Robert Charles Benchley (September 15, 1889 – November 21, 1945) was an American humorist best known for his work as a newspaper columnist and film actor. From his beginnings at The Harvard Lampoon while attending Harvard University, through his many years writing essays and articles for Vanity Fair and The New Yorker and his acclaimed short films, Benchley's style of humor brought him respect and success during his life, from his peers at the Algonquin Round Table in New York City to contemporaries in the burgeoning film industry. Benchley is best remembered for his contributions to The New Yorker, where his essays, whether topical or absurdist, influenced many modern humorists. He also made a name for himself in Hollywood, when his short film How to Sleep was a popular success and won Best Short Subject at the 1935 Academy Awards. He also made many memorable appearances acting in films such as Alfred Hitchcock's Foreign Correspondent (1940) and Nice Girl? (1941). His legacy includes written work and numerous short film appearances.
Early life. Robert Benchley was born on September 15, 1889, in Worcester, Massachusetts, the second son of Maria Jane (Moran) and Charles Henry Benchley. They were of Northern Irish (Protestant) and Welsh descent, respectively, both from colonial stock. His brother Edmund was thirteen years older. Benchley was later known for writing elaborately misleading and fictional autobiographical statements about himself (at one point asserting that he wrote A Tale of Two Cities before being buried at Westminster Abbey).His father served in the Union army for two years during the Civil War and had a four-year hitch in the Navy before settling again in Worcester, marrying and working as a town clerk. Benchley's grandfather Henry Wetherby Benchley, a member of the Massachusetts Senate and Lieutenant Governor in the mid-1850s, went to Houston, Texas and became an activist for the Underground Railroad for which he was arrested and jailed. The effect of his older brother's death in the Spanish–American War. Robert's older brother, Edmund, was a 4th year cadet at West Point in 1898 when the Secretary of War ordered that his class be graduated early to support preparations for the Spanish–American War. Edmund was assigned to active duty as second lieutenant to Company E, the 6th Infantry Regiment. In Cuba in the summer of 1898, the 6th Infantry was part of Kent's 1st Division and Shafter's 5th Corps. The 1st Division fought in the 1 July 1898 Battle of San Juan Hill. The Division was brought up to the base of San Juan Hill as the left-most division. Edmund was killed when sent back down a trail swept by Spanish rifle fire to retrieve lost soldiers left to the rear of the Regiment when it crossed the San Juan River. According to a report by Harry C. Egbert, the commanding officer of the 6th Infantry, "Even on this (back) trail, the troops were greatly annoyed by the fire of the enemy coming from the heights far over behind my left, which continuously swept the valley in the rear of my line and caused the loss of a most promising young officer, Lieutenant Benchley, Sixth Infantry, whom I had sent back across the river to bring up any men who might have been scattered in the underbrush. He was shot dead." Edmund's Company Commander, Captain Kennon wrote, "My lieutenants left nothing to be desired... Lieutenant Benchley was as brave as he could be, and died while gallantly performing important and dangerous duty under Colonel Egbert's orders." News of Edmund's death did not reach the Benchley family until they were attending a public Fourth of July picnic when a bicycle messenger brought the notification telegram. In unthinking, stunned reaction, Maria Benchley cried out, "Why couldn't it have been Robert?!", while the latter, who was nine years old, was standing by her side. Mrs. Benchley apologized profusely and tried hard to atone for the remark. Edmund's death had considerable effects on Robert's life. Edmund's fiancée Lillian Duryea, a wealthy heiress, took an interest in Robert and later aided him. It is believed that Edmund's death in battle seeded pacifist leanings in Robert Benchley's writings. The period, however, was full of strong literary reactions to the Great War, and Benchley was aware of, for instance, the anti-war writings of A.A. Milne. Additionally, hearing the news during the July 4th fireworks left Benchley sensitive to explosive sounds for the rest of his life.. Meeting his wife. Robert Benchley met Gertrude Darling in high school in Worcester. They became engaged during his senior year at Harvard University, and they married in June 1914. Their first child, Nathaniel Benchley, was born a year later. A second son, Robert Benchley, Jr., was born in 1919. Nathaniel also became a writer, and he published a biography of his father in 1955. He was also a well-respected fiction and children's book author. Nathaniel married and also had talented sons who became writers: Peter Benchley was best known for the book Jaws (which was adapted as the film of the same name), and Nat Benchley wrote and performed in an acclaimed one-man production based on their grandfather Robert's life. Education. Robert grew up and attended South High Community School in Worcester and was involved in academic and traveling theatrical productions during high school. Thanks to financial aid from his late brother's fiancée, Lillian Duryea, he could