Irving Fein

Manager/Producer


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his three-and-a-half hour Archive interview, Irving Fein (1911-2012) speaks at length about his 28 years managing and producing for Jack Benny, as well as his years managing George Burns. Fein discusses his transition from motion picture publicity to producing for Benny in 1947 -- a path that led him from New York to California, back to New York, and finally back to California once more. He details the many years he spent publicizing both the radio and television versions of The Jack Benny Program, and shares tales of producing Benny's various specials for television. Fein describes Benny's real-life and television persona, his lasting legacy, and his grace as a comedian. Fein also recounts managing George Burns during the last years of the comedian's life -- securing for Burns several stand-up appearances, his Oscar-winning role in "The Sunshine Boys," and an impressive gathering for his 100th birthday party. Sunny Parich conducted the interview in West Hollywood, CA on August 13, 1998.

"They all liked Jack (Benny) and they respected him and trusted him -- that he wouldn't hurt them. Jack never worried about being the star of the show. He let everybody else get the laughs. He didn't care."

People Talking About ...
Highlights
Irving Fein on the contest done on Truth or Consequences to identify the "walking man," which became a national obsession (the "walking man" turned out to be Jack Benny)
Irving Fein on how George Burns gave Gracie Allen "top billing" for eternity
Irving Fein on the unsuccessful special that turned Jack Benny 40 years old, and the decision to age him back to 39
Irving Fein on Jack Benny's radio/TV persona and real life personality
Irving Fein on George Burns' death
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his childhood in Brooklyn and his early influences; on coaching drama at summer camp and his early writing efforts
On radio programs and movies he enjoyed as a youngster
On his first job out of college in the Publicity and Advertising Department at Warner Brothers; on going to law school at night
On moving to Hollywood to be a publicist at Warner Brothers; on the Great Depression; on publicity for movies in the 1930s and 1940s
On planting stories for publicity; on television's debut at the 1939 World's Fair
On becoming assistant to Samuel Goldwyn 

Chapter 2

On leaving Warner Brothers for Samuel Goldwyn; on World War II and his role as Publicity Director for Samuel Goldwyn; on publicity stunts
On the star system; on working for Columbia Pictures, getting drafted and going to work for a defense plant rather than going overseas
On returning to Warner Brothers, then to Columbia again, and then leaving to become part of Jack Benny's new company, Amusement Enterprises

Chapter 3

On making Jack Benny #1 in radio; on doing publicity for several CBS radio programs including Lux Radio Theater, The Edgar Bergen/Charlie McCarthy Show, and Amos 'n' Andy
On the rise of television and Jack Benny's transition from radio to television
On the writers of Jack Benny's radio and television programs and how they worked with Jack Benny

Chapter 4

On the staff of The Jack Benny Program; on moving to New York to take a job at CBS and leaving to return West and form a production company with Jack Benny - J&M Productions
On returning to The Jack Benny Program; on series regulars Eddie Anderson, Don Wilson, Dennis Day, Frank Nelson and Mel Blanc
On live television and some of the program's regular and special guests; on playing up publicity for Jack Benny

Chapter 5

On President Harry Truman doing a special episode of The Jack Benny Program; on Billy Graham guest starring on the show
On Jack Benny's sense of humor; on Benny's comedy contemporaries and how they would guest star on each other's shows
On The Marge and Gower Champion Show for J&M Productions; on The Gisele MacKenzie Show
On The Jack Benny Program becoming a weekly show; on moving to the Desilu lot and famous guests

Chapter 6

On his Emmy win for producing The Jack Benny Program; on the unsuccessful special that turned Jack Benny 40 years old, and the decision to age him back to 39
On The Jack Benny Program moving to NBC and going off the air; on forming JB Productions and becoming Jack Benny's manager and producer
On becoming manager for George Burns and Burns winning an Oscar for The Sunshine Boys; on George Burns' movie career later in life; on Burns' death

