|Elvia Allman [Tourtellotte]
Birthplace: Enochville, North Carolina, U.S.A.
Education: University of Chicago
1931 On With the Show
1933 California Cocktails
1934 Crazy Quilt
1934 Comedy Capers
1934 The Laff Parade
1934 The Blue Monday Jamboree
1936 Lux Radio Theatre
1937 Komedy Kingdom
1937 John Barrymore Theatre
1937 Cinnamon Bear
1937 The Jell-O Program
1938 Hollywood Mardi Gras Mummers
1938 The Pepsodent Show
1940 Gulf Screen Guild Theatre
1942 Command Performance
1942 The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show
1942 The Jack Benny Program
1942 The Abbott and Costello Show
1943 Fibber McGee and Molly
1943 Mail Call
1944 THe Bakers Of America Show For the Armed Forces
1944 Radio Almanac
1944 G.I. Journal
1944 Radio Hall Of Fame
1945 The Eddie Bracken Show
1945 Birds Eye Open House
1946 The Life Of Riley
1946 The Alan Young Show
1946 Maxwell House Coffee Time
1947 The Lucky Strike Program
1947 The Mel Blanc Show
1947 The Bill Goodwin Show
1947 Guest Star
1947 The Victor Borge Show
1947 The Jack Paar Program
1948 The Eddie Cantor Pabst Blue Ribbon Show
1948 The Railroad Hour
1949 Sealtest Variety Theatre
1949 Young Love
1949 My Favorite Husband
1949 The Amos 'n' Andy Show
1950 The Henn House
1950 The Adventures Of Maisie
1951 The Baby Snooks Show
1951 Mr and Mrs Blandings
1952 Broadway Is My Beat
1953 The Edgar Bergen Show
1954 The New Beulah Show
1954 The Six Shooter
1954 Meet Mr McNutley
1954 That's Rich
1956 Recollections At Thirty
1962 Heartbeat Theatre
1973 Hollywood Radio Theatre
1979 Sears Radio Theatre
||Radio's Queen of Mirth, Elvia Allman was born in North Carolina but raised and educated in Texas. The local newspapers recorded her high school graduation exercise of June 1, 1921 from The Academy of Mary Immaculate--a graduating class of ten young ladies.
Upon reaching her majority, she emigrated to Southern California and began her radio career in 1926 at KHJ. Hired as a program arranger and children's story reader, she later became a singer for the station as well. She was also noted early on as a gifted dialectician and diseuse--a woman who is a skilled and professional reciter.
It was in 1930, while working as a studio singer, that she met her first husband, Wesley B. Tourtellotte, a studio musician. Though they divorced within two years, Elvia Allman and Tourtellotte criss-crossed the nation for three more years performing in the long-running California Cocktails (1933) program, Crazy Quilt (1934), Laff Parade (1934), and Komedy Kapers (1934)--and making quite a name for herself as a multi-talented singer, comedienne, and diseuse in the process. She'd also made a successful alliance with talented Lindsay MacHarrie.
MacHarrie and Allman had worked together at KHJ for almost five years. Lindsay MacHarrie rose to the position of Dramatic Director at KHJ while Elvia was coming up on her own at the station. Elvia Allman's rising star didn't go unnoticed. Indeed, while working at KHJ, MacHarrie was also the Production Manager for TransCo, a company which recorded and marketed programming on electrical transcription discs for syndication to independent Radio affiliates as a turnkey production.
KFRC's The Blue Monday Jamboree had been airing over first CBS from KHJ and then Don Lee-Mutual throughout the 1920s over KFRC and KHJ. Elvia Allman developed several of her most memorable early characters during the Blue Monday Jamboree years, among them: Auntie MacCasser, Octavia Smith-Whiffen, and home economist Pansy Pennypincher. MacHarrie remembered Elvia Allman's captivating and versatile contributions to Blue Monday Jamboree and when it came time to develop a comedy -- variety format, for syndication he tapped Elvia Allman to fill a variety of needs in the format--singer, dialectician, straight-man and comedienne. Their first outing together was with Komedy Kapers (1933), which TransCo licensed or sold to Bruce Eells and Associates for 1934 syndication as Comedy Capers. Elvia Allman appeared in at least thirteen of the Komedy Kapers installments.
Elvia Allman's first major, coast-to-coast exposure was over Bob Hope's The Pepsodent Show. In September of 1938 she introduced Hope's nationwide audience to her character, Cobina, the man-chasing, man-crazy debutante. Much as with Barbara Jo Allen's ''Vera Vague'' and Minerva Pious' ''Mrs. Nussbaum'', Elvia Allman's ''Cobina Gusher'' was so successful in her own right that Allman reprised the role in both Film and Animation. During the Swan Soap run of the Burns and Allen program, Elvia Allman was cast as Gracie's best friend 'Tootsie Sagwell'.
Indeed, her debut in Animation came five years earlier than her Film debut. By the mid-1930s, a favorite of both the Leon Schlesinger -- Warner Bros. animated features as well as those of The Disney Studios, Elvia Allman voiced numerous, well-remembered characters from the early animated classics, including the voice of Clarabelle Cow in several of the Walt Disney animated features between 1930 and 1942.
