b. John Florence Sullivan, 31 May 1894, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, d. 17 March 1956, New York, USA. A comedian, actor and singer, with a dry, gravelly voice, baggy eyes, and deadpan expression, all of which made him ideal for the kind of topical monologues that became his speciality. After studying at Boston University, he headlined in vaudeville before making his Broadway debut in the revue The Passing Show (1922). This was followed by Vogues Of 1924, and a good role as the wise-cracking reporter Addie Stiles in the musical comedy Polly (1929), which folded after two weeks. Much more successful were the sophisticated hit revues The Little Show (1929) and Three’s A Crowd (1930), in which Allen co-starred with Clifton Webb and Libby Holman. Allen went on to make several films, including the musicals Thanks A Million (1935), Sally, Irene And Mary (1938) and Love Thy Neighbour (1940). The latter movie recreated the ongoing ‘feud’ with comedian Jack Benny that was a regular of Allen’s top-rated network radio show. Allen’s wife, Portland Hoffa, who had appeared with him in revue, was also a member of the cast of this immensely popular series, which ran throughout the 30s and 40s.
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