GEORGE BURNS Biography - Other artists & entretainers


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NAME: George Burns & Gracie Allen
BIRTH PLACE: New York & San Francisco



Gracie Allen and George Burns were a successful comedy act for 29 years. Unusually for a boy-girl act, it was Allen who was the comic and Burns who was the straight man.


Gracie, the daughter of a musical comedy performer, joined her sisters on stage at the age of 3 1/2. At 18 she joined the Reilly troupe, then hung up her tap shoes to become a secretary. Still with lots of friends on stage, Gracie was introduced to struggling vaudevillian, George Burns, in 1922. Disillusioned with her keyboard, Gracie paired up with Burns and went off touring, with a show that largely poached its routine from more famous performers. It was Gracie who made the audience laugh, with her convoluted logic, and Burns who played on their mirth with his dead-pan consternation.


Burns married Gracie in 1926 but it was never made public. On tour in the UK, Gracie and Burns made their radio debut with a 26-week series. Back in New York, the couple made comedy shorts for Vitaphone, then Paramount. In 1931, the team broke into US radio, as co-stars to Guy Lombardo on a weekly program.


A film career began and ended in the 1930s, starring opposite Fred Astaire in ‘A Damsel in Distress’; Gracie and Burns held their own, not only keeping up with Astaire, but matching him step for step.


Burns made headlines in 1940, when he concocted a nonsensical presidential campaign for Gracie on the Surprise Party ticket. The ratings started to fall in the 1940s. Burns realised they were too old for their jokes; no longer could they play the daft young lovers. So he changed their persona and announced that they were in fact married and had two adopted children. With Gracie and Burns’ new adulthood, came a revival of ratings and a successful transition to television, in the ‘George Burns and Gracie Allen Show’.


Plagued by illness and stage fright, Gracie retired in 1958, and died in 1964.