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Encyclopedia > Fred Allen
"He has eyes like Venetian blinds and a tongue like an adder" — radio/television critic John Crosby about humourist Fred Allen, portrayed here by caricaturist Al Hirschfeld.
"He has eyes like Venetian blinds and a tongue like an adder" — radio/television critic John Crosby about humourist Fred Allen, portrayed here by caricaturist Al Hirschfeld.

Fred Allen (born John Florence Sullivan on May 31, 1894 in Cambridge, Massachusetts) was an American comedian whose absurdist, pointed radio show (1934–1949) made him one of the most popular and forward-looking humourists in the so-called classic era of American radio. Image File history File links Image-FredAllenHirschfeld. ... Image File history File links Image-FredAllenHirschfeld. ... Al Hirschfeld photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1955 Albert Hirschfeld (June 21, 1903 – January 20, 2003) was an American caricaturist, best known for his simple black and white satirical portraits of celebrities and Broadway stars. ... May 31 is the 151st day of the year in the Gregorian calendar (152nd in leap years), with 214 days remaining. ... 1894 (MDCCCXCIV) was a common year starting on Monday (see link for calendar). ... Cambridge City Hall Settled: 1630 â€“ Incorporated: 1636 Zip Code(s): 02139 â€“ Area Code(s): 617 / 857 Official website: http://www. ... A comedian, or comic, is an entertainer who amuses an audience by making them laugh. ...

His best-remembered gag may be his long-running mock "feud" with friend and fellow comedian Jack Benny, but Allen didn't need it to make or secure his own reputation. He was one of the most accomplished, daring humourists of his (and most any) time. The unchallenged master ad-libber, he battled censorship and created routines whose style and substance alike influenced several future comic generations. Perhaps more than any of his generation, Fred Allen wielded an influence that outlived both his contemporaries and the medium that made him famous. Jack Benny (born Benjamin Kubelsky, February 14, 1894 – December 26, 1974), an American comedian, vaudeville performer, and radio, television, and film actor, was one of the biggest stars in classic American radio and was also a major television personality. ...


Growing up

Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts to Irish Catholic parents, Allen barely knew his mother, Cecilia Herlihy Sullivan, who died of pneumonia when he was short of three years old. Cambridge City Hall Settled: 1630 â€“ Incorporated: 1636 Zip Code(s): 02139 â€“ Area Code(s): 617 / 857 Official website: http://www. ... Irish Catholics are persons of predominantly Irish descent who adhere to the Roman Catholic faith. ... Pneumonia is an illness of the lungs and respiratory system in which the microscopic, alveoli (air-filled sacs) responsible for absorbing oxygen from the atmosphere become inflamed and flooded with fluid. ...

His father, James Henry Sullivan, and his infant brother, Robert, were taken in by one of his mother's sisters, "my Aunt Lizzie", around whom he hooked the first chapter of his second memoir, Much Ado About Me. The father was so shattered by the mother's death that, according to his famous son, he drank more heavily and engaged his witty storytelling less at home for a long enough time.

Aunt Lizzie, too, suffered: her husband, Michael, was partially paralysed by lead poisoning shortly after they married, leaving him mostly unable to work, something Allen remembered causing contention among her sisters who believed he had ruined her life, an opinion she didn't share. Eventually, Allen's father remarried and offered his sons the choice between coming with him and his new wife or staying with Aunt Lizzie. Allen's younger brother chose to go with their father, but Allen decided to "stay with my Aunt Lizzie. I never regretted it."

The vaudevillian

Allen received piano lessons as a boy, his father having brought an Emerson upright along when they moved in with his aunt. He learned exactly two songs, "Hiawatha" and "Pitter, Patter, Little Raindrops," and would be asked to play "half or all my repertoire" when visitors came to the house. He also worked at the Boston Public Library, where he discovered a book about the origin and development of comedy, endured other upheavals at home (various other aunts came and went living with Aunt Lizzie and prompted several moves), and took up juggling as well as learning more about comedy.

Finally, some library workers planned a show and asked him to mix between juggling and some of his comedy. When a girl in the crowd told him, "You're crazy to keep working here at the library. You ought to go on stage," Allen's career path was set.

