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Classic Comedy Moments: The Jack Benny Program – Jack Gets Mugged

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A mugger accosts Jack on his radio show on March 28, 1948.

After establishing a cast of regulars, audiences have come to know the intimate details of every character, including Rochester and Mary, on Jack Benny’s hugely popular radio show. But no character has more recognizable traits, flaws and foibles than Benny’s own character, “Jack.” Supposedly created in his own image, Jack is well known for several things: his ongoing feud with fellow radio personality Fred Allen, his ancient Maxwell automobile, his perpetual age of 39. But the most famous Benny trait of all is his stinginess. On the show, Benny’s character supposedly kept his money in a guarded vault in the basement, and the guard–in a great running gag–hadn’t been out of the basement since the 1800s. Jack was the world’s most parsimonious dude, and everyone knew it.

The Punchline: A mugger walks up to Benny and demands, “Your money or your life.” As the silence gets louder and longer, the impatient mugger demands an answer. An irritated Benny, clearly in deep thought, insists, “I’m thinking. I’m thinking.” This single joke results in the longest uninterrupted laugh in radio history.

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Classic TV Revisited: Breakfast Time and TV-am

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In another of our Classic TV Revisited moments we take a look at the early days of breakfast TV in the UK with Breakfast Time and TV-am.

Channel: ITV, February 1983 and BBC1, January 17, 1983
Starring: Frank Bough, Selina Scott, David Frost, Angela Rippon, Michael Parkinson, Anna Ford, Robert Kee.

Age?
A long forgotten 30 odd years each.

Appearance?
Very, very dated morning news programmes.

Pedigree?
The first breakfast TV shows in British history.

Why were they so good?
To be frank, they weren’t.

Why?
To say both had teething problems would be to underestimate the financial and personal wars that ensued.

They must have sounded like good ideas at the time?
Yes, they were top-class homages to American networked morning shows.

Soothing, a bit shallow and generally cheesy, then?
Exactly.

Who were the stars?
Selina Scott joined nice “uncle” Frank Bough on BBC1’s Breakfast Time from January 17, 1983.

And on ITV?
The Famous Five – Rippon, Parkinson, Frost, Kee and Ford.

So what happened?
The BBC kicked off with a mix of news, sport and funnies, introduced by Bough and Scott.

Brough Scott?
No, Bough. Scott was a smooth-as-silk Princess Diana clone who wore rather funny nanny-style dresses.

Wasn’t there a funny lady who looked like an enthusiastic cucumber?
I think you’re referring to Diana Moran, aka the Green Goddess. She became the real star even though Nick Ross was on hand to add gravitas.

Tell me more about the Goddess.
Diana Moran was our answer to Jane Fonda.

Except cheaper.
Of course. But we still felt those burns.

She wasn’t famous, then?
Not really. BBC bosses saw her working on HTV in her green gear and snapped her up.

TV-AM Original 5

The original big 5 heavyweight line for TV-Am showed they were taking a serious approach to early morning viewing. Peter Jay, David Frost, Michael Parkinson, Anna Ford and Angela Rippon.

What about TV-am?
Its first broadcast was in February 1983. David Frost promised viewers a bowl full of news and showbizz. Fellow TV-am man Peter Jay said he had a “mission to explain”.

But it all turned sour?
And bitter. The ratings went soggy.

What happened?
Peter Jay quit after only six weeks. By April, Anna Ford and Angela Rippon were sacked. Robert Kee and Michael Parkinson stuck around.

But didn’t TV-am survive?
Yes it did. A then little-known TV exec called Greg Dyke decided to introduce Roland Rat.

TV-AM Roland Rat

Roland, the rat that saved a sinking ship…

Don’t tell me it worked.
He was the rat’s whiskers. Anne Diamond arrived with that very pleasant chap Nick Owen.

Hey presto.
They had Selina and Frank trapped. When Roland and his pal Kevin the gerbil appeared in the school holidays in April 1983 ratings rose by a whopping 52%. Anne and Nick owe an awful lot to those puppets.

