"Every boy should have a dog, for a dog teaches a boy three valuable traits: fidelity, perseverance and to turn around three times before lying down."
Is The Athletic Benchley a contradiction in titular terms? No matter how out of shape Robert Benchley may have been, the well-regarded humorist and writer — who once said, “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” — wasn’t about to quit not giving up when it came to his stint as a favored contributor, from 1920 to 1932, to The Detroit Athletic Club News, the monthly house organ for members of that legendary auto and advertising club.
That Benchley’s wit, his often absurdist and wordplay-strewn work found itself in a publication for leaders of American industry and commerce was not so unusual. Publisher Charles A. Hughes, with high standards and literary appreciation for the DAC News beyond pumping out a simple club “newsletter,” was successful in not only featuring regional talent with sport writers, essays, and humor, but also writers ripped and ripe, so to speak, from the national scene in plays, novels, humor, news journals and articles.
Along with the “star writers” culled for this wider appeal, including Ring Lardner, James Thurber, Groucho Marx, Charles Goren, P.G. Wodehouse, Donald Ogden Stewart, and Dorothy Parker, Hughes invited Benchley, a writer of sophisticated humor about the common man, full of wit for the woebegone. Benchley was delighted to come on board and add to an impressive resume that included, in addition to being a founding member of New York’s Algonquin Round Table (where he served briefly as managing editor), Life, and many other publications. He was the Drama Critic for Life for years and reviewed many plays in New York, while having written many books, starting with Of All Things in 1914, all of them collections of short, humorous pieces and reviews.
Going Hollywood for a spell, Benchley found success with appearances in such films as Alfred Hitchcock's Foreign Correspondent, (1940) while working with Fred Astaire in two films, You’ll Never Get Rich (1941) and The Sky’s the Limit (1943) — and just to balance things out a bit — with Ginger Rogers, in The Major and the Minor (1942). But perhaps most memorable are his film shorts, which make up the bulk of Benchley’s 83 films. You can catch them now and then on TCM, such as his Academy Award winning How to Sleep, from 1935. .