Allen took a later job with a local piano company, added to his library work, and appeared at a number of amateur night competitions, soon taking the stage name Fred St. James and booking with the local vaudeville circuit at $30 a week, enough at that time to allow him to quit his jobs with the library and the piano company. Often billing himself as the world's worst juggler, Allen refined and advanced the mix of his clumsy juggling and the comic routines. He toured the world in a decade worth of vaudeville work during which a billing mixup provided the stage name change that stayed with him the rest of his life. Booked with a performer named Edgar Allen, he found the venue's front office scrambled the names, advertising Edgar James and Fred Allen.

Between vaudeville and Broadway

Allen gave vaudeville itself a timeline of 1875–1925, but he actually left vaudeville a few years earlier, moving to work in such Shubert Brothers stage productions as The Passing Show in 1922. The show played well in its runup to Broadway but lasted only ten weeks at the Winter Garden Theatre. Allen did, however, take something far more lasting from the show: one of the show's chorus girls, Portland Hoffa, who became his wife. ... The Winter Garden Theatre is located at Broadway and 50th Street in New York City. ... Portland Hoffa (b. ...

He also took good notices for his comic work in several of the productions, particularly Vogues and Greenwich Village Follies, and continued to develop his comic writing, even writing a column for Variety called "Near Fun." A salary dispute ended the column: Allen wanted only $60 a week to give up his theater work to become a full-time columnist, but his editor tried a sleight-of-hand based on the paper's ad rates to deny him. He spent his summer in Boston, honed his comic and writing skills even further, worked in a respectfully received duo that billed themselves as Fink and Smith, and played a few of the dying vaudeville houses.

He returned to New York to the pleasant surprise that Portland Hoffa was taking instruction to convert to Roman Catholicism. After the couple married, Allen began writing material for them to use together ("With a vaudeville act, Portland and I could be together, even if we couldn't find any work"), and the couple divided their time between the show business circuit and Allen's New England family home in summers.

From stage to radio

Fred Allen's first taste of radio came while he and Portland Hoffa waited for a promised slot in a new Arthur Hammerstein musical. In the interim, they appeared on a Chicago station's program, WLS Showboat, into which, Allen recalled, "Portland and I were presented ... to inject a little class into it." Their success in these appearances helped their theater reception; live audiences in the Midwest liked to see their radio favorites in person, even if Allen and Hoffa would be replaced by Bob Hope when the radio show moved to New York several months afterward. Arthur Hammerstein, the uncle of Oscar Hammerstein II, was an opera producer and one of the writers of the song Because of You, a major hit (#1 for 10 weeks) for Tony Bennett in 1951. ... Bob Hope KBE, KCSG, (May 29, 1903–July 27, 2003), born Leslie Townes Hope, was a famous British-American entertainer who appeared in vaudeville, on Broadway, on radio and television, in movies, and in performing tours for U.S. Army personnel. ...

The couple eventually got their Hammerstein show, Polly, which opened in Delaware and made the usual tour before hitting Broadway. Also in that cast was a young Englishman named Archie Leach, who received as many good notices for his romantic appeal as Allen got for his comic work. Hammerstein retooled the show before bringing it to New York, replacing everyone but two women and Allen. Leach decided to buy an old car and drive to Hollywood. "What Archie Leach didn't tell me," Allen remembered, "was that he was going to change his name to Cary Grant." Cary Grant Archibald Alexander Leach (January 18, 1904 – November 29, 1986), better known by his screen name, Cary Grant, was a British-born American film actor. ...

At home on the air

Polly never succeeded in spite of several retoolings, but Allen did go on to successful shows like The Little Show and Three's a Crowd, which eventually led to his full-time entry to radio in 1932.

"It's Town Hall Tonight!"

Allen first hosted The Linit Bath Club Revue on CBS, moving the show to NBC and becoming The Salad Bowl Revue (in a nod to new sponsor Hellmann's Mayonnaise) later in the year. The show became The Sal Hepatica Revue (1933–1934), The Hour of Smiles (1934–1935), and finally Town Hall Tonight (1935–1940). Allen's perfectionism (odd to some, considering his deft ad-libs) caused him to leap from sponsor to sponsor until Town Hall Tonight allowed him to set his chosen milieu (either an urbane small town or the small town way in the big city, depending on your interpretation) and finally established Allen as a bona fide radio star. CBS (formerly an acronym for Columbia Broadcasting System, the former legal name of the network) is one of the largest television networks, and formerly one of the largest radio networks, in the United States. ... NBC, (Formerly an acronym for the National Broadcasting Company until 2004), is an American television and radio network based in New York Citys Rockefeller Center. ... Hellmanns and Best Foods are brand names that are used for the same line of mayonnaise and other food products. ...