attend Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire for his final year of high school. Benchley reveled in the atmosphere at the Academy, and he remained active in creative extracurricular activities, thereby damaging his academic credentials toward the end of his term. Benchley wrote his senior thesis on “How to Embalm a Corpse.” Thus began a lifelong penchant for laughing at death. Benchley enrolled at Harvard University in 1908, again with Duryea's financial help. He joined the Delta Upsilon fraternity in his first year, and continued to partake in the camaraderie that he had enjoyed at Phillips Exeter while still doing well in school. He did especially well in his English and government classes. His humor and style began to reveal themselves during this time: Benchley was often called upon to entertain his fraternity brothers, and his impressions of classmates and professors became very popular. His performances gave him some local fame, and most entertainment programs on campus and many off-campus meetings recruited Benchley's talents.During his first two years at Harvard, Benchley worked with the Harvard Advocate and the Harvard Lampoon. He was elected to the Lampoon's board of directors in his third year. The election of Benchley was unusual, as he was the publication's art editor and the board positions typically fell to the foremost writers on the staff. The Lampoon position opened a number of other doors for Benchley, and he was quickly nominated to the Signet Society meeting club as well as becoming the only undergraduate member of the Boston Papyrus Club at the time.Along with his duties at the Lampoon, Benchley acted in a number of theatrical productions, including Hasty Pudding productions of The Crystal Gazer and Below Zero. He also held the position of κροκόδιλος for the Pudding in 1912. Benchley kept these achievements in mind as he began to contemplate a career for himself after college. Charles Townsend Copeland, an English professor, recommended that Benchley go into writing, and Benchley and future Benchley illustrator Gluyas Williams from the Lampoon considered going into freelance work writing and illustrating theatrical reviews. Another English professor recommended that Benchley speak with the Curtis Publishing Company; but Benchley was initially against the idea, and ultimately took a position at a civil service office in Philadelphia. Owing to an academic failure in his senior year due to an illness, Benchley would not receive his Bachelor of Arts from Harvard until the completion of his credits in 1913. His shortcoming was the submission of a "scholarly paper" – which Benchley eventually rectified by a treatise on the U.S. – Canadian Fisheries Dispute, written from the point of view of a cod. He took a position with Curtis shortly after he received his diploma. Early professional career. Benchley did copy work for the Curtis Company during the summer following graduation, while doing other odd service jobs, such as translating French catalogs for the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. In September, he was hired by Curtis as a full-time staff member, preparing copy for its new house publication, Obiter Dicta. The first issue was roundly criticized by management, who felt it was "too technical, too scattering, and wholly lacking in punch." Things did not improve for Benchley and Obiter Dicta, and a failed practical joke at a company banquet further strained the relationship between Benchley and his superiors. He continued his attempts to develop his own voice within the publication, but Benchley and Curtis were not a good match, and he eventually left, as Curtis was considering eliminating Benchley's role and he had been offered a position in Boston with a better salaryBenchley held a number of similar jobs in the following years. His re-entry into public speaking followed the annual Harvard–Yale football game in 1914, where he presented a practical joke involving "Professor Soong" giving a question-and-answer session on football in Chinese. In what the local press dubbed "the Chinese professor caper," Soong was played by a Chinese-American who had lived in the United States for over thirty years, and pretended to answer questions in Chinese while Benchley "translated." While his public profile rose, Benchley continued with freelance work, which included his first paid piece for Vanity Fair in 1914, titled "Hints on Writing a Book," a parody of the non-fiction pieces then popular. While Benchley's pieces were bought by Vanity Fair from time to time, his consistent work dried up, and he took a position with the New York Tribune.Benchley started at the Tribune as a reporter. He was a very poor one, unable to get statements from people quoted in other papers, and eventually had greater success covering lectures around the city. He was promised a position at the Tribune's Sunday magazine when it launched, and he was moved to the magazine's staff soon after he was hired, eventually becoming chief writer. He wrote two articles a week: the first a review of non-literary books, the other a feature-style article about whatever he wanted. The liberty gave his work new life, and the success of his pieces in the magazine convinced his editors to give him a signed byline column in the Tribune proper.Benchley filled in for P. G. Wodehouse at Vanity Fair at the beginning of 1916, reviewing theatre in New