For over a hundred years some of the greatest video treasures of all time have been produced. Some have been lost in the sands of time and others, soon to be rediscovered, will become fan favorites for a whole new generation.
Each week we will feature just one of the many hidden gems that you can see on ATVN with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances.
The radio and television editions of The Jack Benny Program ran almost without interruption from 1932 to 1965. There are a number of classic episodes that received high ratings and a lot of individual “Benny” shows that are regarded as some of the top programs in the early history of television.
But only a few are as memorable and poignant as the television episode, “Jack Dreams He’s Married to Mary” (which will be shown on ATVN this Sunday at 12 noon).
First, a little history about this famous real-life married couple.
Jack was first introduced to a teenage Sadie Marks (his wife’s original real-life name) before Benny even thought about a career in radio, much less TV which wasn’t even invented yet.
There were not exactly fireworks during their first meeting at Marks’ family dinner. While touring in vaudeville, Jack was invited to dinner by a fellow Jewish man who had two daughters (at that time, not all eating venues were “Jewish friendly” during special holidays). Benny admitted in his biography, Sunday Nights at 7, that at that time, he was interested in Sadie’s older sister, Babe (someone who would become the butt of Jack’s jokes throughout his series and would guest star frequently to “return the favor”).
A few years later, Jack’s and Sadie’s paths would cross again although Benny initially didn’t even recognize the “adult Sadie,” and quickly asked his then-future wife on a date. Jack would visit Sadie at her job for the May Company (another source for jokes throughout Benny’s show) and Sadie would later accompany Jack to watch him perform his own radio show live.
Shortly after the program started, Jack’s regular female sidekick “ghosted” him by not showing up for his live show and so Sadie filled in, using the on-air name, Mary Livingstone. Even when the regular actress returned, Benny and his writing staff agreed that Sadie was the better “Mary” and preferred the on-air chemistry between the two.
Even though the couple was now married in real life, it was deemed more “entertaining” that the two stay single on the program, which allowed for more comedic situations regarding the troubles of dating, a unique rotation of girlfriends and Benny’s quirky life as an eligible bachelor. They also thought it would be more original to stay away from the typical married couple routine that was already employed by other show business real-life couples at that time (most notably, their best friends, George Burns and Gracie Allen). Plus, the contact back-and-forth, boss/employee, verbal shots Jack and Mary took towards each other seemed to work better on-air.
That faux “bitter” relationship between the two continued for nearly all of the 33-year history of the program.
Except for this one episode.
In this particular show, which initially aired in 1954 (by this time Sadie had officially had her legal name changed to “Mary Livingstone”), Jack “imagines” what life would be like if he was, indeed, married to his longtime assistant, Mary. Without revealing many of the spoilers for your viewing pleasure, this episode does include a number of tongue-in-check references to his “alternate” life, in addition to real-life references throughout the program, which even included a guest appearance by their real-life adopted daughter, Joan.
Once the dream sequence was over, Jack and Mary returned to their more “normal” relationship, with Jack poorly paying Mary, and his “assistant” returning the favor with some sharp-tongue digs at Benny’s shortcomings.
The real relationship between Jack and Mary was quite different.
There is a YouTube clip from The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, which paints a much different picture of their marriage. Mary tells the story of a single red rose that she received shortly after her husband’s death in 1972. For a while there was no note and she didn’t know who was sending it to her.
When she tracked down the delivery man she eventually discovered that in Benny’s will, he set up a trust that Mary would receive a red rose every day for the rest of her life, as a reminder of the undying love Jack had for her.
Mary survived Jack’s death until June 30, 1983 when she was 83…and a rose came to her doorstep every day for those 11 years.
Tune in and set your DVRs for this classic episode of The Jack Benny Program this Sunday at 12 noon on the Astound TV Network. You can also see the Benny program weekly on ATVN on Wednesdays at 12 noon.
To view the complete rundown of classic programming on ATVN, check out the weekly television listings here.
The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Astound Broadband or any other agency, organization, employer or company.