The hourlong show featured segments that would influence radio and, much later, television. Such news satires as Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In's "Laugh-In Looks at the News" and Saturday Night Live's "Weekend Update" owed their genesis to Town Hall Tonight's "The News Reel," later renamed "Town Hall News". Rowan & Martins Laugh-In was a United States comedy television show broadcast from January 22, 1968 through 1973 over the NBC network. ... Saturday Night Live (SNL) is a weekly late-night 90-minute comedy-variety show based in New York City which has been broadcast by NBC nearly every Saturday night since its debut on October 11, 1975. ...

The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson's Mighty Carson Art Players routines owed much, including its name, to Allen's Mighty Allen Art Players. Allen and company also satirised popular musical comedies and films of the day, including and especially Oklahoma!. Allen also did semi-satirical interpretations of well-known lives — including his own. The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson was the full name of NBCs The Tonight Show during the years that Johnny Carson hosted from 1962 to 1992. ... Oklahoma! (1943) was the first musical play written by composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist/librettist Oscar Hammerstein II (see Rodgers and Hammerstein). ...

From Town Hall to Allen's Alley

The show that became Town Hall Tonight was the longest-running hour-long comedy-based show in classic radio history. In 1940, Allen moved back to CBS with a new sponsor and show name, Texaco Star Theater. By 1942, he shortened the show to half an hour. He took over a year off due to hypertension and returned in 1944 with The Fred Allen Show on NBC; Blue Bonnet Margarine, Tenderleaf Tea, and Ford Motor Company would be the sponsors for the rest of the show's life. (Texaco, for its part, would revive Texaco Star Theater in 1948---on radio, and more successfully on television, making an American icon out of star Milton Berle). CBS (formerly an acronym for Columbia Broadcasting System, the former legal name of the network) is one of the largest television networks, and formerly one of the largest radio networks, in the United States. ... Texaco Star Theater, a comedy-variety show (radio, 1940-49; television, 1949-56), was one of the first hugely successful examples of U.S. television broadcasting. ... NBC, (Formerly an acronym for the National Broadcasting Company until 2004), is an American television and radio network based in New York Citys Rockefeller Center. ... Milton Berle This article or section seems not to be written in the formal tone expected of an encyclopedia entry. ...

Again, Allen again made a few changes. One was adding the singing DeMarco Sisters, to whom he'd been tipped by arranger-composer Gordon Jenkins. "We did four years with Mr. Allen and got one thousand dollars a week," Gloria DeMarco remembered. "Sunday night was the best night on radio." And Sunday night with Fred Allen seemed incomplete on any night listeners didn't hear the DeMarco Sisters---whose breezy, harmonious style became as familiar as their cheerfully sung "Mr. Al-len, Mr. Alll-llennnn" in the show's opening theme (Allen in the theme's brief pause would say something like, "It isn't the mayor of Anaheim, Azuza, and Cucamonga, kiddies") became a signature for three of the four years. Gordon Jenkins Gordon Hill Jenkins (12 May 1910-1 May 1984) was an American arranger who was an influential figure in popular music in the 1940s and 1950s, renowned for his lush string arrangements. ...

The other change proved his most enduring, premiering December 13, 1942. "Allen's Alley" followed a brief Allen monologue and comic segment with Portland Hoffa ("Misssss-ter Allll-llennnn!"), usually involving gags about her family which she instigated. Then, a brief music interlude would symbolise the two making their way to the fictitious alley, always launched by a quick exchange that began with Hoffa asking Allen what he would ask the Alley denizens that week. After she implored him "Shall we go?", Allen would reply with cracks like "As the two drumsticks said when they spotted the tympani, 'let's beat it!'"; or, "As one strapless gown said to the other strapless gown, 'What's holding us up?'" December 13 is the 347th day of the year (348th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... This article is about the year. ...

A small host of stereotypical characters greeted Allen and Hoffa down the Alley, discussing Allen's question of the week, usually drawing on news items or popular happenings around town, whether gas rationing, traffic congestion, the Pulitzer Prizes, postwar holiday travel, or the annual Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus visit. Ringling Bros. ...

