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Jack Benny and the Golden Age of American Radio Comedy$
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Kathryn H. Fuller-Seeley

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780520295049

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520295049.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CALIFORNIA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.california.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of California Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CALSO for personal use.date: 18 May 2022

“What Are You Laughing at, Mary?”

“What Are You Laughing at, Mary?”

Mary Livingstone’s Comic Voice

(p.53) Two “What Are You Laughing at, Mary?”
Jack Benny and the Golden Age of American Radio Comedy

Kathryn H. Fuller-Seeley

University of California Press

Reluctant, young Sadye Marks becomes drawn into vaudeville and radio performance through marriage to Jack Benny. The character created for her by Harry Conn, Mary Livingstone, becomes a popular and unique character in American entertainment. As Jack’s sometimes-secretary and chief heckler, Mary criticizes men with remarkable freedom, yet also retains her independence and attractiveness, much like Hollywood heroines of the 1930s, and yet Mary never has to get married in the final reel. Mary Livingstone had great cultural impact, and star status, in the 1930s as a comic “Unruly Woman.” After World War II, however, Mary’s inhibitions drew her away from the microphone, and her delightfully tart tongue was heard less frequently. With a fascinating affinity for a feminist viewpoint, female characters in the Benny show narrative universe were tough and usually prevailed over the men.

Keywords:   stardom, celebrity, Mae West, Gracie Allen, sexuality, stooge, feminism

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