Kukla, Fran and Ollie
Synopsis of Saturday Morning Show
Kukla was a bald puppet with a big nose and a high voice (whose name incidentally means "doll" in Russian). Oliver J. Dragon (a.k.a. "Ollie") was an amiable creature with only one tooth. And Fran Allison was the woman who talked to them as if they were real. As voiced and animated by Burr Tillstrom, it's almost as if they were. Together, the three sang songs and enjoyed improvised conversations for nearly 15 years, and their show became a beloved television staple.
Kukla, Fran and Ollie was a freewheeling, fast-paced variety show that featured a memorable cast of colorful characters. In addition to the main puppets, there was also Beulah Witch, Fletcher Rabbit, Colonel Cracky, Madame Ooglepuss, Dolores Dragon, and Cecil Bill.
But back in 1939, it was just Kukla and Ollie. The pair had begun to make appearances on Chicago TV as early as 1939, and by 1947, they were regulars. It was not until late in 1948 that Fran Allison, who had been working on the Don McNeill’s Breakfast Club radio show, joined the merriment.
The show was then broadcast over NBC’s Midwest network, airing daily for several seasons before making the move to Sunday afternoons. In this incarnation, both a studio audience and an orchestra were brought in. Hugh Downs, who at the time was a Chicago television personality, acted as the show's narrator. It was during this period that Kukla, Fran, and Ollie won its first and only Emmy, in 1953.
Kukla, Fran, and Ollie moved to a nightly slot when ABC picked it up from 1954 to 1957. Then, NBC ran the show in quick five-minute segments in which Fran appeared only weekly.
In 1967, Fran was back full-time, and the trio began hosting the long-running, critically acclaimed CBS Children’s Film Festival. Simultaneously, from 1969 to 1971, Kukla, Fran and Ollie was revived for PBS.
Hopes for another revival existed all the way up until 1985, when pupeteer Tillstrom died, and the final curtain closed on the Kuklapolitan Players.
Release History10/13/47 - 6/02/62 NBC
TV Sub Categorieslive-action
TV StudioTaynod Productions
Television CastFran Fran Allison
Kukla Burr Tillstrom
Ollie Burr Tillstrom
Jack Facsinato Orchestra Themselves