York. This inspired staff at the Tribune magazine to creativity for articles (such as arranging for the producers of The Thirteenth Chair to cast Benchley as a corpse), but the situation at the magazine deteriorated as the pacifist Benchley became unhappy with the Tribune's position on World War I, and the Tribune editors were unhappy with the evolving tone and irreverence of the magazine. In 1917, the Tribune shut down the magazine, and Benchley was out of work again. When a rumored opening for an editorial position at Vanity Fair fell through, Benchley decided he would continue freelancing, having made a name for himself at the magazine.This freelancing attempt did not start out well, with Benchley selling just one piece to Vanity Fair and accumulating countless rejections in two months. When a position as press agent for Broadway producer William A. Brady was offered, Benchley accepted it, against the advice of many of his peers. This experience was a poor one, as Brady was extremely difficult to work for. Benchley resigned to become a publicity director for the federal government's Aircraft Board at the beginning of 1918. His experience there was not much better, and when an opportunity was offered to return to the Tribune under new editorial management, Benchley took it.At the Tribune, Benchley, along with new editor Ernest Gruening, was in charge of a twelve-page pictorial supplement titled the Tribune Graphic. The two were given a good deal of freedom, but Benchley's coverage of the war and focus on African-American regiments as well as provocative pictorials about lynching in the southern United States earned him and Gruening scrutiny from management. Amid accusations that both were pro-German (the United States was fighting Germany at the time), Benchley tendered his resignation in a terse letter, citing the lack of "rational proof that Dr. Gruening was guilty of...charges made against him..." and management's attempts to "smirch the character and the newspaper career of the first man in three years who has been able to make the Tribune look like a newspaper."Benchley was forced to take a publicity position with the Liberty Loan program, and he continued to freelance until Collier's contacted him with an associate editor position. Benchley took this offer to Vanity Fair to see if they would match it, as he felt Vanity Fair was the better magazine, and Vanity Fair offered him the position of managing editor. He accepted and began work there in 1919.An often overlooked influence upon Benchley's early professional career was the admiration and friendship of the Canadian economist, academic, and humorist Dr. Stephen Leacock. From Toronto Leacock closely followed the increasing body of Benchley's published humor and wit, and opened correspondence between them. He admitted to occasional borrowing of a Benchley topic for his own reflection and writings. Eventually, he began lobbying gently for Benchley to compile his columns into book form, and in 1922 was delighted with the result of his nagging. For his part – in a tribute to Leacock – Benchley later said he wrote everything Leacock ever wrote. They had a marvelous friendship. Vanity Fair and its aftermath. Benchley began at Vanity Fair with fellow Harvard Lampoon and Hasty Pudding Theatricals alumnus Robert Emmet Sherwood and future friend and collaborator Dorothy Parker, who had taken over theatre criticism from P. G. Wodehouse years earlier. The format of Vanity Fair fit Benchley's style very well, allowing his columns to have a humorous tone, often as straight parodies. Benchley's work was typically published twice a month. Some of Benchley's columns, featuring a character he created, were attributed to his pseudonym Brighton Perry, but he took credit for most of them himself. Sherwood, Parker, and Benchley became close, often having long lunches at the Algonquin Hotel. When the editorial managers went on a European trip, the three took advantage of the situation, writing articles mocking the local theatre establishment and offering parodic commentary on a variety of topics, such as the effect of Canadian hockey on United States fashion. This worried Sherwood, as he felt it could jeopardize his forthcoming raise.The situation at Vanity Fair deteriorated upon management's return. They sent out a memo forbidding the discussion of salaries in an attempt to rein in the staff. Benchley, Parker, and Sherwood responded with a memo of their own, followed by placards around their necks detailing their exact salaries for all to see. Management attempted to issue "tardy slips" for staff who were late. On one of these, Benchley wrote out, in very small handwriting, an elaborate excuse involving a herd of elephants on 44th Street. These issues contributed to a general deterioration of morale in the offices, culminating in Parker's termination, allegedly due to complaints by the producers of the plays she skewered in her theatrical reviews. Upon learning of her termination, Benchley tendered his own resignation. Word of it was published in Time by Alexander Woollcott, who was at a lunch with Benchley, Parker, and others. Given that Benchley had two children at the time of his resignation, Parker referred to it as "the greatest act of friendship I'd ever seen."Following word of Benchley's resignation, freelance offers began piling up. Parker and Benchley shared an office so small, Parker recalled, “that an