Barbara Jo Allen (a.k.a. Vera Vague)

September 2 is the birthday of comic actress Barbara Jo Allen (Marian Barbara Henshall, 1906-1974). Partially raised in the Los Angeles area by an aunt and uncle, Allen had a most unusual pedigree for a show biz creature: educated at UCLA, Stanford, and the Sorbonne, she fluently spoke four languages in addition to English (French, Spanish, Italian and German).

Performing in school shows led to a professional career. He first husband was actor Barton Yarborough; in 1931 she married lumber magnate Charles Hopper Crosby. Her first major radio role was a regular role on One Man’s Family in 1933 (Yarborough was also a regular on the show). She worked in the medium steadily through the years, and in 1938 she also began appearing in films, often comedy shorts with the likes of Leon Errol and Edgar Kennedy.

In 1939 Allen introduced her character “Vera Vague” on NBC Matinee. She played a silly, ditzy woman who often talked in crazy double talk — the character was not worlds away from Gracie Allen (no relation), except Vera Vague was a spinster, ever in pursuit of men (he catchphrase was “Oh you dear boy!“). In 1941 she became a regular on Bob Hope’s radio show as the character; she married Hope’s producer Norman Morrell two years later. By that year her character’s popularity was exploding. She launched a series of her own film comedy shorts with Columbia Pictures that year; the series ran until 1952. By 1943 the character Vera Vague was so popular Allen was using it as a screen credit instead of her actual name. In addition to her shorts, she also appeared in lots of B movie features, and on television. Among her final roles, two notable ones were voice-overs for Disney animated films: she voiced the Green Fairy in Sleeping Beauty (1959) and a scullery maid in The Sword in the Stone (1963), her last film.

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