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

4.6 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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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 When Jack Benny died at age 80 in 1974, he left this unpublished autobiography, to which his daughter adds accounts of the family's home life.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About half of this book consists of an unpublished autobiography that Jack Benny wrote in the late 1960s; the remainder comprises reminiscences and commentary by Joan Benny.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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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 x 6.2 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #660,432 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Hardcover
I've been a Jack Benny fan ever since I was a child; I loved his humour, his style, his shows and just about everything else about him. Consequently, when I stumbled upon this book, I had to read it. Jack Benny's daughter Joan is the one who put it together. About ten years after Jack's death, and shortly after her mother passed away, she found an almost-four-hundred-page manuscript that Jack had written as his autobiography. Now, of the 300 or so pages in this book, just under half of them were taken from Jack's manuscript (presented in bold lettering); the fraction of the hundreds of pages of Jack's manuscript that are included here is unclear. The remainder of the book, just over half, was written (in plain lettering, interspersed throughout) by Joan. Some her prose contains quotes from several of Jack's friends and relatives, and some paragraphs are meant as clarification for part of what Jack wrote; however, most of it is about Joan's own life - her partial autobiography - prior to her father's death. Thus, a reader expecting this 300-page book to be entirely about Jack Benny's life may feel a bit disappointed. But on the plus side, through some of her text we can see aspects of Jack that we could not really appreciate just through reading his own words. The writing styles (since there are two separate writers) are clear, friendly, accessible and engaging. Rather than following a formal chronological development of Jack's life, most of Jack's part of the book is in the form of various anecdotes, memories, comedy skits, etc., told in more-or-less chronological order. Some of his stories brought tears of laughter to my eyes. This book can be enjoyed not only by avid Jack Benny fans like me, nor just by those wondering what Jack Benny was really like, but also by anyone interested in the evolution of show business from vaudeville to television.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Very enjoyable biography and part autobiography of the great Jack Benny. It's an easy, breezy read that gives us glimpses of Jack when he was a father, husband, grandfather, and friend, and not just the world-famous star. I wasn't confused at all (as some reviewers here apparently were) between Joan's writings and Jack's, since Jack's are in bold typeface. I'm glad I read this book, and recommend it for any fan of Jack Benny's.
P.S. I was astonished to see that pictures of Joan Benny as a child look exactly like Anne Frank!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Lucky Strike Means Fine Tobacco, I have heard Joan Benny on various radio programs over the years and she truly was blessed to have Mr. Benny as a father. Unlike many of the Mommy & Daddy dearest books written by the children of celebrities this books tells of an enchanted childhood growing up in Hollywood's golden age, Many of Mr. Benny's insights on his contemporaries like Fred Allen & George Burns as well as his defense that the Rochester character was NOT explotive of African Americans are insightful. Eddie "Rochester" Anderson was one of the highest paid comedians of his generation and owned a large house with servants, numerous automobiles, & large chunks of California real estate. Eddie and Jack were great friends for many years and Eddie was very broken up at Jack's funeral. The numerous radio interviews Joan Benny did on Larry King and several other stations are usually found on Jack Benny radio show collection CDs sold on Ebay & elsewhere and make for a wonderful companion for this book.
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