Sadie Marks was born in Vancouver, British Columbia in 1905. She met Jack Benny when she was fourteen and he was performing at a Vancouver theatre, along with the Marx brothers. They were invited to the Marks home for a Passover dinner. One story is told that Sadie performed on the violin after dinner and Jack left in the middle of her performance. She was insulted enough to plan revenge by taking three friends with her to his show the next night and sit in the front row, refusing to laugh at anything he said.
They met again years later when she was working in the hosiery department of May's store. Jack was smitten and began dating her. He was not willing to commit to a relationship so Sadie began to see other men, becoming engaged to one. When Jack told her she was too young to marry and followed that statement with a proposal of his own, she pointed out his lack of logic. "You're not too young to marry me!" he replied.
They did get married in 1927. Jack had a radio show at this time and when one of the performers became ill, Sadie filled in for her at the last minute. After a few performances she became very popular and became a permanent part of the show, changing her legal name to the character she played, Mary Livingstone.
Their marriage wasn't without difficulties, but then even HEA romances have problems to overcome and character flaws to deal with. Mary was loyal, generous and had a sense of humour. On the flip side those who knew her said she could also be sharp tongued, vain and jealous. Jack, much as he loved Mary had times of infidelity. In spite of these problems, they loved each other. He was totally devoted to her and they remained married for nearly fifty years.
One problem Mary faced was stage fright. She managed it on the radio show but when the Jack Benny Show moved to television, she couldn't handle her fears and left the show.
They adopted a daughter Joan, but Mary and Joan had an often conflicted relationship.
Jack Benny died at home in 1974 of pancreatic cancer .His stage persona of the miserly curmudgeon was far from the truth of the real Jack Benny. He was loved by many and generous with his money and his time. His best friend George Burns became so overcome delivering the eulogy he was unable to go on. Another lifelong friend Bob Hope remarked it was the only time Jack Benny's timing failed him. He left them far too soon.
Jack's will arranged for one long stemmed red rose to be delivered to Mary every day for the rest of her life. She lived another nine years and died in 1983. They are buried together in Culver City California.
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