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Sunday Nights at Seven: The Jack Benny Story Hardcover – October 1, 1990

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 302 pages
  • Publisher: Warner Books; First Edition edition (October 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446515469
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446515467
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.2 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #284,678 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"He was a nice man," writes George Burns in the foreword to this book by and about his friend of 50 years, a sentiment readers will resoundingly agree with. When Jack Benny died at age 80 in 1974, he left this unpublished autobiography, to which his daughter adds accounts of the family's home life. But far more entertaining and moving is Jack Benny's related story, tracing how this one-time vaudeville trouper who left his native Waukegan, Ill., in his youth rose to stardom on radio, in TV and films. The secret of his tremendous appeal, he reveals--as though taking us into his confidence--was impeccable timing as a comedian and an ability to endear himself to people. His daughter's contribution to the memoir offers interesting if repetitious recollections on growing up in Hollywood and vivid portraits of family friends Cary Grant, Ronald Colman, Lucille Ball and other famous folk. And although she professes love for her mother, Mary Livingston, she also criticizes her as pretentious, a spendthrift and generally mean-spirited. The daughter's sensibilities, at least as expressed here, contrast sharply with the father's big-hearted outlook on life. Photos not seen by PW. Author tour.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

About half of this book consists of an unpublished autobiography that Jack Benny wrote in the late 1960s; the remainder comprises reminiscences and commentary by Joan Benny. Joan's feeling for her mother, Mary Livingstone, could best be described as ambivalent, and her life (including three marriages) hasn't been perfect, but the love and admiration she feels for her father is apparent. By virtually all accounts Benny was a nice, pleasant man, and those same adjectives also apply to this book. The best Benny biography is still The Jack Benny Show by Milt Josefsberg ( LJ 3/15/77), a long-time writer for Benny. But Sunday Nights is better than his manager Irving Fein's Jack Benny: An Intimate Biography ( LJ 12/15/75) or Mary Livingstone Benny and others' Jack Benny ( LJ 2/15/78). Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 7/90.
- John Smothers, Monmouth Cty. Lib., Manalapan, N.J.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

If you're a Jack Benny fan, this is a must-read.
Consequently, when I stumbled upon this book, I had to read it.
G. Poirier
The book gives you a good insight of what Jack Benny was like.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Adam Gonnerman on January 29, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Jack Benny wrote an autobiography entitled: "I Always Had Shoes." Though complete, it was never published, and when Jack's daughter Joan found it she decided to take excerpts from it and publish it with her own reflections on growing up in the Benny household.

Jack Benny's text is highlighted in bold type, while Joan's is in regular font. The average reader will no doubt very soon begin skipping Joan's writing and will read only Jack's text. Jack was apparently a surprisingly good writer.

Why not just publish Jack's autobiography? I'd give it five stars in a heartbeat.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By M. Allen Greenbaum HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on October 10, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Jack Benny is the father of modern comedy, popularizing (and perhaps originating) the self-referential and self-conscious comedy practiced in the last 20 years by comedians such as Andy Kaufman, Steve Martin, and Bill Murray. He may have also begun the modern media-related "show within a show" concept, exemplified to some extent by "Seinfeld," and in the past by the shows of George Burns, Danny Thomas, and Lucy and Desi. Perhaps it is more accurate to describe him as the father of post-modern comedy, where every occurrence, sound effect, and the idea of comedy itself is the object of Benny's gentle yet piercingly funny humor. But enough intellectualizing, above all perhaps, he was an extraordinarily talented, funny, and well-loved man.
Mr. Benny's daughter found this unfinished biographical material and we are grateful for the insights to his character, his humor (beginning with his days in vaudeville), and his wide-ranging, generally liberal thoughts on celebrity, comedy, and race. These sections of the book justify its purchase and are the primary source of its enjoyment.
As others have noted, Joan's sections of the book can drag and one eagerly waits for the bolded font which is her father's own words. I do think she provides some valuable insights into Mr. Benny's domestic life and routine, as well as some humorous and interesting glimpse into growing up as the daughter of one of our most popular and well-respected entertainers. Unfortunately, some of this seems fairly generic to that culture, especially her early years. Her criticisms of her mother, however well founded, seem discordant with the prevailing tone of the book. The book would have been better with more pruning of Joan's autobiographical comments.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Jerry McDaniel on January 13, 2004
Format: Paperback
I think that this book was written to highlight the memoirs of Jack Benny that were discovered. Joan added her own life story growing up as a child of a celebrity and how proper she had to behave in public. It's not right for me to say that Joan doesn't have a right to judge Mary based on HER experiences with her...afterall, Joan knew both her parents better than anyone outside of George Burns (that's the truth! no joke!). Joan's commentary or anecdotes in the early chapters aren't a problem. It's the later chapters where, to me, it becomes a problem. One reviewer made mention to the fact that Joan recounts her prom and her miserable marriage. I found nothing wrong with Joan interjecting stories about her child-hood and the "paternal" side of Jack...but when she starts to talk about her personal experiences away from her father, it sticks out. The book is suppose to be about Jack Benny first and foremost and any present-day commentary should revolve around Jack, Mary, or the iconic comedian's legacy. Her opinions of I said earlier...might be true because she knew Mary behind the scenes and we didn't. However, those opinions of Mary, whether factual or otherwise, coupled with other remarks not entirely centered on Jack Benny can be a distraction in a "Jack Benny book" and that's why i give it 4 stars.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Scott R Stout on July 15, 2001
Format: Paperback
As another reviewer has stated, "I give Jack Benny 5 stars". And I too agree... However "Sunday Nights at Seven" was intended to be Jack's autobiography. Unfortunately he passes away at age 39 (!) and the draft was forgotten in a shoebox in his closet.
Luckily for we Jack fans, his daughter Joan found it and decided to publish it. Unluckily for we Jack fans, Joan decided to continue writing where dad left off. This is where the book goes down the drain. Basically it becomes "look at me! I'm Jack Benny's daugher and I had a wonderful childhood and I'm a wonderful person and you wonderful people want to know all about me"!!!
Don't get me wrong, I'm glad she had a wonderful childhood. Jack was a wonderful, caring, tender man. And I'm certain that he and Mary were great parents. But I am reading this book to hear about Jack, Mary and the gang - and not who his daughter took to the prom and what drama she went through in her first marriage and so on. Joan does relay some nice anacdotes, however it seems to be too much ego stroking on her part.
If you are a Jack fan this book IS interesting since Jack tells part of it so it's not a whole loss. Although the book by Irving Fein would give you a better picture (and it is written better than this book).
If Amazon can get a copy for you I do reccomend it - it is at least enjoyable.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Tim Idsole on July 4, 2002
Format: Paperback
The sections from Jack Benny's draft of an autobiography, which make up a little less than half of this book, are well worth reading by any Benny fan.
Joan Benny, Jack's daughter, is to be commended for rescuing that draft from obscurity. Alas, the balance of this book suffers from Joan's poorly edited writing. Expecting to read about Jack, the reader discovers that "The Jack Benny Story" is mostly about Joan, though there are frequent references to "Daddy," as Jack is called throughout the book.
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