The Great Ed Beloin

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The Great Ed Beloin

Postby Roman » Wed Dec 07, 2005 12:20 pm

Most of the focus here is on Jack's great supporting cast but we should also recall his tremendous writing staff. This is a tribute to one of Jack's greatest writers, Ed Beloin who wrote for the show from 1936 to 1943.

Edmund Beloin was born just down the road from me (but nearly 50 years earlier) in Startford, Connecticut. When he came to Jack's show in 1936, Beloin and fellow new writer Bill Morrow had an amazingly thin resume mainly consisting of selling jokes to various comedians. Given that Jack was THE radio powerhouse in the mid-1930s, it's hard to figure why Jack settled on Beloin and Morrow for one of the most sought-after writing jobs in radio. But Jack saw something special in Beloin and Morrow and his faith was soon amply justified.

It's not an overstatement to say that Ed Beloin and Bill Morrow created the Jack Benny character, as we came to know it, and the modern situation comedy. Before Beloin and Morrow, Jack's character was a glib, fast-talking, wise-cracking jokester. Benny the miser, Benny the coward, Benny the braggart, Benny the horrible musician simply did not exist. While Jack was always funny and his show was entertaining, there was nothing particularly special or unique about the pre-Beloin/Morrow program.

Jack encouraged Beloin and Morrow to add just about every negative human attribute possible to the Benny character and to make him the butt of most of the jokes. And did they ever. This was revolutionary in situation comedy and it has formed the basis of most of our great comedies since from Lucy and Jackie Gleason to All in the Family and Everybody Loves Raymond.

Beloin himself came up with many of the oddest and most memorable routines on Jack's show, from Carmichael the Polar Bear (apparently inspired by Ed's visit to the zoo with his niece), to Mr. Billingsley, the bald guy who was knocked on the door to deliver silly jokes in a deadpan voice. More significantly, Beloin is credited with the creation of Phil Harris's happy-go-lucky character (Phil at first played his character much more seriously in line with previous bandleaders) and the introduction of Eddie Anderson's Rochester character. Ed's arrival also coincided with the change in Mary's character from a Gracie Allen-like ditzy woman to Jack's sharp-tongued sarcastic foil. Lastly, it was during the Beloin/Morrow years that the Benny-Allen fued started.

By 1943, Beloin, Morrow, and Jack came to a parting of the ways, apparently mutually agreed upon (although who ever knows with such things). While Jack had years of success with a new team of writers, Ed Beloin also had many years of success as a movie and television scripwriter, particularly with Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, and Jerry Lewis. The list of Ed's post-Jack credits is daunting:

Lady on a Train (Deanna Durbin)
The Harvey Girls
My Favorite Brunette
My Favorite Spy
Road to Rio
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
Top o' the Morning
The Great Lover
The Lemon Drop Kid
Visit to a Small Planet
G.I. Blues (Elvis Presley)

Ed was also a principal writer for some less than inspired 1960s TV comedies, such as My Three Sons and Family Affair.

By the late 1960s, Ed decided to retire from writing. He moved to southern Florida and apparently enjoyed his years of retirement. He died in 1992 in Florida at the age of 82.
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Thanks for the info

Postby Alan » Wed Dec 07, 2005 1:41 pm

I enjoyed that informative post alot Roman....thank you.

It was also nice to hear that he had a successful and lengthy post JB run.

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Re: The Great Ed Beloin

Postby LLeff » Wed Dec 07, 2005 2:25 pm

A lot to chew on here, but let's go...

Roman wrote:When he came to Jack's show in 1936, Beloin and fellow new writer Bill Morrow had an amazingly thin resume mainly consisting of selling jokes to various comedians. Given that Jack was THE radio powerhouse in the mid-1930s, it's hard to figure why Jack settled on Beloin and Morrow for one of the most sought-after writing jobs in radio. But Jack saw something special in Beloin and Morrow and his faith was soon amply justified.

Remember that Harry Conn had left Jack high and dry without a show only a few days before. Jack's hastily-assembled writing staff for that week (which included Sam Perrin, who would later return to Jack in 1943) was put together mainly by other comedians either loaning or recommending writers to Jack. Chances are that if Beloin and Morrow were working steadily for another show at that time, they wouldn't have been able to jump in and ride out the rest of that season. So while not ever advertised as such, I think this is another example of something that "happened" and "worked" on the Benny show.

