Happy Birthday Portland Hoffa!

Portland Hoffa, wife and radio co-star of comedian Fred Allen was born on this day, Jan 25, 1905, in Portland Oregon.

Portland HoffaHoffa and Fred Allen met while on the road with The Passing Show of 1922, and started going together while the show was under extended engagement in Chicago. After the show closed Fred went back on the road in Vaudeville. When he returned to New York in the winter of 1927 he found that Portland had been taking instruction to become a Roman Catholic. Says Fred, “The next thing I know I had bought the ring, and Father Leonard was marrying Mary Portland and me at the Actor’s Chapel.”

The first thing a Vaudevillian does after getting married is write his wife into the act. Not only does this allow them to be together on the road, but if he had been a solo performer, he could now demand more money as a Double Act.

However Vaudeville was dying when Portland and Fred Allen hit the road together. So they began to investigate a new form of entertainment; now known as old time radio. Fred was determined to perform with his wife, but on the air Portland sounded nothing like herself. A character had to be invented for her, which Fred described as “a small e-flat Frankenstein monster.” Through most of their radio shows Portland’s character would join Fred at the mic as a comic foil for Fred after his monologue. When the Allen’s Alley segment was introduced it would be Portland who would ask Mr. Allen what his question of the week would be.

Fred Allen passed away suddenly in 1956. Portland Hoffa remarried in 1959. She survived long enough to celebrate a second silver wedding anniversary with her second husband, Joe Rines.

Portland Hoffa is honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her work in Radio. Her star is at 1640 Vine St.

Enjoy this episodes of Texaco Star Theater from Jan 22, 1941 in which Portland Hoffa can’t stop laughing during an interview with Kenny Baker:

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3 Responses to Happy Birthday Portland Hoffa!

  1. Mark says:

    Fred adored her. Portland took care of him.
    It is heartwarming to see people genuinely in love.
    Once a vice-president at a radio network (one of many vice-presidents) suggested that Portland be cut from Fred’s show. Fred wrote a letter that still crackles with righteous indignation and anger.

  2. Hal says:

    One of the reasons Fred hated appearing in SALLY IRENE AND MARY is that he’d signed for the film with the assumption that Portland would costar. But depending on which account one reads.she either flunked her screen test or got a severe attack of camera fright. She was replaced and Fred remained upset throughout filming–though professional that he was, he remained friendly and courteous with cast and crew … Afterward he called the movie Sally, Irene, and Lousy.

  3. Mark says:

    Fred Allen’s final reply to a sponsor’s repeated request for the removal of Portland Hoffa:
    “You tell him that Portland is my wife, that she makes my life livable, and that her presence on the show is not a matter of negotiation. We’re a family and we work as a family. If he doesn’t want Mrs. Allen, he doesn’t want Mr. Allen. I’m telling you and you tell him – never mention this subject to me again.”

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