The Alley went through a few changes in the first installments. Early denizens included sarcastic John Doe (John Brown), self-possessed Senator Bloat (Jack Smart), dimwit Socrates Mulligan (Charlie Cantor), and pompous poet Falstaff Openshaw (Alan Reed). But soon the Alley's four best-remembered regulars moved in and rarely disappeared: announcer Kenny Delmar as bellowing ("Some---Ah say, somebody's knockin' at mah doah!") Senator Beuregard Claghorn (the model for cartoon character Foghorn Leghorn), Parker Fennelly as stoic New England farmer, Titus Moody, Minerva Pious as the Jewish housewife, Pansy Nussbaum, and Peter Donald as fast-talking Irishman, Ajax Cassidy. In the United States, the name John Doe is used for a defendant or victim in a legal example or for a person whose identity is unknown or is intended to be anonymous. ... Alan Reed (August 20, 1907 – June 14, 1977) was the voice of Fred Flintstone on The Flintstones and various spin_off series. ... Senator Beauregard Claghorn was a popular radio character on the Allens Alley segment of The Fred Allen Show. ... Foghorn Leghorn in Foghorn Leghorn. ... Parker Fennelly personified the crusty New England Yankee in roles on radio, films and television. ... Minerva Pious (March 5, 1903 - March 16, 1979) was an actress in American radio. ... The word Jew ( Hebrew: יהודי) is used in a wide number of ways, but generally refers to a follower of the Jewish faith, a child of a Jewish mother, or someone of Jewish descent with a connection to Jewish culture or ethnicity and often a combination of these attributes. ...

The swing of the rapier

Highly literate and often absurdist, Allen's topical humour is thought an acquired taste for audiences curious about his generation of radio stars. But others find many parallels to today's world and absurdities. The "Allen's Alley" stereotypes make some cringe, but others find them lancing more than lauding stereotypes, letting listeners make up their own minds about how foolish they could be. "Interestingly enough," wrote Frank Buxton and Bill Owen, in The Big Broadcast 1920-1950, "[Claghorn, Nussbaum, Moody, and Cassidy] were never criticised as being anti-Southern, anti-Semitic, anti-New England, or anti-Irish. The warmth and good humour with which they were presented made them acceptable even to the most sensitive listeners."

Allen was probably his own best writer; he employed a staff (including the future author of The Caine Mutiny, Herman Wouk), but they served as his sounding boards and early draft consultants as much as actual writers. Allen himself worked as long as twelve hours a day on ideas and sketches. And his ad-libbing was so skilled that many a surviving show fades away behind the ending network identification, because Allen often ate up air time. It was not as unusual for him as for others to sign off with, "We're a little late, so good night, folks." Buxton and Owen believed the Allen show needed it more than anyone else of their era.

Closing the Alley

Then, in 1948, Fred Allen's radio fortunes changed almost overnight. In 1946-47, he had the top-ranked radio show. Thanks in large part to NBC's anxiety to keep more of its stars from joining Jack Benny in a wholesale defection to CBS (the CBS talent raids broke up NBC's hit Sunday night, and Benny also convinced George Burns and Gracie Allen and Bing Crosby to join his move), Allen also had a lucrative new contract, as did singing husband-and-wife situation comedy team Phil Harris & Alice Faye. NBC, (Formerly an acronym for the National Broadcasting Company until 2004), is an American television and radio network based in New York Citys Rockefeller Center. ... CBS (formerly an acronym for Columbia Broadcasting System, the former legal name of the network) is one of the largest television networks, and formerly one of the largest radio networks, in the United States. ... NBC, (Formerly an acronym for the National Broadcasting Company until 2004), is an American television and radio network based in New York Citys Rockefeller Center. ... George Burns, born Nathan Birnbaum (January 20, 1896 – March 9, 1996), was an American comedian and actor, arguably the greatest straight man of 20th-century American comedy. ... Gracie Allen, wife of comic legend George Burns, who started show business in vaudeville, became famous when teamed with him. ... Harry Lillis Bing Crosby (May 3, 1903? – October 14, 1977) was an American singer and actor whose career lasted from 1926 until his death in 1977. ... Phil Harris (b. ... Alice Faye, from her official Website, http://www. ...

