Benny and Bogart Strike Up a Lucky Connection in 1953


Jack Benny is the star, and Humphrey Bogart--in his TV debut--is the special guest, but there's no mistaking that it's Lucky Strike's show.

Even before Benny comes on stage in this "Jack Benny Program" (Saturday at 9:30 p.m. on KOCE Channel 50)--which originally aired Oct. 25, 1953--Columbia University football coach Lou Little is touting the relaxing pleasures of Lucky Strike, the series' sponsor. Near the end of the show, singer Dorothy Collins, "the Lucky Strike girl," does the same.

There's plenty of tobacco in-between too. Benny's monologue makes references to Lucky Strike and sets up the skit by explaining that the sponsors want better-integrated commercials. The following spoof gives it to them.

The setting is a police station in New York's 24th Precinct, the theater district, amid, according to Benny's voice-over, the flotsam and the jetsam, "the hoi and the polloi."

After some amusing bits by Lt. Benny and others (series regular Don Wilson and bandleader Bob Crosby), a punk named Babyface (Bogart) is brought in for questioning in the killing of Blinky Mason.

Babyface doesn't talk until he's badgered and slapped around (he slaps back a few times). He denies he was the shooter and claims he's got a witness--he doesn't know his name, but the guy was smoking a cigarette. What kind? A Lucky Strike. How does he know it was a Lucky Strike? "Because it was so round, so firm, so fully packed, so free and easy on the draw."

After more pressure, this pigeon sings--literally: "Lucky tastes better; cleaner, fresher smoother. Lucky Strike. Lucky Strike."

After the sketch, Bogart makes a plug of his own, for the upcoming film "Beat the Devil," with Peter Lorre and Robert Morley. He'd end up doing a bit more television--"Person to Person" in 1954 and a "Producers Showcase" version of "The Petrified Forest" from 1955--before his death in 1957 of lung cancer.

DETAILS, DETAILS: What's the name of the theme music from "The Jack Benny Program"? Answer next week. The answer to last week's quiz (Who is Kurt Russell's dad, a character actor who often played a lawman on "Bonanza"?): Bing Russell.

Set Your VCR

"Nice Guys Finish Dead" is a favorite of "Rockford Files" Rockfordphiles (tonight at 6 on KDOC Channel 56). Jim is teamed with fellow P.I.s Lance White (Tom Selleck) and Fred Beamer (James Whitmore Jr.) after a slaying at a private-detectives convention.

John Cleese plays a marriage counselor who makes the mistake of agreeing to a session with fiances Sam and Diane on "Cheers" (Tuesday at 11 p.m. on KTLA Channel 5). He got an Emmy for the performance.

You can't go wrong sticking in a tape at any point during Cartoon Network's 48-hour Bugs Bunny marathon (Friday at 9 p.m.), but here are some highlights (times refer to hourlong blocks composed of several cartoons):

"A Wild Hare," from 1940 (Friday at 9 p.m., Saturday at noon, Sunday at 2 a.m. and 7 p.m.), the first in which Bugs asks, "What's up, Doc?"; 1943's "A Corny Concerto" (Friday at 11 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m., Sunday at 4 a.m. and 4 p.m.), a spoof of "Fantasia"; 1945's "Odor-Able Kitty" (Friday at midnight, Saturday at 3 p.m., Sunday at 5 a.m.), Pepe LePew's debut; 1950's "The Rabbit of Seville" (Saturday at 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. and Sunday at 11 a.m.), an opera; 1951's "Ballot Box Bunny" (Saturday at 7 a.m. and 9 p.m., Sunday at 11 a.m.), a political parody; 1953's "Duck Amuck" (Saturday at 8 a.m. and 10 p.m., Sunday at noon), which gives Daffy little control over his life; 1958's "Knighty-Knight Bugs" (Saturday at 10 a.m., Sunday at 8 p.m.), an Oscar winner; and 1963's "The Unmentionables" (Saturday at 11 a.m., Sunday at 1 a.m. and 2 p.m.), a takeoff on the Robert Stack series "The Untouchables."

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