Friday, January 18, 2013



'The Jack Benny Program'
["Jack Goes To Doctor"]

Earth Prime-Time

From the CTVA:
Jack is unhappy and in a foul mood. Jack's guest is Oscar Levant, pianist, who does a number for the director, Don Weis. Jack insults Don Wilson and Oscar tries to figure out what is going on with Jack. Jack is urged to go see one of Oscar's doctor. Jack says no and tells about his first trip to New York to sign a contract. Jack & Mary had an obnoxious waiter (Frank Nelson) at a restaurant and Jack relates that Jack sees the same guy at other places and he always annoys Jack. 

Oscar talks Jack into seeing his doctor (Olan Soule). The doctor finishes with his patient (Frank Nelson) who goes berserk when he sees Jack and literally climbs the wall. Jack is so pleased with seeing the guy's reaction to him that it makes Jack feel wonderful and he feels that he has gotten even with the guy. Jack tells Oscar to take him home in his Jaguar ambulance. The show ends on stage with Jack thanking Oscar for being his guest.

From Wikipedia:
Oscar Levant (December 27, 1906 – August 14, 1972) was an American pianist, composer, author, comedian, and actor. He was as famous for his mordant character and witticisms, on the radio and in movies and television, as for his music.

From 1947 to 1949, Levant regularly appeared on NBC radio's Kraft Music Hall, starring Al Jolson. He not only accompanied Jolson on the piano and played classical and popular solos, but often joked and ad-libbed with Jolson and his guests. This includes comedy sketches. The pairing of the two entertainers was inspired. Their individual ties to George Gershwin --- Jolson introduced Gershwin's "Swanee" --- undoubtedly had much to do with their rapport. Both Levant and Jolson appeared as themselves in the Gershwin biopic "Rhapsody in Blue" (1945).

In the early 1950s, Levant was an occasional panelist on the NBC game show, 'Who Said That?', in which celebrities try to determine the speaker of quotations taken from recent news reports.

Between 1958 and 1960, Levant hosted a television talk show on KCOP-TV in Los Angeles, 'The Oscar Levant Show', which later became syndicated. It featured his piano playing along with monologues and interviews with top-name guests such as Fred Astaire and Linus Pauling. A full recording of only two shows is known to exist, one with Astaire, who paid to have a kinescope recording of the broadcast made, so that he could assess his performance. This is likely the only Astaire performance to have imperfections, as it was live, and Levant would repeatedly change the tempo of his accompaniment to Astaire's singing during the bridges between verses, which appeared to get him quite off balance at first. He did not dance, as the studio space was extremely small.

The show was highly controversial, eventually being taken from the air after a comment about Marilyn Monroe's conversion to Judaism: "Now that Marilyn Monroe is kosher, Arthur Miller can eat her". He later stated that he "hadn't meant it that way". Several months later, the show began to be broadcast in a slightly revised format—it was taped in order to provide a buffer for Levant's antics. This, however, failed to prevent Levant from making comments about Mae West's sex life that caused the show to be canceled for good. Levant was also a frequent guest on Jack Paar's talk show, prompting Paar in later years to sign off by saying, "Good night, Oscar Levant, wherever you are." On an appearance on The Tonight Show, from New York, Levant once quipped that his Jaguar ambulance was waiting outside for him.

The 1920s and 1930s wit Alexander Woollcott, a member of the Algonquin Round Table, once said of him: "There isn't anything the matter with Levant that a few miracles wouldn't cure."

Open about his neuroses and hypochondria, Levant, in later life became addicted to prescription drugs and was frequently committed to mental hospitals by his wife. Despite his afflictions, Levant was considered a genius by some, in many areas. (He himself wisecracked "There's a fine line between genius and insanity. I have erased this line.")


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