inch smaller and it would have constituted adultery.” He worked constantly while claiming he was intensely lazy. (According to legend, he submitted a magazine piece titled "I Like to Loaf" two weeks after deadline. His explanatory note: "I was loafing.") He was offered $200 per basic subject article for The Home Sector, and a weekly freelance salary from New York World to write a book review column three times per week for the same salary he received at Vanity Fair. The column, titled "Books and Other Things," ran for one year and roved beyond literature to mundane topics such as Bricklaying in Modern Practice. Unfortunately for Benchley, however, his writing a syndicated column for David Lawrence drew the ire of his World bosses, and "Books and Other Things" was dropped.Benchley continued to freelance, submitting humor columns to a variety of publications, including Life (where fellow humorist James Thurber stated that Benchley's columns were the only reason the magazine was read). He continued meeting with his friends at the Algonquin, and the group became popularly known as the Algonquin Round Table. In April 1920, Benchley landed a position with Life writing theatre reviews, which he would continue doing regularly through 1929, eventually taking complete control of the drama section. His reviews were known for their flair, and he often used them as a soapbox for issues of concern to him, whether petty (people who cough during plays) or more important (such as racial intolerance).Things changed again for Benchley a number of years into the arrangement. A theatrical production by the members of the Round Table was put together in response to a challenge from actor J. M. Kerrigan, who was tired of the Table's complaints about the ongoing theatre season. The result, which played for one night April 30, 1922 at the 49th Street Theatre, was No Sirree! (the name being a pun of the European revue La Chauve-Souris), "An Anonymous Entertainment by the Vicious Circle of the Hotel Algonquin." Benchley's contribution to the program, "The Treasurer's Report," featured Benchley as a nervous, disorganized man attempting to summarize an organization's yearly expenses. The revue was applauded by both spectators and fellow actors, with Benchley's performance receiving the biggest laughs. A reprise of "The Treasurer's Report" was often requested for future events, and Irving Berlin (who had been musical director for No Sirree!) prompted producer Sam H. Harris to request Benchley to perform it as part of Berlin's Music Box Revue. Reluctant to appear onstage as a regular performer, Benchley decided to ask Harris for the outlandish sum of $500 a week for his short act in order to get out of the situation entirely; when Harris replied "OK, Bob. But for $500 you better be good," Benchley was completely surprised. The Music Box Revue opened in September 1921 and ran until September 1922, with Benchley appearing in his eleven-minute turn eight times a week (evening performances on Monday through Saturday and matinees on Wednesday and Saturday). Hollywood and The New Yorker call. Benchley had continued to receive positive responses from his performing, and in 1925 he accepted a standing invitation from film producer Jesse L. Lasky for a six-week term writing screenplays at $500. While the session did not yield significant results, Benchley did get writing credit for producing the title cards on the Raymond Griffith silent film You'd Be Surprised (released September 1926), and was invited to do some titling for two other films.Benchley was also hired to help with the book for a Broadway musical, Smarty, starring Fred Astaire. This experience was not as positive, and most of Benchley's contributions were excised and the final product, Funny Face, did not have Benchley's name attached. Worn down, Benchley moved to his next commitment, an attempt at a talkie version of "The Treasurer's Report". The filming went by quickly, and though he was convinced he was not good, The Treasurer's Report was a financial and critical success upon its release in 1928. Benchley participated in two more films that year: a second talking film he wrote, The Sex Life of the Polyp, and a third starring but not written by him, The Spellbinder, all made in the Fox Movietone sound-on-film system and released by Fox Films. The films enjoyed similar success and were critically acclaimed, and Benchley was signed to a deal to produce more films before heading back to New York to continue writing. As Life would say following his eventual resignation in 1929, "Mr. Benchley has left Dramatic Criticism for the Talking Movies".During the time that Benchley was filming various short films, he also began working at The New Yorker, which had started in February 1925 under the control of Benchley's friend Harold Ross. While Benchley, along with many of his Algonquin acquaintances, was wary of getting involved with another publication for various reasons, he completed some freelance work for The New Yorker over the first few years, and was later invited to be newspaper critic. Benchley initially wrote the column under the pseudonym Guy Fawkes (the lead conspirator in the English Gunpowder Plot), and the column was well received. Benchley tackled issues ranging from careless reporting to European fascism, and the publication flourished. He was invited to be theatre critic for The New Yorker in 1929, leaving Life, and