Ben Graf Henneke – May 20,1914 - November 13, 2009
Ben G. Henneke was the president of Tulsa University in Tulsa, Oklahoma, from 1958 to 1967, but had an extensive career in radio in his earlier years.
In reply to a request for recollections regarding Jennifer Jones (or Phylis Isley as she was then known) and Robert Walker from their work together doing “The Phylis Isley Radio Theater” on KOME, Mr. Henneke graciously sent these memories.
He recalled that in one semester of 1938-1939 he was assigned a night school class in radio because he was “the only person in Tulsa who taught in a university and performed in radio”. Phil Isley was the driving force behind the creation of the half-hour show which was heard on Sunday afternoons for 13 weeks. Ben Henneke was hired to produce and direct these episodes, and he remembers:
“Phylis was a dream to work with. Always ebullient, always fitting in, and an able enough actress. Plastic and amenable. Delighted with suggestions she could think about and then make her own.
But Walker was in a different league. I’ve worked with a few good actors, and he was the best. Technically proficient in speech and working to be equally proficient physically. Sensitive. Curious as to why the person he was portraying did what he did.
As a human he was equally unusual. I was only a few years his senior, and not nearly so well trained as he. He never let me know that. When I was so overdriven as I was readying Macbeth for production on stage, while teaching a full load of classes and writing most of the Isley shows, as well as producing all of them, he volunteered to coach my Macbeth and to direct any of the scripts I thought he could. (I knew the irony of that at the time.) Macbeth, both actor and play, were better for his help. I think he directed the last of the radio shows.
I never saw either Phylis or Robert again after that fall flurry.”
Thank you for stirring old memories,
July 5, 2007