BW – EP88: I Can’t Stand Jack Benny—The Story Behind His 1945-46 Season

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In Breaking Walls episode 88, we spotlight the 1945-46 season of The Jack Benny Program. This season introduced characters like telephone operators Gertrude and Mabel, press agent Steve Bradley, hot dog vendor Mr. Kitzel, and Ronald and Benita Colman. This season featured guest appearances from Ingrid Bergman, Isaac Stern, Van Johnson, Ray Milland, Peter Lorre, Louella Parsons, Fred Allen, Ed Sullivan and others. It also was the season in which Dennis Day returned from the Navy and one of the most ingenious marketing campaigns in entertainment history took place: The “I Can’t Stand Jack Benny” Contest.

• Jack’s slipping ratings
• Problems with General Foods
• Jack changes sponsors
• The War ends and a new season begins
• Mabel Flapsaddle & Gertrude Gearshift
• Steve Bradley and his big ideas
• $10,000 and $646,000
• Jack gets robbed
• The Contest
• Mail pours in
• The Colmans can’t stand Jack Benny
• Jack’s ratings soar
• Christmas of 1945 & The Rose Bowl
• Fred Allen and the end of the Contest
• Isaac Stern
• Palm Springs
• Van Jackson
• Ed Sullivan and the end of the season
• King for a Day
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To support the show:
The reading material used in today’s episode was:
• Sunday Nights at Seven – by Jack and Joan Benny
• On The Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio – by John Dunning
• Network Radio Ratings, 1932-1953 – by Jim Ramsburg
• As well as articles from Radio Life on January 27th and February 3rd, 1946
On the interview front:
•Jack Benny, Ezra Stone, Kate Smith, Don Wilson, Eliott Lewis, Phil Harris, Frank Nelson and Dennis Day were with Chuck Schaden. Chuck’s interviews from an over 39-year career can be listened to for free at

• Vincent Price and Mel Blanc were with Dick Bertel and Ed Corcoran for WTIC’s The Golden Age of Radio. The full interviews can be heard at

• Dennis Day was also with John Dunning for his 1980s 71KNUS Radio program from Denver. Some of his interviews can be found at

• And Finally Jack Benny, Dennis Day, Phil Harris, Frank Nelson, Don Wilson and Mel Blanc were also with Jack Carney for his early 1980s Comedy Program. Much of this audio was originally taken from a 1972 PBS Documentary on Great Radio Comedians. Thank you Goodmond Danielson for supplying me with the audio.
Special thanks to our Sponsors:

• Twelve Chimes, It’s Midnight

• The Fireside Mystery Theatre

• The Mysterious Old Radio Listening Society
Selected music featured in today’s episode was:
• Love in Bloom by Bing Crosby
• It’s Been a Long, Long, Time by the Harry James Orchestra
• Chickery Chick by Sammy Kaye with Billy Williams & Nancy Norman
• Manhattan Serenade by the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra with Jo Stafford
• It Might as Well Be Spring by Larry Stephens
• Danny Boy by Dennis Day
• Along the Navajo Trail by Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters
I’d also like to thank Walden Hughes and John and Larry Gassman. Listen to their shows on the Yesterday USA radio network.

A Special Thank you to:
Ryan Kramer
Christian Neuhaus
Aimee Pavy

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