Joan Marshall

(New Year’s Eve, 2016)

Fyl decided her husband is still too sick to be life of the party on a wet, cold night and so we’re sitting home on New Year’s Eve. I didn’t argue. Besides, there’s a Jack Benny marathon on Antenna TV. When the pizza came It was guest star Frankie Avalon singing, so I joined Fyl in front of her TV watching old Sid Caesar shows and munching on a Palermo’s special, thin crust, crispy, anchovies on half. Taking my empty plate into the kitchen later the Benny marathon was still on in the living room and I could hear Robert Goulet. Even an hour apart the difference in timbre, phrasing, range–hell, in sheer quality of everything–with Frankie Avalon was beyond glaring. Plus Goulet was much, much funnier in the follow up bit, a natural. Funniest of all, though, was Joan Marshall, the woman in the sketch and one of the great undiscovered comic talents of the sixties. Alas, she was gorgeous, and in that decade gorgeous and funny were not allowed to mix. In the thirties she might have been a screwball superstar, another Carole Lombard; in the fifties she could have been the female lead in a sophisticated comedy. But in the sixties only Jack Benny recognized how funny she was and let her run riot in a couple sketches. They said it really bothered Joan that she never got choice comedy roles, and she never seemed happy in her career being beautiful. Hollywood is full of beautiful women. It’s not full of naturally funny people. But sometimes what you are really good at and the times you live in don’t coincide. If only you’d been born twenty years earlier.

One thought on “Joan Marshall

  1. As soon as I read this I had to look up Joan Marshall.

    (Mild surprise): Oh! She’s the prosecuting attorney in the Star Trek episode “Court Martial.”

    (Greater surprise): Oh! She’s the crossdressing killer in “Homicidal”!

    So, obviously a wide range of talents, beyond comedy.

    Speaking of Jack Benny, I’ve been watching the first season of “Newhart” series on Internet Archive during those slow nights at work. (I assume this is “gray market” like a lot of the stuff on there.) I’ve never seen it before, but Newhart, like Benny, is so perfect at the being the hilarious straight man that I don’t mind the fact that the first couple of seasons, by all accounts, were not very good. (The cafe owner is just plain annoying, and his obsession with the rich girl turned hotel maid is more creepy than funny.)


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