Chapter 7

On George Burns' burial; on the legacy of Jack Benny and George Burns
On advice to aspiring managers; on how publicity and television changed over the years
On how he'd liked to be remembered; on his thoughts on people with whom he's worked; on his wife
Shows

$64,000 Question

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Irving Fein on Jack Benny's guest appearance on The $64,000 Question (that led to a subsequent appearance of $64,000 Question host Hal March on The Jack Benny Program)

Gisele MacKenzie Show, The

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Irving Fein on The Gisele MacKenzie Show

Jack Benny Program, The

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Irving Fein on Jack Benny's radio/TV persona and real life personality
Irving Fein on Jack Benny's wife, his radio-TV co-star Mary Livingstone
Irving Fein on Jack Benny's radio program 
Irving Fein on Jack Benny's guest appearance on The $64,000 Question (that led to a subsequent appearance of $64,000 Question host Hal March on The Jack Benny Program)
Irving Fein on Jack Benny's first television specials and getting a weekly show
Irving Fein on The Jack Benny Program on radio and television
Irving Fein on returning to work for The Jack Benny Program 
Irving Fein on President Harry Truman doing a special episode of The Jack Benny Program
Irving Fein on The Jack Benny Program becoming a weekly show and famous guests
Irving Fein on being surprised and unprepared for his Emmy win for producing The Jack Benny Program
Irving Fein on The Jack Benny Program going off the air after moving to NBC
Irving Fein on Sheldon Leonard's role on The Jack Benny Program

Jack Benny Program, The: "Hal March Show"

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Irving Fein on Jack Benny's guest appearance on The $64,000 Question (that led to a subsequent appearance of $64,000 Question host Hal March on The Jack Benny Program)

Jack Benny Specials

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Irving Fein on the unsuccessful special that turned Jack Benny 40 years old, and the decision to age him back to 39
Irving Fein on The Jack Benny Specials after the weekly show went off the air

Marge and Gower Champion Show, The

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Irving Fein on executive producing The Marge and Gower Champion Show for J&M Productions

Truth or Consequences

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Irving Fein on the contest done on Truth or Consequences to identify the "walking man," which became a national obsession (the "walking man" turned out to be Jack Benny)
Topics

Characters & Catchphrases

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Irving Fein on Jack Benny's radio/TV persona and real life personality
Irving Fein on Jack Benny's guest appearance on The $64,000 Question (that led to a subsequent appearance of $64,000 Question host Hal March on The Jack Benny Program)
Irving Fein on Jack Benny's violin bit
Irving Fein on Jack Benny's classic comedy bits: Maxwell, the vault and the feud with Fred Allen
Irving Fein on The Jack Benny Program's Eddie Anderson

Emmy Awards

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Irving Fein on being surprised and unprepared for his Emmy win for producing The Jack Benny Program

Harry S. Truman

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Irving Fein on Jack Benny doing a concert for Harry Truman and getting the president on The Jack Benny Program
Irving Fein on President Harry Truman doing a special episode of The Jack Benny Program

Historic Events and Social Change

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Irving Fein on trying to serve as a publicist for a General during World War II

Pop Culture

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Irving Fein on Jack Benny's radio/TV persona and real life personality
Irving Fein on Jack Benny's guest appearance on The $64,000 Question (that led to a subsequent appearance of $64,000 Question host Hal March on The Jack Benny Program)
Irving Fein on Jack Benny's violin bit
Irving Fein on The Jack Benny Program's Eddie Anderson
Irving Fein on The Jack Benny Program's Eddie Anderson

Television and the Presidency

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Irving Fein on Jack Benny doing a concert for Harry Truman and getting the president on The Jack Benny Program
Irving Fein on President Harry Truman doing a special episode of The Jack Benny Program

War

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Irving Fein on trying to serve as a publicist for a General during World War II

World War II

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Irving Fein on trying to serve as a publicist for a General during World War II
Professions

