Fabulous New Offer from Baby Snooks

Baby Snooks came about through bad dentistry. Fanny had had teeth problems for years, and before one particular radio rehearsal her dentist let her come away without her dentures. Fanny was unable to speak properly. Frantic, the producer suddenly remembered a cute baby act Fanny would do at parties and in front of friends. It was the only thing she could do in her current condition. “What do you call her?” the producer cried. “Schnooks,” lisped Fanny.

But she needed material – instantly. Rapp and David Freedman (his writing partner at the time) frantically searched the nearest bookcase and came up with an out of print (public domain) collection of sketches by Robert James Burdette titled Chimes From a Jester’s Bells. Finding a humorous piece about a kid and his uncle called “The Simple Story of George Washington,” the kid was switched to a girl, Rapp changed “Schnooks” to “Snooks,’ and history was made.

Fanny Brice was born on October 29, 1891 and found early fame starring in the Ziegfield Follies from 1911 to 1923. And it was on Ziegfield Follies of the Air (which Phil Rapp wrote and directed from 1936-37) that Baby Snooks took her first hilarious step. The Snooks sketches began as a regular feature in 1937 on the variety show Good News, and became the main attraction on Maxwell House Coffee Time in 1940. In 1944 the impish problem child began her own radio program, The Baby Snooks Show.

The series dealt with the childish innocence and constant questioning from little baby Snooks whichclashed with considerable force against the long-suffering “Daddy,” first played by film actor Frank Morgan. Alan Reed next took over the adult role. But it is Hanley Stafford who is best remembered as Daddy, with his incredibly painful line readings of “Oooooh……. Snooooooks!”

Lalive Brownell and then Arlene Harris played the mother, while versatile child impersonator Lenore Ledoux gave out cries as little baby brother, Robespierre. The announcers switched between Ken Roberts and Harlow Wilcox (famous as the Fibber McGee announcer).

The sponsors for Baby Snooks included Post cereals, Sanka coffee, Spic-n-Span, Tums antacid, and Jell-O. The musical theme was “Rock-A-Bye Baby.” Rapp wrote all the material.

The series ended with Fanny’s unexpected, untimely demise at the age of 50 in 1951. No one could replace her in the title role of Snooks. And no one did. A tribute program was aired the week following her death.

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