Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Fred Allen, Town Hall Tonight Feb. 22, 1939

Fred Allen, February 22, 1939

Fred Allen has at least two appearances (via reference) in cartoons in 1939; as Krazy Kat's voice in Krazy's Bear Tail and being imitated by the Edward G. Robinson character in Thugs with Dirty Mugs.

Note the theme song is cartoon related song Smile Darn Ya Smile (in keeping with sponsor Ipana Toothpaste). More cartoon music about 15 minutes in as well (Raymond Scott's The Toy Trumpet). Allen's show would also eventually have Senator Claghorn in the '40s, the supposed source for Foghorn Leghorn's voice.

The show is, to my ear, a cluttered mess. The Benny program is half the length and ten times as structured. I don't understand how the Allen show was as big as it was; the material isn't bad line to line, but it's all over the place. It is clear to me why Benny is still an echo in culture while Allen is more or less a footnote to that echo. It doesn't help Allen's legacy that he died in the '50s, or that he reportedly hated television in some manner (a manner which didn't keep him from being a panelist on What's My Line for two years) of course, but I think it is deeper than that.


  1. Hey, the late '30s Allen shows may not be his best work, but it strikes me as rather cruel to suggest that Allen DESERVES his place as a footnote in cultural history. The general consensus among OTR fans such as myself is that Allen was a brilliant man.

  2. As to cruelty, read the "about me" box...

    Just because Fred Allen was able to write and deliver a funny line doesn't mean he made a good show overall. I have heard Allen on the Benny show several times, and quite enjoyed his appearances. This makes his own show all the more disappointing. The show was successful enough in its time, but it does not translate to my ear, unlike the Benny show which is an immediately friendly form and consistently entertaining throughout most episodes. I think Benny deserves to be more than the echo he is, perhaps Allen deserves to be more than a footnote to an echo. But the Allen show is alien in its form to me; I can understand that others would find it similarly alien, similarly rambling, and thus would consign the show, and thus Allen, to a lesser place.

  3. Thanks for the link; I haven't heard this particular broadcast.

    Fred's show is no less structured than any of the three types of formats Benny used. The same segments appeared at the same time every week. It's structured like a variety show or the old Tonight Show. Benny's best-known formatic structure was more like a sitcom; it's difficult to compare the two. Of course, Allen's structure changed when he went back to the half-hour length in the '40s.

    It was nice to hear 'Hawaiian War Chant'. Didn't Avery use it in 'Musical Maestro?'