Cartoon Comedy Jack Benny Old Time Radio

“The Mouse That Jack Built” – Jack Benny in Looney Tunes Animation

Old Time Radio believes it appeals to a “Nostalgia Market”, which sadly often means that the market will dry up once the generation that remembers when the programs were broadcast moves on. Fortunately, a growing number of enthusiasts are joining the ranks of old time radio fans who are discovering these shows and what a treasure they are. 

Some have no recollection of Jack Benny as a Radio or even a Television personality. But we did know him as a small rodent from the Merrie Melodies cartoon, “The Mouse That Jack Built”.

“Merrie Melodies” and “Looney Tunes” were the cornerstones of Warner Brothers animation from the 1930s onwards. Most of the short films were originally released in theaters as companions to Warner Brother’ feature films. Many of us grew to love the cartoons and the great characters when they were released to TV syndication during the 1950s and 1960s. They were also a staple of Saturday mornings on all three networks at different times.

“The Mouse That Jack Built” was released in 1959, directed by Robert McKimson. The plot was a parody of The Jack Benny Program. Most of the references in the cartoon were to the TV show rather than the radio program, but the program was such a close outgrowth of the Radio that most of the gags are familiar to Radio fans.

The story is a dream sequence of a mouse living in the walls of Jack Benny’s house. This mouse is of course Jack himself, and the cartoon hits a number of the running gags from The Jack Benny Program. These include “Jack as a Miser”, “The Vault”, “Jack’s Violin” and “The Maxwell”.

The sound effect for the Maxwell jalopy had been voiced by Mel Blanc since its radio introduction, so it wasn’t much of a stretch to add it to the cartoon. “The Mouse” would be only the second time that on-screen acting credit would be given to someone besides Mel Blanc.

There is a rumor that the only payment Jack Benny asked for the project was a copy of the cartoon.

One reply on ““The Mouse That Jack Built” – Jack Benny in Looney Tunes Animation”

A photo taken during the recording session that appeared in a bio of McKimson showed him and writer Tedd Pierce at the recording studio with Mel, Jack, Don Wilson and Rochester. Noticeably absent from that pic was Mary Livingstone, in what would be one of her last acting gigs before retiring from showbiz after a quarter-century of being part of his show on both radio and (to a lesser extent) TV. It would appear her lines were recorded separately from the others’, probably at the Bennys’ home – not unlike the final (1954-55) season of Mr. Benny’s radio show where Miss Livingstone’s participation was of the extent of “…starring Jack Benny, with Memorex, Rochester, Dennis Day, Bob Crosby, and yours truly, Don Wilson.” (And not coincidentally, the way she delivered her lines in this ‘toon was not unlike her largely rote delivery on the shows where she contributed her lines by audio tape, as opposed to the sharp zing in her voice when she was in the studio on show nights.) Speaking of Dennis Day, why wasn’t he represented as a mouse?

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