40 years ago today the world lost one of the greatest comedians who ever lived when Jack Benny died at the age of 80….of course, Jack would have insisted that he was 39.
Jack Benny’s career ranged from vaudeville to radio to movies to television to concert stages to personal appearances….and he continued to perform almost until his death from pancreatic cancer. He was even set to co-star with Walter Matthau in the film The Sunshine Boys….that role would played instead by Benny’s best friend of 55 years, George Burns. I’ll bet that Jack would have been pleased that George’s career was revived by his Oscar-winning turn in the movie.
NBC aired a half-hour tribute tribute on December 27th that was hosted by Tom Snyder and CBS aired the following hour-long tribute on December 29th, the day of Benny’s funeral. Hosted by Charles Kuralt, this special includes comments from Benny’s co-stars Eddie “Rochester” Anderson, Frank Nelson, Don Wilson, Dennis Day and Mel Blanc, plus Milton Berle, Danny Thomas, Danny Kaye, CBS founder/chairman William S. Paley, Bob Hope’s eulogy at the services and a wonderful clip to end the broadcast….Jack and Gisele MacKenzie with their classic violin duet of “Getting to Know You”.