But Allen was knocked off his NBC perch a year later, not by a CBS talent raid but by a show on a third rival network, ABC (the former NBC Blue Network). Their quiz-and-giveaway show, Stop the Music, hosted by Bert Parks, became a big enough hit to break into Allen's grip on that Sunday night time slot. At first, Allen fought fire with his own kind of fire: he offered $5,000 to any listener getting a call from Stop the Music or any similar game show while listening to The Fred Allen Show. He never had to pay up, nor was he shy about lampooning the game show phenomenon (especially a riotous parody of another quiz Parks hosted, lancing Break the Bank in a routine called "Break the Contestant", in which players didn't receive a thing but were compelled to give up possessions when they blew a question.) The American Broadcasting Company (ABC) is a television and radio network in the United States. ... Bert Parks (December 30, 1914 - February 2, 1992), an American actor, singer, and radio and television announcer and host, is remembered best as the longtime, iconic host (1955-1980) of the annual Miss America Pageant telecast, live from Convention Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey. ... Break the Bank is a title that has been used for three entirely separate American game shows throughout television history. ...

Unfortunately, Allen fell to number 38 in the ratings, as television began its rise as well. By this time, he had changed the show again somewhat, changing the famed "Allen's Alley" skits to take place on "Main Street," and rotating a new character or two in and out of the lineup. He stepped down from radio again in 1949, at the end of his show's regular season. While NBC declined his option at long enough last, his doctor again advised him to take a break for his health, and he decided to take a year off. But this time the year layoff did everything for his health and almost nothing for his radio career. After the 26 June 1949 show signed off, Fred Allen never hosted another radio show full-time again.

The feud

Good friends in real life, Fred Allen and Jack Benny hatched a running gag in 1937, after a child violinist's very credible performance on the Allen show inspired Allen to deliver a wisecrack about "a certain alleged violinist" should hide in shame over his poor playing. Benny responded in kind, and they were off and running. The back-and-forth got good enough notice that the two went with it for over a decade, doing it so well that many fans of both shows believed the two really were blood enemies.

The Allen-Benny feud was the longest-playing, best-remembered dialogic running gag in classic radio history. (By far the longest-running running sound gag in radio had to be Fibber McGee's clattering cluttered closet.) The gag even pushed toward a boxing match between the two comedians and the promised event was a sellout. It also never happened, really. The pair even appeared together in films, including 1940's Love Thy Neighbour and 1945's It's In The Bag, the latter also featuring William Bendix, Robert Benchley, and Jerry Colonna. Jim and Marian Jordan were featured in 1947 NBC promotional art by Sam Berman. ... William Bendix (January 14, 1906 - December 14, 1964) was an American film actor. ... Robert Charles Benchley (September 15, 1889 in Worcester, Massachusetts – November 21, 1945) was an American humorist, newspaper columnist, film actor, and drama editor. ... Gerardo Luigi Colonna (September 17, 1904- November 21, 1986) was an Italian-American comedian and songwriter. ...

Some of the feud's highlights involved a little-known gag writer working for Benny, Al Boasberg, credited for helping Benny refine his character into (arguably) America's first stand-up comedian. Steaming mad because of his long battles to get credits for films on which he worked uncredited (including the Marx Brothers's hit A Day at the Races), Boasberg was said to have delivered a tirade that ended up (in slightly altered form) in an Allen-Benny feud routine: Richard Pryor hits the money line A stand-up comedian or stand-up comic is someone that performs in comedy clubs, usually reciting a fast paced succession of amusing stories, short jokes and one-liners, typically called a monologue. ... See Marx brothers (fencing) for the 16th century German brotherhood. ... Code book scene A Day at the Races A Day at the Races (1937) is the seventh movie starring the three Marx Brothers, with Margaret Dumont, Allan Jones and Maureen OSullivan. ...

Allen: Why you fugitive from a Ripley cartoon ... I'll knock you flatter than the first eight minutes of this program.

Benny: You ought to do well in pictures, Mr. Allen, now that Boris Karloff is back in England. Boris Karloff Boris Karloff (November 23, 1887 – February 2, 1969), born William Henry Pratt, was an actor best known for his roles in horror films. ...

Allen: Why, if I was a horse, a pony even, and found out that any part of my tail was used in your violin bow, I'd hang my head in my oatbag from then on.

