• Home
  • Boyhood Years
  • Vaudeville
  • Old Time Radio
  • Television & Final Years
  • Wife: Portland Hofa
    "Mrs Fred Allen"
  • Quotes
  • Trivia
  • Articles
  • Film
  • Books
  • Links
  • To me, an advertising agency is 85 per cent confusion and 15 per cent commission.

    Fred Allen and PortiaWhen The Salad Bowl Revue finally shut down after Dec 1, 1933, ("the Hellmann Company realized that there was nothing to put their mayonnaise on but the actors,") there was of course some concern as to where Fred Allen and Company was going to turn. It was short lived, however. The same advertising agency that represented Hellmann's Mayonnaise had as a client Bristol-Myer's Sal Hepatica Laxative.

    The Sal Hepatica Revue had the same announcer, orchestra, and talent as The Salad Bowl Revue. The biggest change besides the title and the commercials was a move from Friday to Wednesday nights. In writing the show Fred did begin to experiment with a community show theme. He began to gain a reputation for "topical humor" with news from the fictional town of Bedlamville. He peppered his "Town Hall bulletins" with "Local Characters" such as Hodge White the Grocer and Pop Mullen the Lunch Wagon Man, who were all described, but never given voice.

    Sal Hepatica

    Allen had an uneasy relationship with the advertising industry. They ran the radio shows that the sponsors were paying for, but Allen was never able to stomach the artificiality that was their stock-in-trade. He found many advertising executives to be Mole Hill men; Allen describes a mole hill man as an executive who comes into work in the morning to find a mole hill on his desk. He has until close of business to turn the mole hill into a mountain.

    The Bristol-Myers Company that sponsored The Sal Hepatica Revue at 9:30 on Wednesday nights also sponsored a show at 9:00 advertising their Ipana Toothpaste. The ad agency that Allen was working for convinced Bristol-Myer that Allen and Company could handle both products and save the company the cost of two separate productions. Thus was born the "Hour of Smiles; Ipana, the Smile of Beauty, and Sal Hepatica, the Smile of Health."

    Allen's concept for the show was to be a small town hall weekly entertainment. "The Hour of Smiles" didn't have the budgetary freedom to hire big name acts to fill the hour-long program, so other features had to be invented. The weekly Newsreels gave Allen a chance to burlesque current events and people in the public eye. Perhaps as a throwback to the beginnings of his own showbiz career, the second half of the show was often devoted to amateurs. Not only was this inexpensive but entertaining time filler, but it allowed Allen to do the ad-libbing he enjoyed so much. After the first season the show was renamed Town Hall Tonight.

    Continue to "Texaco Star Theater " >>