(3 of 4)
Jack Benny is currently the world's highest-paid entertainer. He receives approximately $7,500 a week for his Jello broadcasts, $100,000 from M-G-M for each of his pictures. Last year NBC gave him a gold medal as No. 1 star of the air. This year his real popularity (as well as the ludicrous exaggerations of radio publicists) is exemplified by the claim that his following is 18,000,000.
Born in Waukegan, Ill., Jack Benny spent his afternoons working in his father's haberdashery, his evenings learning to play the violin. He followed the well-scuffed path from amateur night to orchestra to vaudeville, with a patter & fiddle act. Dramatic Mirror of Nov. 12, 1921, said of him: "We would like more violin and less chatter." Benny ignored the warning, increased the chatter until he was playing comic roles in Shubert and Carroll shows on Broadway. One night Columnist Louis Sobol let him tell a few gags on his radio hour. Benny was a hit. His voice, grating on the stage, "took" on the air. Sponsored by General Foods, he worked up to his present eminence by an offhand amiability and the knack of weaving advertising matter into his act as part of the dialog.
On the air, Benny's wife, Mary Livingstone, feeds him his gags. He gives much of the credit for his success to Harry Conn who writes his routinesimpromptu vaudeville with the affectation of a plot. In cinema, Benny played a half dozen pictures before Broadway Melody of 1936 made him a star.
Metropolitan (Twentieth Century-Fox). It is apparent that, until opera-cinemas can be written about persons other than opera singers, the form will remain affected, feeble, monotonous. However, until that time arrives, Metropolitan may be considered as one of the best examples of its sort yet screened. Its story varies from pattern in that the hero triumphs on the stage, not of the Metropolitan in Manhattan but of a rival company in Philadelphia. Furthermore, Metropolitan has a string of less negative qualities to recommend it. Its screen play, by Bess Meredyth and George Marion Jr., is unfailingly light-hearted and literate. Its score, though a potpourri of operatic and concert-stage favorites, is well chosen. Its cast includes Alice Brady, Virginia Bruce and Luis Alberni. Its star is Lawrence Tibbett, whose baritone voice is still the best vocal instrument the talking screen has presented to the U. S. public and who in this picture, his first in four years, is heard to better advantage than ever before.
First practical consequence of the Twentieth Century-Fox merger of last summer, Metropolitan includes an aria from The Barber of Seville, The Road to Mandalay and Glory Road in plain clothes, excerpts from Faust and Carmen, all sung by its affable, grape-nosed star with grace, good humor and superb enthusiasm. No better indication of the civilized qualities of the picture could be given than its adroit conclusion. Tibbett, harassed by the strain of running an opera company whose "angel" has deserted it, comes out to sing the prolog to Pagliacci. He does so in grand style to ringing applause from both the audience in the picture and, usually, the audience at it. Then,, instead of going on into what looked like an inevitable anticlimax of more arias, prolonged congratulations and embraces by hero and heroine, the curtain comes down and Metropolitan is over.