contributions from Woollcott and Parker became regular features in the magazine. The New Yorker published an average of forty-eight Benchley columns per year during the early 1930s.With the emergence of The New Yorker, Benchley was able to stay away from Hollywood work for a number of years. In 1931, he was persuaded to do voice work for RKO Radio Pictures for a film that would eventually be titled Sky Devils, and he acted in his first feature film, The Sport Parade (1932) with Joel McCrea. The work on The Sport Parade caused Benchley to miss the fall theatre openings, which embarrassed him (even if the relative success of The Sport Parade was often credited to Benchley's role), but the lure of filmmaking did not disappear, since RKO offered him a writing and acting contract for the following year for more money than he was making writing for The New Yorker. Benchley on film and "How to Sleep". Benchley re-entered Hollywood at the height of the Great Depression and the large-scale introduction of the talkie films he had begun working with years before. His arrival put him on the scene of a number of productions almost instantly. While Benchley was more interested in writing than acting, one of his more important roles as an actor was as a salesman in Rafter Romance, and his work attracted the interest of MGM, who offered Benchley a lot of money to complete a series of short films. Benchley, who had also been offered a syndicated column by Hearst, was able to film the shorts in New York and keep up with his new column. Before heading back to New York, Benchley took a role in the feature film Dancing Lady (1933), which also featured Joan Crawford, Clark Gable, Fred Astaire, Nelson Eddy, and the Three Stooges. In 1933, Benchley returned to Hollywood, completing the short films Your Technocracy and Mine for Universal Pictures, How to Break 90 at Croquet for RKO, and the lavish feature-length production China Seas for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, starring Clark Gable, Jean Harlow, Wallace Beery, and Rosalind Russell; Benchley's character was slurring drunk throughout the movie. Upon completion, MGM invited Benchley to write and perform in a short production inspired by a Mellon Institute study on sleep commissioned by the Simmons Mattress Company. The resulting film, How to Sleep, was filmed in two days, and it featured Benchley as both the narrator and sleeper—the latter a role Benchley claimed was "not much of a strain, as [he] was in bed most of the time." The film was well received in preview screenings, and promotions took over, with a still from the film being used in Simmons advertisements. The only group not pleased was the Mellon Institute, who did not approve of the studio mocking their study.This was followed in 1936 by How to be a Detective. The early success of How to Sleep prompted MGM to rush two more short films featuring Benchley, How to Train a Dog, a spoof of dog-training techniques, and How to Behave, which lampooned etiquette norms. How to Sleep was named Best Short Subject at the 1935 Academy Awards, while the latter two shorts were not as well received.Benchley returned to the cinema in 1937, cast in the revue Broadway Melody of 1938 and in his largest role to that point, the critically panned Live, Love and Learn. A short that Benchley completed for MGM, A Night at the Movies, was Benchley's greatest success since How to Sleep, and won him a contract for more short films that would be produced in New York. These films were produced more quickly than his previous efforts (while How to Sleep needed two days, the later short How to Vote needed less than twelve hours), and took their toll on Benchley. He still completed two shoots in one day (one of which was The Courtship of the Newt), but rested for a while following the 1937 schedule.Benchley's return yielded two more short films, and his high profile prompted negotiations for sponsorship of a Benchley radio program and numerous appearances on television shows, including the first television entertainment program ever broadcast, an untitled test program using an experimental antenna on the Empire State Building. The radio program, Melody and Madness, was more a showcase for Benchley's acting, as he did not participate in writing it. It was not well received, and it was removed from the schedule. Later life. 1939 was a bad year for Benchley's career. Besides the cancellation of his radio show, Benchley learned that MGM did not plan to renew his contract, and The New Yorker, frustrated with Benchley's film career taking precedence over his theatre column, appointed Wolcott Gibbs to take over in his stead. Following his final New Yorker column in 1940, Benchley signed with Paramount Pictures for another series of one-reel shorts, all filmed at Paramount's Long Island studio in Astoria, New York. Most of them were adapted from his old essays ("Take the Witness!," with Benchley fantasizing about conquering a tough cross-examination, was filmed as The Witness; "The Real Public Enemies," showing the criminal tendencies of sinister household objects, was filmed as Crime Control, etc.). In 1940 Benchley appeared in Alfred Hitchcock's Foreign Correspondent for which he is also credited as one of the dialogue writers. In 1941 Benchley received two more feature-length roles: Walt Disney's The Reluctant Dragon, in which Benchley tours the various departments of