Elvia Allman married popular sports promoter, C.C. 'Cash & Carry' Pyle in January of 1937. He'd become famous--or infamous--for the Bunion Derby (1929), a trans-continental marathon comprised of athletes from virtually every possible discipline--and reputation. He was also responsible for successfully recruiting ''The Galloping Ghost'' himself, Red Grange, to professional football. Within two years Pyle would be dead of an unexpected heart attack at the age of 56. Elvia Allman was at his side when he passed.
A tall, strikingly attractive young woman in her own right, it wasn't long before she began appearing in feature films. There was clearly a method in the apparent madness of a woman as naturally attractive and statuesque as Elvia Allman downplaying her classic figure and beauty. As with many of the most successful comediennes throughout modern entertainment history, she discovered that the secret to longevity was continually playing to the irony of such an inherently attractive woman portraying oddball, neurotic, outlandish, or eccentric female characters of one stereotype or another.
Viewed by her contemporaries much as the generation of the 1980s viewed Carol Burnett, Elvia Allman was taking on a dimension of her own with the extraordinary success of her Radio work. She'd been heard coast-to-coast over both CBS and NBC at one time or another, as early as 1933. Her work with Bob Hope on his Pepsodent Show made her a natural addition to Hope's film Road To Singapore (1940), the first of the sextet of 'Road' films starring Bob Hope, Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour. Though appearing uncredited, it's clear that her appearance at all in the film was a tip of the hat from Hope to Allman in recognition of her contribution to The Pepsodent Show--and her talent. Bob Hope was long known for both his loyalty to, and promotion of, his hardest-working ensemble players. Elvia Allman was no exception.
Never truly a 'star', as Carol Burnett eventually became, Allman's consistent contributions to all manner of character roles over the next fifty years of an incredibly prolific Film and Television career simply underscored her reputation and lustre.
It's also worth noting that even with her increased success in Television, Animation and Film, Elvia Allman compiled an estimated 4,000 appearances in Radio over a fifty-year career that spanned the entire Golden Age of Radio, including its Revival years in the 70s and 80s. Among her most memorable roles throughout the era were her numerous characters cited above, as well as Cora Dithers on both the Radio and Television versions of Blondie, and literally hundreds of other archtypal, matronly shrews.
Viewed as much as an ensemble player on virtually every program she contributed to during the era, she ultimately became one of Radio's most recognizable voices from the era. But the best was yet to come.
It was Elvia Allman's Television audiences that identified most closely with her various characters over the years. As recognizable as her voice had already become, the tall, statuesque queen of mirth lent that same towering height to even more over the top performances via the more visual medium of Television. The highly practiced, matronly authority figures from her greatest Radio triumphs were ideally suited to all manner of situation comedies throughout the Golden Age of Television.
Once again leveraging her tried and true formula of self-deprecation and self-parody, she now lent an even more ironic dimension to her portrayals. With her long graceful neck, her patrician nose, her high cheekbones and perfect jaw, combined with her relatively towering height, she was a natural to portray everything from snoopy neighbors to snooty blue-bloods--and every objectionable, overbearing and irritating matron or spinster in between. And she most certainly did.
A simple review of the names alone of her 100+ characters in Television during her career speaks volumes about the types of characters she portrayed. Indeed, given her own considerable comedic writing talent over the years, one finds it easy to imagine her devising the vast majority of those characters' names herself. Allman became a familiar face to television viewers throughout the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s with numerous guest appearances on the most successful situation comedies of the era.
With frequent appearances on Abbott and Costello, I Married Joan, I Love Lucy, December Bride, The People's Choice, The Bob Cummings Show, and Bachelor Father, America was soon demanding she appear in numerous other similar roles on Television. And the smarter producers and networks of the industry complied.
Known for her brilliant comedic timing from her Radio work, her most memorable Television characterizations continued on through seven appearances on The Jack Benny Program, several guest appearances on The Dick Van Dyke Show, Hazel, The Addams Family, and then recurring roles in both Petticoat Junction (as Selma Plout) and The Beverly Hillbillies (as Elverna Bradshaw).
As Ms. Allman approached her 70s, her more active Television and Film careers began to wane--by choice, reportedly. But her Radio work continued, in voicing Elliott Lewis' wonderful Radio Revival programs Hollywood Radio Theatre and Sears Radio Theatre.
Indeed, once Hollywood sat up and took notice, yet again, of Elvia Allman, she was tapped for another fifteen Television appearances during the 1980s.
And in one of the Entertainment Industry's wonderfully seredipitous ironies, 1990 brought her entire, sixty year career full circle with her voicework as Clarabelle Cow for the animated feature film The Prince and The Pauper.
Within two years she would pass away from complications of pneumonia at the age of 87. She'd lost her third husband, Jerome Bayler in 1978.
One of the Entertainment Industry's most identifiable voices, faces and figures, Elvia Allman's body of work over some sixy-five years in one entertaining capacity or another spanned the very beginnings of The Golden Age of Radio, encompassed the Golden Age of Film, outlived the Golden Age of Television, and appropriately enough, memorialized that entire expanse of talent with her last credited performance.
A sublime and fitting end to one very extraordinary woman's career. A classically attractive woman who, wisely, found that her very genius in downplaying her own attractiveness and figure were the secret to her resounding success in every entertainment venue she pursued. She was brilliant, charming, exceptionally well grounded, and clearly one of the Entertainment World's most respected performers.
All we can say to that is "Here, here!"