Fran Allison was an American television and radio comedian, personality and singer. She is best known for her starring role on the daily 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 1967–77.
Allison was born in La Porte City, Iowa. She was a 1927 graduate of Coe College and was a teacher before beginning her broadcasting career at WMT-AM in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She moved to Chicago, Illinois in 1937, where she was hired as a staff singer and personality on NBC Radio. Beginning in 1937, she was a regular performer on The Breakfast Club, a popular Chicago radio show, and was a fixture for 25 years as “Aunt Fanny,” a gossipy small-town spinster. Her Aunt Fanny character also appeared on the ABC-TV series, Ozark Jubilee, during the late 1950s.
In 1947, the director of WBKB-TV in Chicago asked Burr Tillstrom if he could put together a puppet show for children, and he asked Allison, whom he had met during World War II war bond tour, to join the show. She was the only human to appear on the live series, filling the role of big sister and cheery voice of reason as the puppets, known as the Kuklapolitan Players, engaged each other.
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; and appeared in television musical specials including Many Moons, Pinocchio with Mickey Rooney, Damn Yankees and Miss Pickerell. In the 1980s, Allison hosted Prime Time, a show for senior citizens, on KHJ-TV in Los Angeles.