Born in Waukegan, Illinois, he was a child prodigy violinist, performing as part of a vaudeville double-act, "Salisbury and Benny", and also appearing as "Ben Benny, the Fiddlin' Kid". After naval service during World War I, he returned to the stage and toured extensively before making his film debut in the short Bright Moments (1928). Following his Broadway success in The Earl Carroll Vanities (1930) and his radio debut in the Ed Sullivan Show (1932), he earned his own radio series which, combined with its subsequent television incarnation, The Jack Benny Show (1950-65), won him the loyalty and warm affection of a mass audience. A gentle, bemused, self-effacing figure, his humour lacked malice, relying for its effect on his grasp of timing and an act based on his ineptitude as a fiddler, his perennial youth and an unfounded reputation as the world's meanest man. A sporadic film career also provided him with an opportunity for self-deprecation but did include Charley's Aunt (1941), To Be or Not To Be (1942) and It's in the Bag (1945). He continued to appear regularly in television specials until his death.
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