- Fred Allen
Infobox Radio Presenter
name = Fred Allen
imagesize = 200px
caption = Fred Allen with dummy, c.1916
birthname = John Florence Sullivan
birthdate = birth date|1894|5|31|mf=y
deathdate = death date and age|1956|3|17|1894|5|31|mf=y
New York City, New York
show = The Fred Allen Show
style = Comedian
web = |
Fred Allen (born John Florence Sullivan
May 31 1894- March 17, 1956) was an American comedianwhose absurdist, pointed radioshow (1934–1949) made him one of the most popular and forward-looking humorists in the so-called classic era of American radio.cite news |work=The New York Times |title=FRED ALLEN'S WILL FILED; Widow Gets Half Outright and Income From Other Half |date= 1956-04-11|quote= John F. Sullivan, known in the theatrical world as Fred Allen, bequeathed one-half of his estate outright to his and directed that she receive the income |page=49]
His best-remembered gag may be his long-running mock feud with friend and fellow comedian
Jack Benny. Allen has been considered one of the more accomplished, daring and relevant humorists of his time. A master adlibber, he constantly battled censorship and developed routines the style and substance of which influenced future comic talents, notably Stan Freberg. Perhaps more than anyone else of his generation, Fred Allen wielded influence that outlived both his contemporaries and the medium that made him famous. HWOF sentence|genre=radio
Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Irish Catholicparents, Allen barely knew his mother, Cecilia Herlihy Sullivan, who died of pneumoniawhen he was not quite three years old. 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 focused 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 son, he drank more heavily.
Aunt Lizzie, too, suffered: her husband, Michael, was partially paralyzed by lead poisoning shortly after they married, leaving him mostly unable to work, something Allen remembered as causing contention among Lizzie's sisters. 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. "I never regretted it," he wrote.
Allen took 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. Enduring various upheavals at home (other aunts came and went, prompting several moves), Allen also took up juggling while learning as much as possible about comedy.
Some library co-workers planned to put on a show and asked him to do a bit of 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 decided his 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.
While performing in vaudeville, Allen commissioned comic-strip artist
Martin Brannerto cover a theatre curtain with an elaborate mural painting depicting a cemetery with a punchline on each gravestone. This was the cemetery where old jokes go to die. In Allen's act, the audiences would see the curtain (and have at least a minute to read its punchlines) before Allen made his entrance. Audiences often would be laughing at the curtain before Allen even appeared. Robert Taylor's biography of Allen includes an impressive full-length photo of Branner's curtain painting, and many of the punchlines are clearly legible in the photo.
Allen's wit was at times not intended for the vaudeville audience but rather for other professionals in show business. After one of his appearances failed one day, Allen made the best of it by circulating an obituary of his act on black-bordered funeral stationery.
Allen gave vaudeville itself a timeline of 1875–1925 in "Much Ado About Me", but he actually left vaudeville a few years earlier, moving to work in such
Shubert Brothersstage 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.
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, Allen's New England family home and Old Orchard Beach, Maine, in summers.
Fred Allen's first taste of radio came while he and Portland Hoffa waited for a promised slot in a new
Arthur Hammersteinmusical. 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 Hopewhen the radio show moved to New York several months afterward.
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
"Polly" never succeeded in spite of several retoolings, but Allen did go on to successful shows like "The Little Show" (1929-30) and "Three's a Crowd" (1930-31), 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 NBCand becoming "The Salad Bowl Revue" (in a nod to new sponsor Hellmann'sMayonnaise) later in the year. The show became "The Sal Hepatica Revue" (1933-34), "The Hour of Smiles" (1934–35), and finally "Town Hall Tonight" (1935–40). 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 a small neighborhood in the big city, depending on your interpretation) and finally established Allen as a bona fide radio star.
The hour-long 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".
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 satirized 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 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
CBSwith a new sponsor and show name, " Texaco Star Theater" (every Wednesday at 9:00 p.m. EST on CBS). By 1942, he shortened the show to half an hour — under network and sponsor edict, not his own. He also chafed under being forced to give up a "Town Hall Tonight" signature, using barely-known and amateur guests effectively, in favor of booking more recognizable guests, though he liked many of those.
He took over a year off due to hypertension and returned in 1945 with "The Fred Allen Show" on
NBC. Blue Bonnet Margarine, Tenderleaf Tea and Ford Motor Company were the sponsors for the rest of the show's life. Texaco revived "Texaco Star Theater" in 1948 on radio, and more successfully on television, making an American icon out of star Milton Berle).
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." 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. During the theme's brief pause, Allen would say something like, "It isn't the mayor of Anaheim, Azusa and Cucamonga, kiddies." [a sarcastic jab at a running gag on fellow-comedian, Jack Benny's, show] That device became a signature for three of the four years. The other change, born in the Texaco days and evolving from his earlier news spoofs, 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 symbolize 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?'"
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 Circusvisit.
