will hear someone that is Human and True.
And funny as hell.
PS: Check out the NY Times Obit for ML here.
PPS: Here is a funny skit from YouTube, in which Jack and Mary re-enact their initial meeting, at the hosiery counter. It’s a gas…