He appeared in some notable films, but also in some very forgettable shorts. He was a commentator, a raconteur, a humorist, a veteran of Vanity Fair and The New Yorker at their peaks and, well, a lot of things that no one else in the movies was at the time.
He was hardly a heart throb. And his satirical brand of humor has frayed over time. Robert Benchley was largely a creature spawned by his years as a Harvard undergrad and as a regular in the New York literary salon known the Algonquin Round Table.
But over the course of a relatively brief Hollywood career — consisting of some 91 credits amassed before 1945 when he died of a stroke at the age of 56 (yes, he was a drinker) — he made his mark in some bigtime Hollwood productions.
For example, there he is above with a young Susan Hayward and Fredric March in 1942’s I Married A Witch, in which he played one Dr. Dudley White. Below, he is shown in equally illustrious company including George Sanders and Joel McCrea, in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1940 patriotic barnburner, Foreign Correspondent.
Also were features such as 1943’s Flesh and Fantasy…
And his big-screen swan song, 1946’s Janie Gets Married. (That’s Benchley second from right, next to Edward Arnold.)
Benchley qualified for the feature bigtime on the popularity of his many shorts, which played theaters before the main attraction unspooled. These vehicles fully incorporated his wry outlook on things exemplified by such witticisms as:
In America there are two classes of travel — First Class and with children. Traveling with children corresponds roughly to traveling third class in Bulgaria.
Drinking makes such fools of people, and people are such fools to begin with, that it’s compounding a felony.
It took me 15 years to discover that I had no talent for writing, but I couldn’t give it up because by that time I was too famous.