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), dimwitted Socrates Mulligan (Charlie Cantor), and pompous poet Falstaff Openshaw ( Alan Reed). By 1945, three members of the Alley's best-remembered quartet solidified and rarely disappeared: Parker Fennellyas stoic New England farmer Titus Moody, Minerva Piousas the Jewishhousewife Pansy Nussbaum, and Peter Donaldas fast-talking Irishman Ajax Cassidy. Pious told Allen about Kenny Delmar, who joined the cast October 5, 1945, as both the show's announcer and the bellowing Southerner Senator Beauregard Claghorn. Delmar based the character on a real-life person he had encountered while hitchhiking in 1928. Within weeks, Claghorn became one of the leading comedy characters of radio as listeners across the country began quoting his catch phrases: "Somebody, Ah say, somebody knocked"; "That's a joke, son"; and "Pay attention, boy!" Claghorn served as the model for the Warner Bros.cartoon character Foghorn Leghorn, who first appeared the following August in the Oscar-nominated " Walky Talky Hawky".
Highly literate and often absurdist, Allen's topical humor is sometimes thought an acquired taste for audiences curious about his generation of radio stars. But others find many parallels to today's world and its absurdities. The "Allen's Alley" stereotypes make some cringe, as Allen biographer Robert Taylor noted (in "Fred Allen: His Life and Wit"), 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 criticized as being anti-Southern, anti-Semitic, anti-New England or anti-Irish. The warmth and good humor 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 12 hours a day on ideas and sketches. And his adlibbing 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 his era.
Allen also "died" more eloquently than other radio comics, particularly in the later years. When a joke was greeted with an awkward silence, Allen would comment on the lack of response, with his ad-libbed "explanation" almost always funnier than the original joke.
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 Burnsand Gracie Allenand Bing Crosbyto join his move)] Allen got a lucrative new contract. [cite news |work=The New York Times |title=Fred Allen Signed by NBC for Next Season -- New Competition for Benny Program |page=28 |date= 1949-03-19|quote=Fred Allen has signed a contract which commits his services in both radio and television for next season exclusively to the National Broadcasting Company.]
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 Bluenetwork). The quiz show, "Stop the Music", hosted by Bert Parks, required listeners to participate live, by telephone. The show 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". [cite news |work=The New York Times |title=ALLEN 'INSURES' OWN RADIO FANS; Takes Out Bond to Repay Them for Any Prize They Lose by Tuning Out 'Give-Aways' |page=25 |date= 1948-10-04] He never had to pay up, nor was he shy about lampooning the game show phenomenon (especially a riotous parody of another quiz show 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.)
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. When NBC declined his contract renewal, 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
June 26, 1949, show, Fred Allen never hosted another radio show full time again.
Good friends in real life, Fred Allen and
Jack Bennyinadvertently hatched a running gag in 1937. It all started when child violinist Stewart Canin's very credible performance on the Allen show inspired Allen to deliver a wisecrack about "a certain alleged violinist," who should hide in shame over his poor playing. Allen often mentioned his show-business friends on the air ("Mr. Jacob Haley of Newton Highlands, Massachusetts" was Allen's way of saying hello to his pal Jack Haley), and on the Canin broadcast Allen knew his friend Jack Benny would be listening. When Benny responded in kind on his own program, Allen fired back, 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 dialogue 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 Neighbor" and 1945's "
It's in the Bag!", Allen's only starring vehicle, also featuring William Bendix, Robert Benchley, and Jerry Colonna.
Some of the feud's highlights involved Al Boasberg, who is credited with helping Benny refine his character into (arguably) America's first
stand-up comedian. Boasberg was well known behind the scenes as a top comedy writer, but he seldom received recognition in public. He worked, uncredited, on many films (including the Marx Brothers' hit "A Night at the Opera"). Steaming mad because of his long battles for recognition, Boasberg was said to have delivered a tirade that ended up (in slightly altered form) in an Allen-Benny feud routine:
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 Karloffis back in England."
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, though they kept it going often enough as the years continued. The biggest climactic event of the feud was broadcast on Allen's show May 26, 1946. In a sketch called "King for a Day," satirizing big-money game shows, Benny pretended to be a contestant named Myron Proudfoot on Allen's new quiz show. Allen: "Tomorrow night, in your ermine robe, you will be whisked by bicycle to
Orange, New Jersey, where you will be the judge in a chicken-cleaning contest."
Benny (rapturously): "I'm KING for a Day!"
[Allen proceeds to have Benny's clothes pressed:]
Allen: "Upon our stage we have a Hoffman pressing machine."
Benny: "Now wait a minute! Wait a minute!"
Allen: "An expert, operating the Hoffman pressing machine, will press your trousers."
Benny: "NOW WAIT A MINUTE!!!" (total audience hysteria laughter, as Benny's pants are literally removed).
Allen: "Quiet, King!"
Benny: "Allen, this is a frame---" (starts laughing himself) "Where are my pants?"
Allen: "Keep your shirt on, King."
