Digital Reference Library
Kids Television Shows
Baby Boomer Family
SPEEDY ALKA SELTZER
and Buster Keaton
In 1951, the "Speedy" character was introduced. The character was originally conceived by creative director George Pal of the Wade Ad Agency and designed by illustrator Wally Wood. Originally named Sparky, the name was changed to Speedy by sales manager Perry L. Shupert to align with that year's promotional theme, "Speedy Relief."
Speedy appeared in over 200 TV commercials between 1954 and 1964. His body was one Alka-Seltzer tablet, while he wore another as a hat. Buster Keaton appeared along with the animated Speedy Alka-Seltzer figure in a series of 1950s commercials based on the product's then-current slogan, "Relief is just a swallow away." Speedy Alka-Seltzer was voiced by Dick Beals.
Speedy was revived for one of the "Plop, plop, fizz, fizz" song spots in 1976. In his original spots he sang "Relief is just a swallow away" while in his 1976 revival he proclaimed Alka-Seltzer's virtues and sang the "Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is" song in his iconic high, squeaky voice. In the early 1960s a commercial showing two tablets dropping into a glass of water instead of the usual one caused sales to double.
In December 2010, Alka-Seltzer began a series of new commercials featuring Speedy, using CGI effects to recreate the stop-motion puppetry of the 1950s and 1960s, with Speedy voiced by Debi Derryberry.
Alka-Seltzer is an effervescent antacid and pain reliever first marketed by the Dr. Miles Medicine Company of Elkhart, Indiana, United States. Alka-Seltzer contains three active ingredients: aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) (ASA), sodium bicarbonate, and anhydrous citric acid. The aspirin is a pain reliever and anti-inflammatory, the sodium bicarbonate is an antacid, and the citric acid reacts with the sodium bicarbonate and water to form effervescence.
It was developed by head chemist Maurice Treneer. Alka-Seltzer is marketed for relief of minor aches, pains, inflammation, fever, headache, heartburn, stomachache, indigestion, acid reflux and hangovers, while neutralizing excess stomach acid. It was launched in 1931.
In 1950, Keaton had a successful television series, The Buster Keaton Show, which was broadcast live on a local Los Angeles station. Life with Buster Keaton (1951), an attempt to recreate the first series on film and so allowing the program to be broadcast nationwide, was less well received.
He also appeared in the early television series Faye Emerson's Wonderful Town. A theatrical feature film, The Misadventures of Buster Keaton, was fashioned from the series. Keaton said he canceled the filmed series himself because he was unable to create enough fresh material to produce a new show each week. Keaton also appeared on Ed Wynn's variety show.
At the age of 55, he successfully recreated one of the stunts of his youth, in which he propped one foot onto a table, then swung the second foot up next to it, and held the awkward position in midair for a moment before crashing to the stage floor. I've Got a Secret host Garry Moore recalled, "I asked (Keaton) how he did all those falls, and he said, 'I'll show you'. He opened his jacket and he was all bruised. So that's how he did it—it hurt—but you had to care enough not to care."
Unlike his contemporary Harold Lloyd, who kept his films from being televised, Keaton's periodic television appearances helped to revive interest in his silent films in the 1950s and 1960s. In 1954, Keaton played his first television dramatic role in "The Awakening", an episode of the syndicated anthology series Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Presents. About this time, he also appeared on NBC's The Martha Raye Show.