Elvia Allman (September 19, 1904; Enochville, North Carolina – March 6, 1992; Santa Monica, California) was a character actress and voice over performer in Hollywood films and television programs for over 50 years. She is best remembered for her semi-regular roles on The Beverly Hillbillies and Petticoat Junction and for being the voice of Walt Disney's Clarabelle Cow. Her mark in TV history is also insured by her memorable performance as the stern, no-nonsense boss in the classic I Love Lucy "Candy Factory" episode, "Job Switching" ("If one piece of candy gets past you and into the packing room unwrapped, you're fired!).
Allman began her radio career in early 1926 at KHJ in Los Angeles as a programme arranger and children's story reader, and later as a singer. The Los Angeles Times of the day praises her abilities as a dialectician. It was there she met her first husband, musician Wesley B. Tourtellotte, in 1930. They divorced within several years. New York beckoned in 1933, where she did a 15-minute network programme of songs. On Oct. 30, 1933, the Times announced she was moving to KNX on a 15-minute programme to be heard Tuesdays and Thursday evenings. What was supposed to be a long-term contract ended March 3, 1935.
Allman's first big network radio success was on the Blue Monday Jamboree where she portrayed beauty expert Auntie MacCasser, high society matron Octavia Smith-Whiffen, and home economist Pansy Pennypincher. She made her debut on The Pepsodent Show starring Bob Hope on September 27, 1938, as man-chasing Cobina, a parody of society debutante Cobina Wright, Jr.. She portrayed the role in motion pictures and even spoofed it in the Merrie Melodies cartoon Goofy Groceries.
In the mid-1930s, Allman appeared in cartoons for producer Leon Schlesinger, released through Warner Bros.. She can be heard in the first Porky Pig cartoon I Haven't Got a Hat in 1935. She may have originated the character of Clarabelle Cow prior to this, but there are no records indicating which specific cartoons she voiced Clarabelle in (Clarabelle Cow was featured in 28 Disney cartoons from 1928 to 1942). In 1937 Allman voiced the title role in the cartoon Little Red Walking Hood, a spoof of Little Red Riding Hood. Allman married sports promotor C.C. Pyle on July 3, 1937 and was with him when he died on February 3, 1939.
Allman also played Tootsie Sagwell on the George Burns & Gracie Allen Show during the early 40s. She was Gracie's best friend and constantly chasing show announcer Bill Goodwin in particular but was open to any man who'd have her.
Allman made her film debut as an actress in 1940s Road to Singapore in an unbilled bit as a homely woman pursuing Bob Hope. The role was an unbilled bit like the majority of Allman's motion picture appearances in the 1940s. She worked most successfully during this period as a radio comedienne playing assorted guest parts, typically as a shrewish woman. One of her more steady radio gigs was on the Blondie radio series in the part of "Cora Dithers", the domineering wife of Dagwood Bumstead's boss.
Allman became a familiar face to television viewers in the 1950s with numerous guest appearances on many programs of the era, usually situation comedies. She made multiple appearances on I Married Joan, December Bride, Love That Bob, and The Abbott and Costello Show, and three appearances on I Love Lucy, most notably as the stern candy factory boss who thinks that Lucy and Ethel are fast because they have hidden (and eaten) the unwrapped candy from the conveyor belt, says, "Fine, you're doing splendidly," and then turns and shouts off-camera, "Speed it up a little!"
In 1957, she reprised her role of "Cora Dithers" in a short-lived TV adaption of Blondie (1957 TV series). She also appeared on seven episodes of the series The Jack Benny Show, having worked often with Benny on his radio program in the 1940s and 1950s.
Her visibility on television increased in the 1960s with guest shots on The Dick Van Dyke Show, Hazel (TV series), The Addams Family (TV series), The Munsters, Bewitched, The Lucy Show,The Doris Day Show,and The Andy Griffith Show. Allman's greatest fame came with her semi-regular roles on Petticoat Junction, as local busybody "Selma Plout" (14 appearances, 1965–1970) and a near-duplicate character, "Elverna Bradshaw" on The Beverly Hillbillies (13 appearances, one in 1963, the rest 1968-1970). The 1960s proved to be her most prolific era with 58 appearances on various television series as well as five motion pictures including Breakfast at Tiffany's and The Nutty Professor.
She appeared as Oscar Madison's mother in one episode of the TV series The Odd Couple (she and Oscar are treated to an erotic belly dance at a Greek restaurant). Allman's career slowed down considerably after 1972 and her only television work in the late-1970s was in an Addams Family television movie. Her career revived a bit in the 1980s with eleven television appearances including two appearances on Murder She Wrote. Allman also worked as a real estate agent in addition to her acting in the 1970s and 1980s. In her autobiography, Mary Tyler Moore credits Allman with finding her house.
Allman's final work appropriately brought her full circle, reviving the voice of Clarabelle Cow for the first time in over 50 years in the Mickey Mouse cartoon feature version of The Prince and the Pauper in 1990. She died two years later from pneumonia, aged 87. She was predeceased by her last husband, Jerome L. Bayler, in 1978.
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