GRACIE ALLEN Biography - Actors and Actresses


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Name: Grace Ethel Cecile Rosalie Allen                                                       
Born: 26 July 1895 San Francisco, California, USA                                           
Died: 27 August 1964 Los Angeles, California, USA                                           
Grace Ethel Cecile Rosalie Allen (July 26, 1895 – August 27, 1964) was an                 
American comedian who became internationally famous as the zany partner and                 
comic foil of husband George Burns.                                                         
Gracie Allen was born in San Francisco, California, to George Allen and Margaret             
She was educated at the Star of the Sea Convent School and during that time                 
became a talented dancer. She soon began performing Irish folk dances with her               
three sisters, who were billed as "The Four Colleens." In 1909, Allen joined her             
sister, Bessie, as a vaudeville performer. At a performance in 1922, Allen met               
George Burns and the two formed a comedy act. The two were married on January 7,             
1926, in Cleveland, Ohio. With George being Jewish and Gracie Catholic, their               
marriage was a rare occurrence.                                                             
Depending on the source, Gracie Allen might have been born on July 26 in 1895,               
1897, 1902, or 1906. All public records held by the City and County of San                   
Francisco were destroyed in the earthquake and great fire of April 1906. Her                 
husband, George Burns, also professed not to know exactly how old she was,                   
though it was presumably he who provided the date July 26, 1902, which appears               
on her death record. Her crypt marker also shows her year of birth as 1902.                 
Allen used to claim that she was born in 1906 but, when pressed for evidence,               
she would say that her birth certificate had been destroyed in the earthquake.               
When the person she was telling pointed out that she was born in July but the               
earthquake was three months earlier in April, she would simply smile and say, "Well,         
it was an awfully big earthquake." The most reliable information comes from the             
U.S. Census data collected on June 1, 1900. According to the information in the             
Census records for the State of California, City and County of San Francisco,               
enumeration district 38, family 217, page 11-A, one Grace Allen — daughter of             
George and Maggie Allen, and youngest sister of Bessie, Hazel and Pearl Allen —           
was born in California in July 1895.                                                         
The Burns and Allen act began with Allen as the straight man, setting up Burns               
to deliver the punchlines — and get the laughs. In his book Gracie: A Love Story           
Burns later explained that he noticed Allen's straight lines were getting more               
laughs than his punchlines, so he cannily flipped the act over — he made himself           
the straight man and let her get the laughs. Audiences immediately fell in love             
with Allen's character, which combined the traits of stupidity, zaniness, and               
total innocence. As is often the case with performers who play dumb, Gracie was,             
in real life, highly intelligent. The reformulated team, focusing on Allen,                 
toured the country, eventually headlining in major vaudeville houses. Many of               
their famous routines, including "Lambchops" were preserved on early one- and               
two-reelers made while the couple was still performing on the stage. George                 
Burns attributed all of the couple's early success to Allen, modestly ignoring               
his own brilliance as a straight man. He summed up their act in a classic quip:             
"All I had to do was say, 'Gracie, how's your brother?' and she talked for 38               
years. And sometimes I didn't even have to remember to say 'Gracie, how's your               
In the 1930s, Burns and Allen adopted two children, Sandra Jean and Ronald John,             
who were raised nominally Catholic, though Sandra was expelled from Catholic                 
school for her liberal views. Ronnie eventually joined the cast of his parents'             
television show playing George and Gracie's son, a serious drama student who                 
disdained comedy. Sandy, by contrast, made only occasional appearances on the               
show, and left show business to become a teacher.                                           
As a child, Allen had been scalded badly on one arm, and she was extremely                   
sensitive about the scarring. Throughout her life she wore either full or three-quarter     
length sleeves in order to hide the scars. The half-forearm style became as much             
a Gracie Allen trademark as her many aprons and her illogical logic. When the               
couple moved to Beverly Hills and acquired a swimming pool, Gracie put on a                 
bathing suit and swam the length of the pool, to prove to her children that she             
could swim. (She fought a longtime fear of drowning, by privately taking                     
swimming lessons.) She never put on a bathing suit or entered the pool again.               
Allen was said to be sensitive about having one green eye and one blue eye (heterochromia), 
and there was some speculation that plans to film the eighth season of The Burns             
& Allen Show in color prompted her retirement. However, this seems unlikely                 
since a one-time-only color episode was filmed and broadcast in 1954 (a clip of             
which was seen on a recent CBS anniversary show). The reason she retired in 1958             
was her health; George Burns noted more than once that she stayed with the                   
television show as long as she did to please him, in spite of her health                     
Gracie Allen fought a long battle with heart disease, finally succumbing to a               
heart attack in Hollywood in 1964. She was interred in a crypt at the Freedom               
Mausoleum at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California; Burns was                   
interred at her side when he died thirty-two years later. ("Gracie Allen and                 
George Burns — Together Again," reads the engraving on the marker.) Allen's age           
almost depended on whom you asked; even her husband professed not to know                   
exactly when she was born. The best information available comes from George                 
Burns who approximated her birth year as 1902 on their grave marker(See note