Two Products Make

People Smile


"Ipana for the smile of beauty
Sal Hepatica for the smile of health."
                                                        -- Tiny Ruffner
Lincoln, Me.  (DG)---

IpanaRadio’s golden age has seen a number of programs sponsored by the Bristol-Myers duo of Ipana Tooth PasteSoundbyteand Sal HepaticaSoundbyte.  Since Ipana provided its users with a healthy mouth and Sal Hepatica provided its users with proper nature calling functions, smiling was the theme with these two products.  On the radio, the listeners knew Ipana as "The Smile Of Beauty" and Sal Hepatica as "The Smile Of Health."  Let’s take a look at how the two products began their co-sponsoring relationship. 

It all began in 1934 on NBC’s Red Network. Bristol-Myers had sponsorship of the network’s 9PM to 10PM time slot on Wednesday evenings. The original idea was to have two separate half hour programs.  The first program was the long running IPANA TROUBADOURS, a musical program featuring the top bands of the era.  It was followed by the SAL HEPATICA REVUE, a comedy/variety program starring Fred Allen. 

Unfortunately, there was a small problem with this setup. There was a distinctive ratings unbalance. The Ipana program didn’t register a number in the Co-Operative Analysis of Broadcasting (C.A.B.) Ratings, while Allen’s program achieved a respectful 18.5.  Something had to be done. 

Since Allen’s program was the more popular of the two, Bristol-Myers gave him the full hour for his comedy/variety program.  Although THE IPANA TROUBADOURS program was bumped out, the Ipana Troubadours name was identified with the new program’s orchestra.  Instead of selecting one of the two products to sponsor the program, both Ipana and Sal Hepatica were its co-sponsors.  With all the changes completed, THE HOUR OF SMILES was ready for the airwaves.

Unfortunately, the program was on the air for only 4 months.  The reason for its demise wasn’t due to bad ratings, but to Allen’s discontent with its current format.  He wanted to give the program the feeling of Small Town, U.S.A.  Allen got his wish to make the changes he wanted--- to a certain extent.  Bristol-Myers also had some changes for the program! 

The new program was renamed TOWN HALL TONIGHT.  In tribute to the two sponsors, the program opened with the Ipana Troubadours playing There Are Smiles.  With a connection to the previous format, announcer Tiny Ruffner introduced the program as "An Hour Of Smiles in Town Hall Tonight, folks."  After the sponsors were announced, the Ipana Troubadours shifted gears and played a rousing rendition of There’s A Hot Time In The Old Town Tonight.

At first, Allen wouldn’t have the whole hour for his comedy/variety.  Bristol-Myers wanted the last half hour of the program to feature an amateur talent contest with Allen as the M.C.  After a couple of years, the talent contest was dropped and Allen once again had the full hour for the comedy/variety format.  Through it all, Ipana and Sal Hepatica continued to co-sponsor the program. 

Sal HepaticaTOWN HALL TONIGHT stayed on the air until 1939, when the sponsor wanted the "Town Hall" theme dropped--- against Allen’s wishes.  The program was renamed THE FRED ALLEN SHOW, but the style of comedy was basically the same as before--- excluding the "Town Hall" theme.  This format became famous for the impromptu antics of "Mr. Ramshaw" the eagle, who flew around loose in the studio during the last half hour of a broadcast.  Let‘s not forget, Ipana and Sal Hepatica were still the program’s co-sponsors. 

In 1940, Allen left both Bristol-Myers and NBC to host the TEXACO STAR THEATER on the Columbia Network.  Ironically, the Texaco program was on the air Wednesday evening at 9PM--opposite the Bristol-Myers time slot!  With their former star now their rival, Bristol-Myers had their work cut out for them. The company decided to take a huge gamble by bringing Eddie Cantor back to radio. 

One of the top radio stars of the 1930’s, Cantor made some controversial comments at the 1939 New York World’s Fair.  Despite the popularity of the program he starred on at the time (Columbia’s CAMEL CARAVAN), the sponsor, Camel Cigarettes, abruptly cancelled the program--- and just like that, Cantor was out of a job.  Since he was considered a controversial figure, no sponsor wanted Cantor’s services for about a year after he made his infamous speech. 

With some persuading, Bristol-Myers took a chance to have Cantor as their new star.  The new program was known as TIME TO SMILE, with those smiling products, Ipana and Sal Hepatica as the co-sponsors.  Unlike Allen’s program, Cantor’s new show aired for 30 minutes instead of a full hour.  MR. DISTRICT ATTORNEY followed after Cantor at 9:30.  Bristol-Myers also sponsored the dramatic program, except Vitalis was the sponsor instead of the smiling duo. (Ipana and/or Sal Hepatica co-sponsored the program in later years with Vitalis). 

Bristol-Myers’ gamble paid off.  Cantor re-established himself as one of radio’s biggest stars, and MR. DISTRICT ATTORNEY became a popular mainstay on NBC’s Wednesday night line-up for a decade.  As for the smiling duo, Ipana and Sal Hepatica either sponsored or co-sponsored other popular radio programs.  With their two smiling products, Bristol-Myers had a lot to "smile" about during radio’s golden age.