``He was a nice man,'' writes George Burns in the foreword to this book by and about his friend of 50 years, a sentiment readers will resoundingly agree with. When Jack Benny died at age 80 in 1974, he left this unpublished autobiography, to which his daughter adds accounts of the family's home life. But far more entertaining and moving is Jack Benny's related story, tracing how this one-time vaudeville trouper who left his native Waukegan, Ill., in his youth rose to stardom on radio, in TV and films. The secret of his tremendous appeal, he reveals--as though taking us into his confidence--was impeccable timing as a comedian and an ability to endear himself to people. His daughter's contribution to the memoir offers interesting if repetitious recollections on growing up in Hollywood and vivid portraits of family friends Cary Grant, Ronald Colman, Lucille Ball and other famous folk. And although she professes love for her mother, Mary Livingston, she also criticizes her as pretentious, a spendthrift and generally mean-spirited. The daughter's sensibilities, at least as expressed here, contrast sharply with the father's big-hearted outlook on life. Photos not seen by PW. Author tour. (Nov.)
About half of this book consists of an unpublished autobiography that Jack Benny wrote in the late 1960s; the remainder comprises reminiscences and commentary by Joan Benny. Joan's feeling for her mother, Mary Livingstone, could best be described as ambivalent, and her life (including three marriages) hasn't been perfect, but the love and admiration she feels for her father is apparent. By virtually all accounts Benny was a nice, pleasant man, and those same adjectives also apply to this book. The best Benny biography is still The Jack Benny Show by Milt Josefsberg ( LJ 3/15/77), a long-time writer for Benny. But Sunday Nights is better than his manager Irving Fein's Jack Benny: An Intimate Biography ( LJ 12/15/75) or Mary Livingstone Benny and others' Jack Benny ( LJ 2/15/78). Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 7/90.-- John Smothers, Monmouth Cty. Lib., Manalapan, N.J.