Benny's side of the feud included a tart interpretation of Allen's Town Hall Tonight show, which Benny and company called "Clown Hall Tonight." What those enraptured by the feud often missed: whenever they guested on each other's shows, the host was liable to hand the feuding guest the best lines of the night.

They toned the gag down after 1941, mostly, though they kept it going often enough as the years continued---right up to a hilarious 26 May 1946 climax, a week after Allen on the Benny show invited Benny to return the favour. The setup was another Allen game-show parody (of the bathetic Queen for a Day): Benny, the game winner, was ultimately stripped of his suit. ("You haven't seen the end of me!" Benny howled, as those presenting him with a professional pressing iron began reaching for his trousers. "It won't be long now!" Allen howled back.) Surviving recordings of this show yield up announcer Dorham trying to get one final commercial in before the bell---or, since this was an NBC show, the chimes--the master ad-libber had busted the clock yet again. Queen for a Day was an American Radio and TV show. ... The NBC chimes of the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) radio network in the United States was/were the first ever audio trademark (and the first service mark of any kind, inasmuch as it denotes a non-tangible form of commerce) to be accepted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark...

Allen and Benny couldn't resist one more play on the feud on Allen's final show. Benny appeared as a skinflint bank manager and mortgage company owner bedeviling Henry Morgan. Typically, Allen handed Benny the show's best crack: "Listen, I was never this cheap on my own program!" Henry Morgan (March 31, 1915 - May 19, 1994), born in New York City, was a comedian best remembered for having been a regular panelist on the CBS game show Ive Got a Secret. ...


Allen may have battled censors more than most of his radio contemporaries. "Fred Allen's fourteen-year battle with radio censorship," wrote the New York Herald-Tribune critic John Crosby, "was made particularly difficult for him by the fact that the man assigned to reviewing his scripts had little sense of humor and frankly admitted he didn't understand Allen's peculiar brand of humor at all." Among the blue pencils, according to Crosby, were: The New York Herald Tribune was a newspaper created in 1922 when the New York Tribune acquired the New York Herald. ...

  • Allen was barred from saying "Brenda never looked lovelier", at the time of socialite Brenda Frazier's wedding, unless he could get direct permission from the Frazier family itself.
  • Allen was ordered to change the Cockney accent he assigned the character of a first mate aboard the Queen Mary---on the grounds that the ship's first mate could only be a cultured man who might not like a cockney accent.
  • Allen actually had to fight to keep Mrs. Nussbaum in the Allen's Alley routines---because NBC feared Jewish-dialect humour "might offend all Jews", never mind that Jewish dialect humour had been a vaudeville and burlesque staple for years.
  • Allen was ordered not to even mention the fictitious town of North Wrinkle until or unless it could be proven that no such town actually did exist. (It didn't.)

"Allen not only couldn't poke fun at individuals", Crosby wrote, "he also had to be careful not to step on their professions, their beliefs, and sometimes even their hobbies and amusements. Portland Hoffa was once given a line about wasting an afternoon at the rodeo. NBC objected to the implication that an afternoon at the rodeo was wasted and the line had to be changed. Another time, Allen gagged that a girl could have found a better husband in a cemetery. (The censor) thought this might hurt the feelings of people who own and operate cemeteries. Allen got the line cleared only after pointing out that cemeteries have been topics for comedy since the time of Aristophanes." Bust of Aristophanes Aristophanes, in Greek ΄Αριστοφανης, (c. ...

The final years

After his own show ended, Allen became a regular attraction on NBC's The Big Show (1950 - 1952), hosted by Tallulah Bankhead. He appeared on 24 of the show's 57 installments, including the landmark premiere, and showed he hadn't lost his trademark ad-lib skill or his rapier wit. In some ways, The Big Show was an offspring of the old Allen show: his one-time Texaco Star Theater announcer, Jimmy Wallington, was one of The Big Show's announcers, and Portland Hoffa made several appearances with him as well. On the show's premiere, in fact, Allen---with a little prodding from head writer Goodman Ace---couldn't resist one more play on the old Allen-Benny "feud," a riotous parody of Benny's show called "The Pinch Penny Program." The Big Show can refer to several things. ... Tallulah Bankhead, photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1934 Tallulah Brockman Bankhead [1] (January 31, 1902 - December 12, 1968) was a United States actress, talk-show host and bonne vivante, born in Huntsville, Alabama. ... Goodman Ace (b. ...

