Monday, June 27, 2011

Old-time radio meets the Cartoons...

It had been a few months since I did a You Tube video search for a certain cartoon but nearly 10 minutes ago I was over on You Tube and I decided to look up Toy Town Hall and to my amazement someone had uploaded it. According to the specifics it was uploaded late in March of this year so it's only been around a couple of months. The cartoon originates from 1936 and it's one of those caricature cartoons that I love seeing. The cartoon features a myriad of celebrity caricatures of the time period...a few of them are unfamiliar to me...but most of them I recognize due to one of my earlier hobbies of listening to old-time radio programs of the '30s and '40s and becoming familiar with classic movies.

At the start of the cartoon you'll hear an impression of Ben Bernie on the radio...using a line that's been used in other Warner Brothers cartoons that have caricatured him visually. The cartoon is "hosted" by a caricature of Fred Allen who pops out of a jack-in-the-box. Although the cartoon focused on having celebrities as toys it's ironic that the animators/writers would have Fred Allen as a jack-in-the-box considering his comical feud with Jack Benny. That's perhaps why they decided on caricaturing Fred Allen as a jack-in-the-box, specifically. Allen at the time was the host of Town Hall Tonight...which was the fifth name given to his national radio program following The Linit Bath Club Revue (1932-1933), The Salad Bowl Revue (1933), The Sal Hepatica Revue (1934), and The Hour of Smiles (1934-1935). The show remained under the title of Town Hall Tonight from 1935 through 1939. He hosted a self-titled Fred Allen Show during 1939-1940 and then from 1940 through 1944 he was the host of Texaco Star Theater. On-going battles with hypertension caused him to take nearly a year and a half hiatus in 1944 and he returned in the fall of 1945 with another self-titled program, The Fred Allen Show. This remained on the air through 1949 and after it's final episode in the summer of 1949 Allen never hosted another radio program full-time again.

In the early '50s he was a recurring guest on radio's The Big Show...appearing in nearly 30 episodes out of the 57 that were produced. Allen appeared in early episodes of television game shows...specifically his regular appearances on What's My Line? in the mid '50s. He was a frequent guest on the program for two years and had become popular with it's viewers...so popular that after his death in 1956 the game show mentioned his death on the air and at the end of the show each member of the panel gave their memories of him. Throughout his radio career he was often joined by his wife, Portland Hoffa. She's caricatured in this cartoon...saying her catch-phrase. The caricature you see on the screen below is Eddie Cantor. Modern-day readers who have no knowledge of old-time radio or classic entertainment will have no idea what's taking place in the cartoon and why it's considered funny by a lot of people who have appreciation for radio comedy. Also, modern-day readers keep in mind that Fred Allen and Steve Allen were two different comedians and neither of them were related to each other. I've come across web-sites where people see the name Fred Allen and they immediately think of Steve Allen.

And now that I've given a brief history of Fred Allen enjoy one of the cartoons that put his likeness center-stage...

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