Richard Pedicini & Jack Benny
I had the good fortune to be a writer for radio during its golden years. Among the drama series I worked on was Suspense for which I wrote 14 episodes including "Blood on the Trumpet" (501109) for William Holden and "The Great Train Robbery" (530413) for Fred MacMurray.
Usually, when people find out that I was a writer and that I have worked with some well know celebrities, one of the first questions they ask is: "What's Jimmy Stewart really like? What's Frank Sinatra really like?"
Well, let me tell you what the great comedian Jack Benny was really like...because, while I have worked with a lot of well known entertainers, Jack Benny is the one who impressed me most.
Over the years, Jack Benny developed a stage character that was to become so well known that people actually thought that this was the real Jack Benny. One of his stage characteristics was his cheapness when in reality Jack Benny was probably one of the most generous people in show business.
The Suspense script I wrote for him was "Murder in G Flat" which aired on April 5, 1951. On the day of the broadcast, Benny and cast and sound crew all got together in Studio A at Columbia Square in Hollywood for a round table read thru. Then the director had the cast read it over the microphones. He then dismissed the cast for half an hour while he worked with the sound men. At this point, Jack Benny walked over to where I was sitting. He bent over and said, "Look, am I reading this part the way you wrote it?"
I nearly fell off my chair. Here was this great comedian and giant in radio, asking me - a fledgling writer, still wet behind the ears, if he was giving the role the right interpretation. Somehow I managed to mumble that I thought it was fine. Then he continued, "If there's something I'm doing that's not right, speak up." And with that he walked away, going over his lines. To me, that was one of the reasons why Jack Benny was and would always remain one of the giants.
In show business, his respect for his fellow craftsmen and of course, showing me, an absolute "nobody", that respect, is why he will always remain something very special in my memory. That's what Jack Benny was really like.
-Richard George Pedicini, born 1923