It was also on The Big Show's premiere that Allen delivered perhaps his best-remembered crack about television: "You know, television is called a new medium, and I have discovered why they call it a medium---because nothing is well done." This jaundiced TV eye proved a bigger influence on the medium than his cynicism would have suggested. The Museum of Broadcast Communications considers Allen "the intellectual conscience of television." Aside from his famous crack about not liking furniture that talked, Allen observed that television allowed "people who haven't anything to do to watch people who can't do anything." The Museum of Broadcast Communications is located in Chicago, Illinois. ...

Allen tried three short-lived television projects of his own, including a bid to bring "Allen's Alley" to television in a visual setting similar to Our Town. It never saw the light of day; NBC apparently rejected the idea out of hand. "Television is a triumph of equipment over people," Allen observed after that, "and the minds that control it are so small that you could put them in the navel of a flea and still have enough room beside them for a network vice president." His other two short-lived tries were a quiz show (Judge For Yourself, developed to allow him to ad-lib with guests a la Groucho Marx; "lost in the confusion of a half hour filled with too many people and too much activity," wrote analyst Alan Havig); and, a comedy, Fred Allen's Sketchbook. Allen finally held down a two-year stint as a panelist on the CBS quiz, What's My Line?, from 1954 until his death in 1956 (March 17, 1956). Groucho Marx poses for an NBC promotional photograph Julius Henry Marx, known as Groucho Marx (October 2, 1890 – August 19, 1977), was an American comedian, working both with his siblings, the Marx Brothers, and on his own. ... Whats My Line? was a weekly panel game show originally produced by Mark Goodson and Bill Todman for CBS television. ...

Fred Allen on What's My Line?
Fred Allen on What's My Line?

Allen also spent his final years as a newspaper columnist/humourist and as a memoirist, renting a small New York office to work six hours a day without distractions. He wrote Treadmill to Oblivion (1954, reviewing his radio and television years) and Much Ado About Me (1956, covering his childhood and his vaudeville and Broadway years, and detailing especially vaudeville at its height with surprising objectivity). Image File history File linksMetadata FredAllen1. ... Image File history File linksMetadata FredAllen1. ...

But before he finished the final chapter completely (the book was published as the author had left it), Allen took his dog for a walk on West 57th Street, in New York City, on the night of St. Patrick's Day, 1956 -- and suffered a fatal heart attack. He was 61 years old. A tireless (and funny) letter writer, Allen's letters were edited by his wife into the publication of Fred Allen's Letters in 1965. St. ... 1956 (MCMLVI) was a leap year starting on Sunday of the Gregorian calendar. ...

Allen is buried in Hawthorne, New York and has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame: a radio star on 6709-1/2 Hollywood B and a TV star on 7021 Hollywood Blvd. His widow, Portland Hoffa, re-married in 1959, to bandleader Joe Rimes, and celebrated a second silver wedding anniversary well before her own death of natural causes in Los Angeles on Christmas Day, 1990. Hoffa also has a star on the Walk of Fame as well. Hawthorne is the name of several places in the United States of America: Hawthorne, California Hawthorne, Florida Hawthorne, Minneapolis, Minnesota Hawthorne, Nevada Hawthorne, New Jersey Hawthorne, New York Hawthorne, Portland, Oregon Hawthorne, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Hawthorne, Washington, D.C. Hawthorne is also a suburb of Brisbane, Queensland Australia. ... Official language(s) None, English de facto Capital Albany Largest city New York City Area  Ranked 27th  - Total 54,520 sq. ... An example of a Hollywood Walk of Fame star, for the film actress Carole Lombard. ... 1959 (MCMLIX) was a common year starting on Thursday of the Gregorian calendar. ... This article is about the largest city in California. ... Joseph and Mary with baby Jesus, at the first Christmas Christmas (literally, the Mass of Christ) is a holiday in the Christian calendar, usually observed on December 25, which celebrates the birth of Jesus. ... This article is about the year. ...

Fred Allen was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1988. The National Radio Hall of Fame and Museum, an offshoot of the Museum of Broadcast Communications in Chicago, Illinois, recognizes and showcases those who have contributed to the development of the medium throughout its history in the United States. ...

