Jack Benny

Jack Benny (Benjamin Kubelsky) was born in Chicago, Illinois, on this date in 1894. His parents were immigrants from Poland and Lithuania. One of America’s favorite comedians in vaudeville, on radio and TV, and in film, Benny was married to Sadye Marks, who some say was a cousin of the Marx Brothers and who played his […]

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March 5: If the Nightingale Could Sing Like Irving

Songwriting lyricist Irving Kahal, whose sixteen-year collaboration with Sammy Fain (Feinberg) produced several memorable hit songs, including “You Brought a New Kind of Love to Me” (made famous by Maurice Chevalier and Frank Sinatra) and “I’ll Be Seeing You,” a World War II favorite, was born in Houtzdale, Pennsylvania on this date in 1903. Kahal […]

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December 28: Willow Weep for Me

Songwriter Ann Ronell (Rosenblatt), one of the first successful women Tin Pan Alley composers, was born in Omaha, Nebraska on this date in 1906 (some sources say 1908). While a student at Radcliffe, she interviewed George Gershwin, for whom she became a rehearsal pianist, and who suggested that she change her name for a show […]

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October 17: The Tumler with a Typewriter

S. J. (Sidney Joseph) Perelman, essayist, humorist, and screenwriter (co-writer of the Marx Brothers films Monkey Business and Horse Feathers, and of Around the World in Eighty Days, among others), died at 75 on this date in 1979. Perelman, writes Joel Schechter in our magazine, “wrote mostly in English, but he was a polyglot who […]

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August 27: The Ritz Brothers

Al Ritz (Joachim), the eldest of the precision-dancing trio, the Ritz Brothers, was born in Newark, New Jersey on this date in 1901. Ritz became a vaudevillian before recruiting his brothers, Jimmy (Samuel) and Harry, after their graduation from high school. Their trio act played with tap dance, lampoons of popular songs and stories, ethnic […]

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June 2: Broadway’s Greatest Collaborator

George S. Kaufman, a playwright, librettist, and humorist who wrote for the Marx Brothers and won Pulitzer Prizes for the Broadway musicals You Can’t Take It with You (1937, with Moss Hart), and Of Thee I Sing (1932, with Morrie Ryskind and Ira Gershwin), died at 71 on this date in 1961. Kaufman was a […]

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September 3: Kitty Carlisle

Actress, musician, and arts advocate Kitty Carlisle was born in New Orleans (where her grandfather had been mayor of Shreveport) on this date in 1910. Best known to America as a  panelist on the game show To Tell the Truth from 1956 to 1978, she also appeared on Broadway and in films, including with the […]

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January 27: Hail, Hail, Harry Ruby!

Harry Ruby, a songwriter who contributed several of the Marx Brothers’ best tunes with his lyricist partner Bert Kalmar, including “Hail, Hail Fredonia!” from Duck Soup and “I’m Against It” from Horsefeathers, was born in New York on this date in 1895. Ruby and Kalmar also wrote “Who’s Sorry Now?” and “I Wanna Be Loved […]

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September 28: Harpo

Adolph “Harpo” Marx, the pantomime clown of the Marx Brothers, died on this date in 1964 at age 75. The second oldest of the brothers after Chico, he was an elementary-school dropout (Irish kids, he wrote in his 1961 autobiography Harpo Speaks, were bullying him as a Jew in school by throwing him out a […]

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