Kukla, Fran, and Ollie
Kukla, Fran, and Ollie
Kukla, Fran, and Ollie was a televised puppet show that ran from 1947 through 1957. The puppet show was first shown on the NBC television (see entry under 1940s—TV and Radio in volume 3) network. For its final three years, the show appeared on ABC-TV. Kukla and Ollie were the names of two puppets created by Burr Tillstrom (1917–1985). Fran Allison (1907–1989) was the human who chatted with them as they performed on a tiny stage. Kukla (his name is the Russian word for "doll") was an excitable fellow with a huge round nose and receding hairline. Ollie (Oliver J. Dragon) was a self-centered but good-natured dragon. In the show, Kukla never talked, making himself understood by rapid body movements, but Ollie had a falsetto voice. These two puppets were the most prominent of the Kuklapolitans, a group of Tillstrom's puppets that included Madame Ooglepuss, Fletcher Rabbit, Cecil Bill, and Beulah Witch. Tillstrom provided all the voices and manipulated the puppets from behind a small stage while Allison chatted with them while standing at eye level. Musical accompaniment was provided by pianist Jack Fascanato (1915–1994).
Tillstrom became interested in puppetry while a teenager. He performed with his puppets in nightclubs or department stores and at the 1939–40 World's Fair (see entry under 1900s—The Way We Lived in volume 1) in New York. The Kuklapolitans appeared on TV for the first time on October 13, 1947, Tillstrom's thirtieth birthday. On this date, they were joined by Allison, a singer and comedian, on a local Chicago show called Junior Jamboree. The title of the program was subsequently changed to Kukla, Fran, and Ollie. On January 12, 1949, it became the first show broadcast over the national NBC network. It was seen five nights a week at 6:00 p.m. Central Time.
After Kukla, Fran, and Ollie ended its run on national TV in 1957, the Kuklapolitans appeared on many TV specials, in syndication, and in live performance.
For More Information
Brooks, Tim, and Earle Marsh. The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows. 7th ed. New York: Ballantine Books, 1999.
The Unofficial Kuklapolitan Web Pagehttp://www.ultinet.net/~kfo/ (accessed February 22, 2002).