the Disney studio, and Nice Girl? with Deanna Durbin, noteworthy for a rare dramatic performance by Benchley.Benchley's roles primarily came as a freelance actor, as his Paramount shorts contract didn't pay as well as feature films. Benchley was cast in minor roles for various romantic comedies, some shoots going better than others. He appeared in prominent roles with Fred Astaire in You'll Never Get Rich (1941) and The Sky's the Limit (1943). Paramount did not renew his contract in 1943, and Benchley signed back with MGM with an exclusive contract. The situation was not positive for Benchley, as the studio "mishandled" him and kept Benchley too busy to complete his own work. His contract concluded with only four short films completed and no chance of signing another contract. Following the printing of two books of his old New Yorker columns, Benchley gave up writing for good in 1943, signing one more contract with Paramount in December of that year.While Benchley's books and Paramount contract were giving him financial security, he was still unhappy with the turn his career had taken. By 1944 he was taking thankless roles in the studio's least distinguished films, like the rustic musical National Barn Dance. By this time Robert Benchley's screen image was established as a comic lecturer who tried but failed to clarify any given topic. In this capacity Paramount cast him in the 1945 Bob Hope-Bing Crosby comedy Road to Utopia; Benchley interrupts the action periodically to "explain" the nonsensical storyline. On April 22, 1945, he guest starred on the Blue Network's (soon to be ABC) top-rated radio series The Andrews Sisters Show, sponsored by Nash motor cars & Kelvinator home appliances. Death. Benchley's drinking, already a problem, worsened and he was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver. (Ironically, when younger, he had been an adamant teetotaler.) While he completed his year's work, his condition continued to deteriorate, and Benchley died in a New York hospital on November 21, 1945. His family opted for a private funeral service, and his body was cremated and interred in a family plot on the island of Nantucket.In 1960, Benchley was posthumously inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame with a motion pictures star located at 1724 Vine Street.
Robert Benchley was born on September 15, 1889, in Worcester, Massachusetts, the second son of Maria Jane (Moran) and Charles Henry Benchley. They were of Northern Irish (Protestant) and Welsh descent, respectively, both from colonial stock. His brother Edmund was thirteen years older. Benchley was later known for writing elaborately misleading and fictional autobiographical statements about himself (at one point asserting that he wrote A Tale of Two Cities before being buried at Westminster Abbey).His father served in the Union army for two years during the Civil War and had a four-year hitch in the Navy before settling again in Worcester, marrying and working as a town clerk. Benchley's grandfather Henry Wetherby Benchley, a member of the Massachusetts Senate and Lieutenant Governor in the mid-1850s, went to Houston, Texas and became an activist for the Underground Railroad for which he was arrested and jailed.
Movies & TV shows
Walt Disney's Fables - Vol.6
Two classic animated shorts from the Disney studios. In 'The Reluctant Dragon' (1941), a young boy and a famous dragon fighter team up to teach a docile dragon the art of being a force to be reckoned ...
The Ten-Year Lunch
The story of the legendary wits who lunched daily at the Algonquin Hotel in New York City during the 1920s. The core of the so-called Round Table group included short story and poetry writer Dorothy P...
Janie Gets Married
Newlywed Janie's (Joan Leslie) World War II-veteran husband (Robert Hutton) goes to work at her father's (Edward Arnold) newspaper.
The Bride Wore Boots
Sally Warren is rich and beautiful but her husband doesn't like four-legged mammals. A popular lecturer on the ladies club circuit, Jeff Warren is a successful author and Civil War scholar. It's obvio...
Kiss and Tell
Film adaptation of the Broadway hit, about the comic mayhem that erupts in a small town when a 15-year old high-schooler (Shirley Temple) is wrongly suspected of being pregnant.
Week-End at the Waldorf
Anything can happen during a weekend at New York's Waldorf-Astoria: a glamorous movie star meets a world-weary war correspondent and mistakes him for a jewel thief; a soldier learns that without an op...
The Stork Club
Director Hal Walker's 1945 musical comedy stars Betty Hutton as a hat-check girl at New York City's famous nightclub. The cast also includes Barry Fitzgerald, Don Defore, Andy Russell, Iria Adrian and...
The staff of a record factory drown their sorrows at Duffy's Tavern, while the company owner faces threats of bankruptcy.
A New York magazine sends its editors to South America to find beautiful girls.
It's in the Bag!
The ringmaster of a flea circus inherits a fortune...if he can find which chair it's hidden in.
Hollywood Victory Caravan
A girl is desperate to get to Washington D.C. to be with her lonesome brother, a wounded G.I. She persuades Bing Crosby to let her join his caravan.
Road to Utopia
Duke and Chester found a map to a secret gold mine, which had been stolen, while on a ship to Skagway, Alaska. In Alaska to recover her father's map, Sal Van Hoyden falls in with an individual who wan...
