The Little-Known "Nail In The Coffin"


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Posted ByGerry O. on July 08, 2002 at 08:39:13:

In Reply to: Re: Switching from NBC to CBS posted byLaura Leff on July 08, 2002 at 02:26:51:

: : Having read different sources as to why Jack switched networks from NBC to CBS some sources indicate the principle reason was for financial gain by tax savings (Benny's own production company being established) or was it due to NBC's criticism of Benny's falling ratings at the time or was it for both reasons?

: Well...the man behind the idea (but seldom credited with it) was Lew Wasserman, who recently passed away. He was the one who did a lot of the "incorporate yourself" deals for multiple stars. Also William Paley did his share of enticing to bring Amos and Andy, Jack, and a host of other stars over to CBS. I recently read...probably on the OTR Digest, but can't remember who said it...that CBS's thought was that television was around the corner. When people wanted to see their favorite stars on television, they would turn to CBS. And they were right.

: --LL


In Milt Josefsberg's excellent book "The Jack Benny Show", Milt tells a little-known story about Jack's switching from NBC to CBS.
While Jack was seriously considering changing networks for the financial advantages which William Paley was offering, it was NOT a done deal....yet.
NBC was VERY worried about losing its #1 star and program, and invited Jack to a meeting in which possible legal and financial advantages which NBC could offer would be discussed.
Jack attended this meeting with an open mind, but Jack's writers were shocked when Jack returned an hour later....certainly sooner than expected for such complicated and involved discussions.
Josefsberg remembered how Jack seemed very disturbed when he returned from the meeting...He walked into the writer's office and announced, "Well fellas, we're going to CBS!". Then he got himself a soft drink and sat in a chair...and it looked like he was really seething about something. The writers didn't want to come out and ask Jack what was bothering him, but after he calmed down he told them.
NBC had hired three lawyers to sit in on the meeting and discuss legal options with Jack...and one of those lawyers just happened to be John Cahill. Cahill was the former United States Attorney who had prosecuted Jack and George Burns during the famous smuggling case ten years earlier. Cahill was no longer a government employee, but was now associated with NBC.
Jack was appalled at the "colossal gall, nerve and chutzpa" (Jack's words) at NBC for having Cahill (who had gone to great lengths to be extra-tough on Jack during the smuggling case) be involved in Jack's network negotiations. Jack told his writers, "Fellows, I don't know what they (NBC) would or wouldn't do, but even if they gave me a better offer, I'd still turn them down."
Jack probably would have moved to CBS anyway, but NBC certainly didn't help the situation.


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