Benny: "You BET I'll keep my shirt on!"
Allen: "We're a little late, folks! Tune in next week---"
Benny: "Come on, Allen, where are my pants!"
Allen: "Benny, for 15 years I've been waiting to see you here like this!"
Benny: "Allen, you haven't seen the END of me!"
Allen: "It won't be long NOW!"
Benny: "I WANT MY PANTS!"
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!"
Benny even used the feud on his TV show, which depicted Benny and Allen as rivals for the sponsor's favors. When the sponsor pointed out that Benny was also a musician, Allen countered with a passage on his clarinet.
In Benny's eventual co-memoir (his daughter added her own recollections and published it after his death), he revealed that the feud may have begun spontaneously, following the Stewart Canin incident, but that it went over big enough with listeners "that we decided to hold a summit meeting with my two writers and Allen's five writers and plan the strategy of our feud. It was all cold and calculated and the sky was the limit. Or rather, the mud was the limit."
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:
* 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
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 had not 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— could not resist one more play on the old Allen-Benny "feud," a riotous parody of Benny's show called "The Pinch Penny Program."
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 Communicationsconsiders 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."
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". 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 the heart of a network vice president." His other two TV tries were quiz shows. "Judge For Yourself" (subtitled "The Fred Allen Show") was a game show incorporating musical acts. The idea was to allow Allen to ad-lib with guests a la
Groucho Marx, but the involved format had to be revamped in the middle of the run. (The star was "lost in the confusion of a half hour filled with too many people and too much activity," wrote Alan Havig.) A comedy series, "Fred Allen's Sketchbook," didn't catch on.
Allen finally held down a two-year stint as a panelist on the CBS quiz show "
What's My Line?" from 1954 until his death in 1956 (March 17, 1956). Allen actually appeared as a Mystery Guest on " What's My Line?" on July 17, 1955, when he was taking a week off from the show to have an emergency appendectomy.
Allen also spent his final years as a newspaper columnist/humorist 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); the former — which included many of his vintage radio scripts — was the best-selling book on radio's classic period for many years.
" story the next day reporting his death) was that he died walking his dog, but his biographer Robert Taylor revealed Allen had never owned a dog. A tireless (and funny) letter writer, Allen's letters were edited by his wife into the publication of "Fred Allen's Letters" in 1965.
The following Sunday after his death, the producers of What's My Line? wanted to do a Fred Allen tribute and retrospective, but, as host John Daly stated in a special message before the opening credits, Allen's wife Portland Hoffa said "no", instead wishing that the show be conducted as it always was, in honor of Fred.
Steve Allensat in Fred's chair on the panel, and he, Arlene Francis, and Bennett Cerfgave heartfelt tributes to Fred at the end of that program. Dorothy Kilgallenthanked Steve Allen for stepping in at a difficult moment.
Allen is buried at
Gate of Heaven Cemeteryin Hawthorne, New York(his headstone has both his real and stage names) and has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame: a radio star on 6709½ Hollywood Blvd. and a TV star on 7021 Hollywood Blvd. His widow, Portland Hoffa, married bandleader Joe Rimes in 1959 and celebrated a second silver wedding anniversary well before her own death of natural causes in Los Angeleson Christmas Day, 1990. Hoffa has a star on the Walk of Fame as well. Fred Allen was inducted into the Radio Hall of Famein 1988.
*"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 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."
Samuel Johnsondays they had big men enjoying small talk. Today we have small men enjoying big talk."
*"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."
*"I never look a gift horse in the mouth, but I am not averse to looking an organisation in the motive."
*"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."
*"Television is a medium because anything well done is rare."
References in popular culture
Tex Avery's cartoon" Thugs with Dirty Mugs" features the main character addressing the audience and showing them his Fred Allen impersonation in one scene.
*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 typing his letters in all-lower case, a la poet
e. e. cummings.)
* Jack Benny and Joan Benny, "Sunday Nights at Seven: The Jack Benny Story". (New York: Warner Books, 1990).
*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" ('Written By', Writer's Guild of America, 2002)
*Robert Taylor, "Fred Allen: His Life and Wit" (Boston: Little, Brown, 1989).
* [http://www.otr.net/?p=faln OTR Network Library: "The Fred Allen Show" (84 episodes)]
* [http://ia340911.us.archive.org/2/items/Biography_in_Sound/Biography_in_Sound_-_561218_-_71_-_Fred_Allen.mp3 "Biography in Sound": "A Portrait of Fred Allen" (May 29, and December 18, 1956)]
* [http://www.laughterlog.com/radio/rad-fredallen.HTM Laughterlog.com] Biography with list of radio, television, film and record appearances
NAME= Allen, Fred
ALTERNATIVE NAMES= Sullivan, John Florence
DATE OF BIRTH=
May 31 1894
PLACE OF BIRTH=
DATE OF DEATH=
March 17 1956
PLACE OF DEATH=
New York City, New York
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