Teenage Janie (Joyce Reynolds) falls in love with a private (Robert Hutton) from an Army base opposed by her editor father (Edward Arnold).
When Joe Doakes listens to a quiz show on the radio and knows all the answers, his wife encourages him to go on a quiz show himself. He appears on a new show called "Why Daddy?", where a child and an ...
Her Primitive Man
An anthropologist unwittingly takes a man disguised as a "primitive man" back to New York as a specimen.
Song of Russia
American Conductor John Meredith (Robert Taylor) and his manager, Hank Higgins (Robert Benchley), go to Russia shortly before the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. Meredith falls in love with beautif...
The National Barn Dance
This film gives a fictionalized version of how the popular real-life radio program of the title began.
In this screwball comedy a WW2 US pilot bombs a Japanese aircraft carrier, is assumed to be dead, and then is misquoted in the press as fondly remembering his days back home walking his dog Piggy. Ins...
Show-Business at War
A multi-studio effort to show the newsreel audience the progress of the Hollywood war effort.
The Sky's the Limit
Flying Tiger Fred Atwell sneaks away from his famous squadron's personal appearance tour and goes incognito for several days of leave. He quickly falls for photographer Joan Manion, pursuing her in th...
Flesh and Fantasy
Three tales of the supernatural are contained in the film. The first story takes place at the New Orleans Carnival. A psychic is involved in the second case. The third is about a man who is in love wi...
Young and Willing
For those, if any, who have wondered why so many Paramount contractees appeared in United Artists' films during the war years, this is another one of the Paramount productions that was sold to United ...
As Joe Doakes is reading the newspaper, he begins to talk to himself. Questioned by his wife, he explains that he is disturbed by the paper's account of the ways that a government investigative commit...
The Major and the Minor
After one year and twenty-five jobs in New York, Susan Applegate decided to go back to her hometown. Susan disguises herself as a twelve-year-old and travels for half the price when she discovers she ...
Nothing But Nerves
After some investigation, Robert Benchley finds his nerves are in a bad state. He has the jitters so bad he can't hold his cup still enough to drink his coffee, and he thinks the arrival of some plumb...
I Married a Witch
Rocksford, New England, was founded in 1672. The descendants of Puritan witch hunter Jonathan Wooley will never find happiness in their marriages, because he burned a witch at the stake. Wallace Woole...
Take a Letter, Darling
A struggling painter takes a job as a secretary to an advertising executive. They end up falling in love while working to get an account from a tobacco company.
A young trumpeter rises through the jazz world and finds love.
A Braodway playwright wants to keep on writing plays for his wife to star in, but all she wants is to retire to Connecticut and, following a few 'worlds-apart" discussion of the issue, they get a divo...
A police officer alerts his audience to the fact that inanimate objects can be as dangerous as human criminals. He then displays several offenders that have recently been brought in. Shoelaces, for ex...
You'll Never Get Rich
A Broadway choreographer gets drafted and ends up in the same army base as his object of affection.
The Forgotten Man
Robert Benchley's wry forerunner to "Father of the Bride" detailing his perspective of the upcoming nuptials.
Three Girls About Town
Faith and Hope Banner, sisters, are "convention hostesses" in a hotel. A body is discovered next door as the magician's convention is leaving and the mortician's convention is arriving, and the sister...
Jane is a nice girl and has had her eyes on a young man who seems more interested in his hand-built car than in Jane. She decides to shed her "nice girl" image when an associate of her father comes to...
The Reluctant Dragon
Robert Benchley is trying to get Walt Disney to adapt a short story about a gentle dragon who would rather recite poetry than be ferocious. He learns about the animation process while on the tour of W...
The European war was only beginning to erupt across national borders. Johnny Jones, an American crime reporter dispatched by his New York publisher to put a fresh spin on the drowsy dispatches emanati...
The Trouble with Husbands
Benchley, in his own unique way, starts to drive his wife crazy. First he waits until just as she is serving dinner before he goes to wash his hands and shave. Then she sends him to the store for some...
A comedy short staring Robert Benchley. He tries to show us how to make our own movies.
Ad man Stephen Dexter asks his secretary Kendall to marry him as a loophole in order to protect his finances during an important business deal. Once the deal is completed, he asks Kendall for a divorc...
That Inferior Feeling
Joe Doakes, like most men, is unable to cope with personal emergencies or those in a position of authority (real or imagined).