Didn’t Frank have a spot of bother in 1987?
Indeed he did, but you’ll have to do your own research on that.

Don’t say:
Want some coke with that rum, Frank? Mr Bough can’t talk to you now, he’s a bit tied up.

Do say:
That’s the first time a rat has joined a sinking ship.

Not to be confused with:
Breakfast with Frost, Today, Farming Today, The Rat Catchers.

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Movie Tens: James Dean

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Movie Tens James Dean

Even sixty years plus after his death actor James Dean continues to fascinate, here are ten facts you may not know about the iconic star.

James Dean was nominated for two posthumous Best Actor Oscars: In 1956, for East of Eden (he lost to Ernest Borgnine in Marty), and in 1957 for Giant (he lost to Yul Brynner in The King and I).

Jimmy was not speeding when he was killed on California’s Highway 466. (He was struck head-on by a Ford station wagon, driven by Donald Turnupseed, 23. ) Although Dean had received a speeding ticket an hour earlier, it has since been proven he was actually driving 60 to 65 mph when the accident occurred.

Movie Tens James Dean 1

Jimmy was set to star in two films at the time of his death: The Left-Handed Gun: Billy the Kid’s Story and Somebody Up There Likes Me, about the life of boxer Rocky Graziano. Both roles were filled by Dean competitor Paul Newman.

Jimmy often referred to himself as “the little bastard,” a name he had painted on the back of his Porsche Spyder days before his death.

In November 1951, struggling actor Dean worked as an offscreen stunt tester on the N.Y.-based TV game show Beat the Clock.

Before his three starring film roles, Jimmy had bit parts in Fixed Bayonets, Sailor Beware and Has Anybody Seen My Gal?

Rumors have always run rampant that Jimmy had homosexual relationships. When asked about it, he answered enigmatically, “Well, I’m certainly not going to go through life with one hand tied behind my back.”

Movie Tens James Dean

Jimmy’s famous red jacket from Rebel was purchased from Mattson’s department store on Hollywood Boulevard. Following his death, the store hiked the price on the jackets to a then exorbitant $22.95. Warner Bros. actually bought two of them for filming. Afterward, Jimmy gave one to his friend, composer Leonard Rosenman, who wore it until it fell apart. Nobody knows what happened to the other.

A week before his death, Jimmy ran into one of his favorite actors, Alec Guinness, at Hollywood’s Villa Capri. When an excited Dean showed Guinness his new Porsche Spyder, the British star begged him to get rid of it, saying Dean wouldn’t live long if he kept the car.

When Jimmy finally met his idol, Marlon Brando, at a party, he acted so strangely Brando told Leonard Rosenman that Jimmy needed to see a psychiatrist. Jimmy was already in therapy at the time.

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Classic Movie Quotes: The Godfather – My father made him an offer he couldn’t refuse

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Godfather Offer Couldn't Refuse

The Line: “My father made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.”

Who Said It: Al Pacino as Michael Corleone in the 1972 film The Godfather.

The Setup: Corleone relates the story of how his father, Mafia boss Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando), got a singer released from a personal-services contract with a bandleader. After the bandleader turned down Don Corleone’s $10,000 check, Vito’s henchman held a gun to the bandleader’s head and “assured him either his brains or his signature would be on the contract.” The bandleader then released the vocalist and accepted a certified check for $1,000.

The Payoff: “Mafiosi are like urban cowboys,” wrote author Gay Talese. “[They are] feudal lords, and whether you like them or not, they’re fascinating father figures.”

Brando played a “man of respect” who was seemingly benign, but yet a monster. He made the role warm and real enough to command belief and even empathy, yet vicious enough to deter admiration. After Vito, the Mafia was big box office everywhere, from bookstores to toy stores, where The Godfather game sold briskly.

Curiously, Brando was disappointed by his performance: “What the hell did I know about a 65-year-old Italian who smokes twisted goat-shit cigars?”

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