Mary Livingstone : biography
Mary Livingstone (born Sadie Marks, June 23, 1905Born in 1905 as per – June 30, 1983), was an American radio comedienne and the wife and radio partner of comedy great Jack Benny. Enlisted almost entirely by accident to perform on her husband's popular program, she proved a talented comedienne. But she also proved one of the rare performers – Barbra Streisand would prove to be another – to experience severe stage fright years after her career was established — so much so that she retired from show business completely, after two decades in the public eye, almost three decades before her death, and at the height of her husband and partner's fame.
Courting Jack Benny
Three years later, aged 17, Sadie visited California with her family while Jack Benny was in the same town for a show. Still nursing a small crush on the comedian, Sadie went to the theater to re-introduce herself to him. As he approached her in a hallway, she smiled and said, "Hello, Mr. Benny, I'm..." But he curtly cut her off with a "Hello," and continued on his way down the hall without pausing; she learned much later that when Benny was deep in thought about his work, it was nearly impossible to get his attention otherwise.
They met again a few years later — while she was said to be working as a lingerie salesgirl at a May Department Stores branch store in downtown Los AngelesThis story was retold in — and the couple finally began dating. Invited on a double-date by a friend who had married Sadie's sister, Babe, Benny brought Sadie along to keep him company. This time, the couple clicked: Jack was finally smitten with Sadie and asked her on another date. She turned him down at first — she was seeing another young man — but Benny persisted. He visited her at The May Company almost daily and was reputed to buy so much ladies' hosiery from her he helped her set a sales record; he also called her several times a day when on the road.
At the same time, Benny seemed fearful of a committed relationship and Sadie Marks continued dating other men, even becoming engaged, which panicked the comedian enough to beg her to come to Chicago, where he tried to convince her she was too young to marry. When the argument didn't convince her, Benny confessed he was in love with her and wanted to marry her himself. In a scene that could have been a later Jack Benny Program routine, she needled him about her being too young to marry. "You're not too young to marry me!" he retorted, his way of proposing. Sadie Marks broke her existing engagement and married Jack Benny in 1927. In her biography of her husband, she revealed she didn't tell him she was the little girl he'd once needled until after they'd dated awhile.
George Burns revealed in his memoir Gracie: A Love Story (1988) that he and his wife and performing partner Gracie Allen loved Jack Benny, but merely tolerated Mary, whom they disliked. Lucille Ball felt the same way, referring to Mary as a "hard-hearted Hannah".Brochu, Jim. (1990). "Lucy in the Afternoon: An Intimate Memoir of Lucille Ball", pp. 212-214. New York: William Morrow.Tucker, David C. (2007). "The Women Who Made Television Funny", p. 15. Jefferson, NC: McFarland.
Livingstone's relationship with their adopted daughter, Joan, was strained. In Sunday Nights at Seven (1990), her father's unfinished memoir that she completed with her own recollections, Joan Benny revealed she rarely felt close to her mother, and the two often argued:
She had so many good qualities — her sense of humor, her generosity, her loyalty to her friends. She had a famous, successful, and adoring husband; she had famous, interesting, and amusing friends; she lived in luxury; she was a celebrity in her own right. In short, she had everything a woman could possibly want. When I think of her it's with sadness because I wish she could have enjoyed it all more.Benny, Joan. Sunday Nights at Seven
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