Frances Helen "Fran" Allison (November 20, 1907 – June 13, 1989) was an American television and radio comedian, personality and singer. She is best known for her starring role on the weekday NBC-TV puppet show Kukla, Fran and Ollie, which ran from 1947 to 1957, occasionally returning to the air until the mid-1980s. The trio also hosted The CBS Children's Film Festival, introducing international children's films, from 1967 to 1977.
The open-faced blonde singer, actress and comedienne was born on November 20, 1907, in La Porte City, Iowa and graduated in the late 1920s from Coe College in Cedar Rapids with a teaching degree. After spending a couple of years as a rural school instructor, she left her position after her brother, who was a musician, put together an orchestra and hired her on as a singer.
By 1934 she had moved into radio singing work in Cedar Rapids and later in 1937 became a staff singer for NBC in Chicago. Her talents as a comedienne were also discovered and utilized. Most notably, she originated a gossipy radio character called "Aunt Fanny" that was a hit with audiences. Her Aunt Fanny character also appeared on the ABC-TV series, Ozark Jubilee, during the late 1950s.
Fran met puppeteer Burr Tillstrom during WWII when they toured together in hospitals and orphanages on the same bill. Tillstrom thought Fran would be ideal as a genteel, prettified and sensible foil for his Kuklapolitan puppets, and on October 13, 1947, she made her series debut with Kukla, Fran and Ollie (1947).
The shows were, for the most part, done live and Fran was a charming and glamorous delight opposite Kukla, the bald, arch-browed, bulb-nosed leader of the troupe and Ollie, the droll, single-toothed dragon. Nominated for an Emmy in 1949 as "Most Outstanding Personality", the show received frequent Emmy nominations during its 1950s run. In 1953 it won as the "Best Children's Program".
Allison made records for the RCA Victor label. She had two minor pop hits. In 1950 her recording of "Peter Cottontail" charted at #26 around Easter of 1950. The next year her recording of "Too Young" achieved position #20. In both recordings she is backed by Jack Fascinato, who was the orchestra leader of Kukla, Fran and Ollie.
Her television career continued after the initial run of Kukla, Fran and Ollie: in the late 1950s, she hosted The Fran Allison Show, a panel discussion TV program in Chicago (1958-1960); and appeared in television musical specials including Many Moons (1954), Pinocchio with Mickey Rooney (1957),Damn Yankees (1967) and Miss Pickerell (1972).
The syndicated version of the puppet show went off the air in 1976. The threesome also served as hosts for The CBS Children's Film Festival, which introduced international children's films, from 1967-1977. In addition, Fran also was the official pitchwoman for Whirlpool appliances in the years to come. In the 1980s, she hosted Prime Time, a show for senior citizens, on KHJ-TV in Los Angeles.
Married to music publisher Archie Levington, the couple had no children and eventually settled in Los Angeles. In her own mind, Fran felt like she was the mother to the millions of children who tuned in religiously to the show. Her husband died in 1978. In later life, Allison lived in Van Nuys, California, and died in 1989 from myelodysplasia, a bone marrow disease, at the age of 81 in Sherman Oaks. She was buried back in her home state of Iowa, at Mount Calvary Cemetery in Cedar Rapids.
For contributions to the television industry, Allison was honoured with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6763 Hollywood Boulevard.Iowa. (Info mainly edited from IMDB & Wikipedia)