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"Mrs Fred Allen"
The half-hour reformat of Texaco Star Theatre reduced Allen's opportunities for spontaneity, but lead to the introduction on Dec 6, 1942, of "Allen's Alley". This became one of Allen's best remembered routines. The "Alley" would follow Fred's monologue and a brief comic segment with Portland. Fred and Portland would walk down the Alley, knocking on doors and asking the question of the week. Responding would be Alley residents John Doe, Senator Bloat, town drunk Sampson Souse, poet Falstaff Openshaw, Jewish housewife Pansy Nussbaum, and others. Although modern audiences may cringe at the ethnic stereo-typing, they were rarely seen as anti-Southern, anti-Semitic, or anti-New England.
Fred Allen with the residents of Allen's Alley
Author Gerald Nachman called "Allen's Alley": "…just another excuse for Allen to bounce news items off recurring characters, the Alley's residents had larger-than-life personalities." Allen constantly tweaked the combination of characters that resided in the Alley to come up with the most humorous and workable combination.
Usually the first door knocked on was that of Senator Claghorn. ("Somebody, ah say, Somebody knocked!") The Senator, an outgrowth of an earlier character, Senator Bloat, was played by announcer Kenny Delmar. Claghorn was a passionate defender of the Old South; when in New York he refused to go to Yankee Stadium or drive through the Lincoln Tunnel, when he had chicken pox, they were Southern Fried, and he claimed to only drink from Dixie Cups. Many of Claghorn's mannerisms and catch-phrases would be hijacked by Looney Toons character Foghorn Leghorn.
Behind the door of the Nussbaum house Allen would find housewife Pansy, ("You are expectink maybe Weinstein Churchill/Cecil B. Schlemeil/ Dinah Schnorra?") Pansy Nussbaum was played by actress Minerva Pious, who had worked on Fred's shows since 1933.
Crusty New England farmer Titus Moody was a favorite character of Allen's, embodying the host's skeptical New England upbringing. The character's opening line, "Howdy Bub," was delivered by Parker Fennelly. From 1956 through 1985 Fennelly would indirectly reprise Titus Moody as the spokesman for Pepperidge Farms, using the slogan "Pepperidge Farms remembers."
Before he became Fred Flintstone, talented Alan Reed was the Alley's resident poet, Falstaff Openshaw. Reed would go on to do a series of five minute spots for ABC entitled "Falstaff's Fables" Fred Allen would write of Falstaff Openshaw "Rime Doesn't Pay."
As part of the famous feud, Jack Benny featured a spoof on his show titled "Benny's Boulevard."