There had been a few cheap jokes about Jack Before the Beloin-Morrow days (e.g., Jack: "I collect antique coins." Mary: "Yeah, they go into your pocket and by the time they come out, they're antique."). But it was certainly not the super-stingy, vault-owning Jack we think of today.

There may not appear to be anything "particularly special or unique about the pre-Beloin/Morrow program", but this goes back to our other discussion about looking at comedy in context. Jack was still in the top ratings of radio then, and repeatedly being awarded "best comedian" honors from various fronts. Maybe it's not that funny now, or not as funny in comparison to the Fall 1936+ show. But audiences loved it then.

Ed Beloin may be credited with the creation of Phil Harris' character, but it was based on the real-life Bill Morrow, who led quite the bachelor's dream. You also have to be careful about credit on the Rochester character, as Al Boasberg was doing the "punching" of the scripts (i.e., adding a joke here and there or reorganizing things to improve the overall show) at that fact, he alone was getting paid more than Beloin and Morrow combined. Some sources say that he was responsible for the introduction of Rochester's character. But certainly it was Beloin and Morrow who turned it into the character we love today.

The departure of Beloin and Morrow seems mainly linked to the fact that Morrow had been drafted. I discovered a letter that Jack had written to the Army advocating that Bill Morrow was essential to his show and that he be given a "by" so that he could stay as a writer. The request was refused. It is said that Ed Beloin was interested in moving on to movie writing (he and Morrow had already done some of that for Jack), but I really wonder if he would have stayed had Morrow not been drafted. You can still hear Beloin appearing on some of the shows for nearly a year after the new writers took over in Fall 1943.

Also notice the tie-in of Beloin writing the Harvey Girls and Kenny Baker appearing in it. Coincidence? You be the judge. Also Jack's cameo in The Great Lover.

So Beloin wrote for family affair, eh? I wonder if "Mrs. Beasley" was at all based on "Mr. Billingsley". Hmmmmmmmm :?
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Postby Roman » Wed Dec 07, 2005 2:45 pm

LL, you justly raise the question of where Ed Beloin's inspiration ended and Bill Morrow's began. Wherever the line was (or if there even was a line), there's no question that the Beloin/Morrow partnership was one of the most creative and important in the history of radio. When I listen to their shows, I marvel at how they managed to do this at such a high level for 39 weeks year after year (on top of some of Jack's movies during that period). I've thought the same of Carl Reiner who wrote almost all of the Dick Van Dyke scripts in its first few years (at a time when a television season was many weeks longer than it is today). That they managed to do it is just amazing.
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Postby Mandolynn » Thu May 06, 2010 6:44 pm

I came looking for a thread on Ed Beloin after Mr. Billingsley set me rolling on the floor last night as I was listening to a show about one of Jack's surprise birthday parties (Herbert Marshall and Andy Devine dropping by, pot roast hanging from the chandelier, and Mr. Billingsley giving himself a drum roll prior to each time he had something to say... just a typical night at home for Jack, I guess.) Ed had such a great voice and delivery. I really enjoy hearing the shows from his era of writing and hearing him on the show as well.
"I wouldn't go in there well-armed, tired of living, and directly behind Frank Buck."
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Re: The Great Ed Beloin

Postby feekie » Mon Sep 21, 2015 5:21 pm

I was just listening to an old Jack Benny radio program This one was from 1941, and the gang was visiting Palm Springs, including Mr. Billingsley, Jack's eccentric boarder which was played by one of Jack's writers, Ed Beloin. Not only was Mr. Beloin a gifted writer, he was hilarious as Mr. Billingsley. In this episode he complained that his majic carpet was in shreds after flying it over the jagged mountains surrounding Palm Springs. I love all the episodes in which Mr. Billingsley appears. I wish he could have remained with the show instead of leaving in 1943, if for no other reason than to continue to appear as Mr. Billingsley.
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Re: The Great Ed Beloin

Postby epeterd » Sat Jan 09, 2016 4:53 am

I love the Mr Billingsley character, too. His non sequiturs were so strange and hilarious to me.
"Good night Mr Billingsley."
"Oh, I haven't seen her in years."

I guess it sounds better than it looks in print. LOL
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