How to Eat
Humorist Robert Benchley discusses the issue of food and how different situations can affect one's ability to consume and digest food, using his stock everyman and slightly bumbling character Joe Doak...
An Hour for Lunch
Benchley shows how to budget one's time during lunch hour to get things done efficiently. Unfortunately, things don't go as planned.
See Your Doctor
A lecturer tells the audience that it is National Take Care Week. He tells the story of a man who gets stung in his garden and the problems the man has when he seeks treatment at the doctor's office.
A man buys a magic set for his son, but the tricks worked better in the store than they do at home.
How to Raise a Baby
American humorist Robert Benchley provides a comedic look at the difficulty in being a father.
An Evening Alone
Robert Benchley's everyman spends an evening home alone.
How to Watch Football
Humorist Robert Benchley illustrates the fine points of attending an American football game.
How to Read
Robert Benchley offers a humorous lecture on how to avoid different types of strain during reading.
In this comedic short, a psychoanalyst encounters a patient who eerily resembles himself.
The City Treasurer stands in for the mayor, throwing out the first pitch on Opening Day.
A Night at the Movies
In this comedic short, a man and his wife suffer through a night at the movies.
Broadway Melody of 1938
Steve Raleight wants to produce a show on Broadway. He finds a backer, Herman Whipple and a leading lady, Sally Lee. But Caroline Whipple forces Steve to use a known star, not a newcomer. Sally purcha...
Live, Love and Learn
A starving, uncompromising artist and an heiress fall in love on the spot and immediately get married. She loves his outrageous behavior, his strange room-mate and the best apartment poverty can buy.
How to Start the Day
Benchley tries his best to demonstrate the routine one should follow to start the day right.
Sunkist Stars at Palm Springs
Winners of the Lucky Stars National Dance Contest - one woman from each state of the United States - are welcomed to Palm Springs. Palm Springs being the desert playground for the movie stars, the wom...
How to Train a Dog
This comedic short provides a lesson in how NOT to train a dog.
How to Be a Detective
This Robert Benchley 'How To' comedy short attempts to teach us how to profile criminals by physical characteristics.
How to Behave
Two men working below a manhole cover wonder what they would do if a woman was to fall in. This leads to one of the workers saying that Robert Benchley always has the best advice about any social situ...
Jim's father wants to marry Eugenia, but her sister Netta refuses to allow it. When Jim sees Ann at a club, he falls for her even though she is with Lord Priory. He meets her the next day at the ridin...
Murder on a Honeymoon
A schoolteacher and amateur sleuth suspects foul play when a fellow passenger on a seaplane gets sick and dies. The third and final film with Edna May Oliver and James Gleason as the astute schoolteac...
Captain Alan Gaskell sails the perilous waters between Hong Kong and Singapore with a secret cargo: a fortune in British gold. That's not the only risky cargo he carries; both his fiery mistress and h...
How to Sleep
A humorous look at the problems people have trying to sleep.
Chorus girl Patsy Shaw crashes a high-society party, meets playboy Charlie Breen, they fall in love, and are on their merry way to wedded bliss. However, Charlie's snobbish, ever-loving mama doesn't t...
The Gay Divorcee
A woman seeks a divorce from her husband and travels to an English seaside resort. She made a mistake when she hired her lawyer because she fell in love with Guy Holden.
Richard Bruce, an American in fog bound London stumbles into the midst of international intrigue, with Rose Thorne, an innocent dupe. Together they try to unravel the mystery, enlisting the aid of a c...
A newsreel photographer neglects his love life to get the perfect shot.
Janie lives to dance and will dance anywhere, even stripping in a burlesque house. Tod Newton, the rich playboy, discovers her there and helps her get a job in a real Broadway musical being directed b...
A working girl shares her apartment with an artist, taking the place in shifts.
Wilkie and Mitchell, trying to desert their draft into the army, stow away on a ship which takes them into the war zone. While AWOL, the rivals for Mary's affections accidently destroy an ammunition d...
The Sport Parade
Two football players fall in love with the same girl after graduating from college.
The Sex Life of the Polyp
Dr. Benchley is addressing the Ladies Club on the subject of the reproductive habits of the polyp, a small aquatic organism. Although he is not able to display his live specimens, he has prepared a se...
The American Venus
A lost film - Mary Gray, whose father manufactures cold cream, is engaged to sappy Horace Niles, the son of Hugo Niles, the elder Gray's most competitive rival in the cosmetics business. Chip Armstron...
This article uses material from the Wikipedia article "Robert_Benchley", which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.