Jane Ace

Jane Ace (born Jane Epstein) (October 12, 1897November 11, 1974) was the high-voiced, malaprop-mastering wife on legendary, low-keyed American radio comedy "Easy Aces" (1930-45). Playing herself opposite her real-life husband and the show's creator-writer, Goodman Ace (1899-1982), she sent a truckload of clever malaprops over the air in each episode of the urbane serial comedy, and many became part of the American vernacular.

Born in Kansas City, Missouri, Jane Epstein met Goodman Ace while both attended the same Kansas City high school and Goodman, hoping to make a writing career, edited the school newspaper. In due course, he became a movie critic and columnist for the Kansas City "Journal-Post". The couple married in 1922 and caught their big break a few years later, while Goodman gave his witty reviews once a week on Kansas City radio station KMBC as well. One night in 1930, the show following his slot failed to feed, and Ace had to fill the fifteen minutes' air time. He invited Jane---who'd accompanied him to the studio that night---to join him on the air chatting about a murder case that had broken locally and a bridge game they played the previous weekend. The couple's witty impromptu (Jane: "Would you like to shoot a game of bridge, dear?") provoked such a response that the station invited them to develop their own domestic comedy.

Conceived and written by Goodman Ace, "Easy Aces" graduated within two years from a strictly local show to a network offering (first from Chicago, then from New York). Goodman played himself as a put-upon realtor, and Jane played "his awfully-wedded wife" (and used the name Sherwood as her on-air character's maiden name) with an endearing mixture of sweet-natured meddlesomeness and language mangling. Her husband once swore that she was a natural malapropper, but in radio character Jane became the unchallenged mistress of the kind of malaprops that (unlike Gracie Allen's "illogical logic") substituted words in seemingly ordinary phrasing and still made perverse sense, after a fashion. And, after a listener laughed hysterically and invariably.

Many years after "Easy Aces" ended at last, Goodman Ace revealed that Jane had never had any kind of acting experience before the show was born, though she was movie-star pretty as a young woman. (The Aces tried a short-lived, expanded revival on radio in 1948, known as "mr. ace and JANE", before trying a television version of the original "Easy Aces" style in 1949.) A homebody at heart, she sought no further acting work after the show ended at last, mostly retiring to a quiet life, except for a brief spell as what her husband described (in a 1952 essay) as "a comedienne now making her come-down as a disc jockey." Husband Goodman continued a second career as a radio and television writer and regular essayist for "Saturday Review", and his writings for that magazine frequently referenced Jane's doings, undoings, sayings, and unsayings.

Jane Ace died in New York City in 1974 following a long illness. Goodman Ace composed a beautiful eulogy in a subsequent "Saturday Review" column:

"...now alone at a funeral home...the questions...the softly spoken suggestions...repeated, and repeated... because ...because during all the arrangements, through my mind there ran a constant rerun, a line she spoke on radio...on the brotherhood of man ...in her casual, malapropian style ... "we are all cremated equal" ... they kept urging for an answer...a wooden casket? ... a metal casket? ...it's the name of their game ... a tisket a casket...and then transporting it to Kansas City, Mo."

"...the plane ride..."smoking or non-smoking section?" somebody asked ... the non-thinking section was what I wanted.... ...a soft sprinkle of snow as we huddled around her...the first of the season, they told me ... lasted only through the short service ...snow stopped the instant the last words were spoken. He had the grace to celebrate her arrival with a handful of His confetti ..."

That eulogy provoked hundreds of letters from current readers and old radio fans alike. With several hundred episodes of "Easy Aces" now circulating among old-time radio collectors (these are the episodes the Aces syndicated as successful through the Frederick W. Ziv Company in 1945), Jane Ace has been discovered by fans who weren't even alive before her own death, never mind when she was radio's malaprop mistress. The Radio Hall of Fame helped make sure of that, inducting "Easy Aces" and its co-stars in 1990.

"Jane-isms"

* "Home wasn't built in a day."

* "Congress is back in season."

* "You could have knocked me down with a fender."
* "Up at the crank of dawn."
* "Time wounds all heels."
* "Now, there's no use crying over spoiled milk."
* "I'm completely uninhabited".
* "Seems like only a year ago they were married nine years!"
* "I am his awfully-wedded wife."

* "I've always wanted to see my name up in tights."
* "He blew up higher than a hall."
* "I look like the wrath of grapes."
* "I wasn't under the impersonation you meant me."
* "He shot out of here like a bat out of a belfry."

* "He has me sitting on pins and cushions waiting."
* "The coffee will be ready in a jitney."
* "This hangnail expression . . ."

* "I'm a member of the weeper sex."
* "I don't drink, I'm a totalitarian."
* "Well, you've got to take the bitter with the better."

* "The way things are these days, a girl's gotta play hard to take."

External links

* [http://www.comedystars.com/Bios/aces.shtml Encyclo Comedia]
* [http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=6845326 Jane Ace's Gravesite]


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