Listen to

For the 1930s NFL team, see Brooklyn Dodgers (football). ... Leo Ernest Durocher (July 27, 1905 - October 7, 1991), nicknamed Leo the Lip, was an American infielder and manager in Major League Baseball. ...

Quotations from Chairman Fred

Imitation is the sincerest form of television.

One avid TV fan wrote and asked me if I was extinct. This last card was sent in care of the Smithsonian Institution.

I'd like to be a squirrel. With all the nuts in radio, I would be very, very happy. (A classic Allen put-on: his routines often included a loud knock and an actor who was supposed to report to another studio to do another show entering his by mistake. A particularly memorable such routine included Frank Sinatra---then making his early fame as a solo artist and performing his own radio show---who was one of many young and rising talents to whom Allen gave exposure.)

The first time I saw Jane Russell, I wondered how she could get her kneecaps up into her sweater. Jane Russell in 1943. ...

A telescope will magnify a star a thousand times, but a good press agent can do even better.

Most of us spend the first 6 days of each week sowing wild oats, then we go to church on Sunday and pray for a crop failure.

During the Samuel Johnson days they had big men enjoying small talk. Today we have small men enjoying big talk. Samuel Johnson circa 1772, painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds. ...

The motto of the quiz show is, 'If you can't entertain them, give them something'.

Allen once noted that the name of the famous advertising firm, Batten, Barton, Durstine and Osborn, "sounded like a steamer trunk falling down a flight of stairs." Batten, Barton, Durstine & Osborn is an advertising agency formed by merging of BDO (Barton, Durstine & Osborn) and Batten Co. ... A trunk, also known as a travelling chest, is a large cuboid container for holding clothes and other personal belongings, typically about 1. ...

I am sorry that I cannot accept the Yale Record Award. In this country today, we have 5,000,000 unemployed. I am one of the 5,000,000. If you give me an award, how will the other 4,999,999 unemployed feel? In addition to relief payments and unemployment insurance, they, too, may want awards.

I never look a gift horse in the mouth, but I am not averse to looking an organisation in the motive.

From an interview Fred Allen gave John Crosby, after leaving his NBC show for the final time:

It's wonderful, this freedom. You can live on the money you save on aspirin. The only trouble is, I keep thinking of jokes and I don't know what to do with them. I thought of one the other day: "These days the price of coffee will keep you awake." Well, that joke has been keeping me awake. I just don't know what to do with it. I wish you'd take it off my hands.

The trouble with television is, it's too graphic. In radio, even a moron could visualise things his way; an intelligent man, his way. It was a custom-made suit. Television is a ready-made suit. Everyone has to wear the same one. Everything is for the eye these days---Life, Look, the picture business. Nothing is for the mind. The next generation will have eyeballs as big as cantaloupes and no brains at all.

Source material

  • Fred Allen, Much Ado About Me (Boston: Little, Brown, 1956).
  • Fred Allen, Treadmill to Oblivion (Boston: Little, Brown, 1954).
  • Fred Allen, ed. by Joe McCarthy, Fred Allen's Letters (New York: Doubleday, 1965)
  • Fred Allen, ed. by Stuart Hample, all the sincerity in hollywood...(New York: Fulcrum Publishing, 2001). (The lower-case of the title was a tribute to Allen's habit, later in his life, of writing his letters in all-lower case, a la poet e.e. cummings.)
  • Frank Buxton and Bill Owen, The Big Broadcast: 1920-1950 (New York: Flare Books/Avon, 1972).
  • John Crosby, Out of the Blue: A Book About Radio and Television (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1952).
  • Alan Havig, Fred Allen's Radio Comedy (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1989).
  • Ben Schwartz, ""The Man Who Invented Jack Benny."
  • Robert Taylor, Fred Allen: His Life and Wit (New York: International Polygonics, 1990).

Edward Estlin Cummings (October 14, 1894 - September 3, 1962) was an American poet and writer. ...

External links

  Results from FactBites:
Fred Allen - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (3845 words)
Fred Allen (born John Florence Sullivan on May 31, 1894 in Cambridge, Massachusetts) was an American comedian whose absurdist, pointed radio show (1934–1949) made him one of the most popular and forward-looking humourists in the so-called classic era of American radio.
Fred Allen's first taste of radio came while he and Portland Hoffa waited for a promised slot in a new Arthur Hammerstein musical.
Fred Allen was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1988.
  More results at FactBites »



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