Producers

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Irving Fein on being surprised and unprepared for his Emmy win for producing The Jack Benny Program

Publicist

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Irving Fein on moving to Hollywood to be a publicist at Warner Brothers and on publicity for movies in the 1930s and 1940s
Irving Fein on how publicity today is more of a business than a creative process

Representatives

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Irving Fein on moving to Hollywood to be a publicist at Warner Brothers and on publicity for movies in the 1930s and 1940s
Irving Fein on how publicity today is more of a business than a creative process
Genres

Comedy Series

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Irving Fein on The Jack Benny Program on radio and television
Irving Fein on The Jack Benny Program 
Irving Fein on The Jack Benny Program
Irving Fein on the end of The Jack Benny Program on television and The Jack Benny Specials
People

Fred Allen

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Irving Fein on Jack Benny's famous feud with Fred Allen

Gracie Allen

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Irving Fein on Gracie Allen's retirement 
Irving Fein on Gracie Allen

Eddie Anderson

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Irving Fein on The Jack Benny Program's Eddie "Rochester" Anderson

James T. Aubrey

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Irving Fein on The Jack Benny Program going off the air after switching to NBC

Hy Averback

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Irving Fein on Hy Averback

Lucille Ball

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Irving Fein on Lucille Ball

George Balzer

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Irving Fein on George Blazer, writer for The Jack Benny Program

Jack Benny

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Irving Fein on Jack Benny's radio/TV persona and real life personality
Irving Fein on an offer be Publicity and Advertising Director for Jack Benny's new company, Amusement Enterprises, and making Benny #1 on radio
Irving Fein on meeting Jack Benny for the first time
Irving Fein on the contest done on Truth or Consequences to identify the "walking man," which became a national obsession (the "walking man" turned out to be Jack Benny)
Irving Fein on William S. Paley purchasing Jack Benny's company
Irving Fein on Jack Benny's first television specials and getting a weekly show
Irving Fein on how Jack Benny worked with the writers
Irving Fein on Jack Benny wanting him back on his program when Fein left for CBS in New York
Irving Fein on Jack Benny's classic comedy bits and feud with Fred Allen
Irving Fein on President Harry Truman doing a special episode of The Jack Benny Program
Irving Fein on Jack Benny's sense of humor
Irving Fein on Jack Benny's relationship with George Burns
Irving Fein on The Jack Benny Program director Fred De Cordova and how he got along with Jack Benny
Irving Fein on how Jack Benny never needed to be the center of the attention
Irving Fein on Jack Benny's work on television specials and working up until his death
Irving Fein on Jack Benny's legacy

Seymour Berns

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Irving Fein on The Jack Benny Program director Seymour Berns

Mel Blanc

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Irving Fein on Mel Blanc's role on The Jack Benny Program

Humphrey Bogart

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Irving Fein on Humphrey Bogart on The Jack Benny Program

George Burns

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Irving Fein on Jack Benny's relationship with George Burns
Irving Fein on managing George Burns
Irving Fein on how George Burns gave Gracie Allen "top billing" for eternity
Irving Fein on George Burns' legacy

Johnny Carson

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Irving Fein on Johnny Carson

Marge Champion

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Irving Fein on executive producing The Marge and Gower Champion Show for J&M Productions

Gower Champion

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Irving Fein on executive producing The Marge and Gower Champion Show for J&M Productions

Harry Cohn

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Irving Fein on Harry Cohn of Columbia Pictures recruiting him to be a producer, and not keeping his word

Harry Conn

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Irving Fein on Harry Conn, writer for The Jack Benny Program

Fred de Cordova

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Irving Fein on The Jack Benny Program director Fred De Cordova
Irving Fein on being surprised and unprepared for his Emmy win for producing The Jack Benny Program

Bette Davis

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Irving Fein on promoting Bette Davis at Warner Brothers

Dennis Day

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Irving Fein on The Jack Benny Program singer Dennis Day

Ralph Edwards

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Irving Fein on the contest done on Truth or Consequences to identify the "walking man," which became a national obsession (the "walking man" turned out to be Jack Benny)

Errol Flynn

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Irving Fein on publicity stunts for Errol Flynn

Samuel Goldwyn

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Irving Fein on becoming assistant to Samuel Goldwyn 
Irving Fein on movie mogul Samuel Goldwyn
Irving Fein on movie mogul Samuel Goldwyn

Al Gordon

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Irving Fein on Al Gordon, writer for The Jack Benny Program

Freeman Gosden

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Irving Fein on giving Amos 'n' Andy creator Freeman Gosden publicity ideas

Billy Graham

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Irving Fein on getting Reverend Billy Graham on The Jack Benny Program

Rita Hayworth

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Irving Fein on publicity stunts for Rita Hayworth

Milt Josefsberg

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Irving Fein on Milt Josefsberg, writer for The Jack Benny Program

Danny Kaye

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Irving Fein on Danny Kaye's success at the Palladium in London

Sheldon Leonard

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Irving Fein on Sheldon Leonard's role on The Jack Benny Program

Ralph Levy

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Irving Fein on producer/director of The Jack Benny Program, Ralph Levy
Irving Fein on working with producer/director of The Jack Benny Program, Ralph Levy

Mary Livingstone

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Irving Fein on Jack Benny's wife, his radio-TV co-star Mary Livingstone
Irving Fein on Mary Livingstone retiring from show business
Irving Fein on actress and Mrs. Jack Benny, Mary Livingstone

Gisele MacKenzie

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Irving Fein on singer and violinist Gisele MacKenzie guest starring on The Jack Benny Program
Irving Fein on The Gisele MacKenzie Show

Hal March

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Irving Fein on Jack Benny's guest appearance on The $64,000 Question (that led to a subsequent appearance of $64,000 Question host Hal March on The Jack Benny Program)

Zubin Mehta

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Irving Fein on The Jack Benny Special with Zubin Mehta conducting the symphony

Bill Morrow

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Irving Fein on Bill Morrow, writer for The Jack Benny Program

Frank Nelson

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Irving Fein on "nasty man" Frank Nelson on The Jack Benny Program

Jack Paar

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Irving Fein on Jack Paar

William S. Paley

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Irving Fein on CBS' William S. Paley wooing Jack Benny away from NBC
Irving Fein on William S. Paley purchasing Jack Benny's company
Irving Fein on William S. Paley's personality
Irving Fein on saying goodbye to Bill Paley on his final day at CBS

Sam Perrin

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Irving Fein on Sam Perrin, writer for The Jack Benny Program
Irving Fein on Sam Perrin, writer for The Jack Benny Program

David Sarnoff

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Irving Fein on David Sarnoff's relationship with Jack Benny

Irwin Shaw

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Irving Fein on going to summer camp with future playwright/novelist Irwin Shaw and encouraging Shaw to write

Ann Sheridan

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Irving Fein on doing publicity for Ann Sheridan 

Red Skelton

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Irving Fein on Red Skelton

Adlai Stevenson

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Irving Fein on Illinois Governor Adlai Stevenson's clever way of following comedian Fred Allen's funny speech at an early 1950s Friar's Club Roast of Jack Benny

Jimmy Stewart

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Irving Fein on Jimmy Stewart on The Jack Benny Program

John Tackaberry

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Irving Fein on John Tackaberry, writer for The Jack Benny Program

Harry S. Truman

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Irving Fein on Jack Benny doing a concert for Harry Truman and getting the president on The Jack Benny Program
Irving Fein on President Harry Truman doing a special episode of The Jack Benny Program

Lew Wasserman

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Irving Fein on MCA Executive Lew Wasserman

Don Wilson

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Irving Fein on The Jack Benny Program's announcer, Don Wilson

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