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Gracie Allen

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Title: Gracie Allen  
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Subject: George Burns, Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, Honolulu (film), College Holiday, A Damsel in Distress
Collection: 1895 Births, 1964 Deaths, 20Th-Century American Actresses, 20Th-Century American Singers, Actresses from Los Angeles, California, Actresses from San Francisco, California, Age Controversies, American Female Dancers, American Female Singers, American Film Actresses, American People of Irish Descent, American Radio Actresses, American Stage Actresses, American Television Personalities, American Women Comedians, Burials at Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Glendale), Deaths from Myocardial Infarction, Female United States Presidential Candidates, Television Hall of Fame Inductees, United States Presidential Candidates, 1940, Vaudeville Performers
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Gracie Allen

Gracie Allen
Publicity still of Allen from the Burns and Allen CBS Radio program
Born Grace Ethel Cecile Rosalie Allen
(1895-07-26)July 26, 1895[1]
San Francisco, California, U.S.
Died August 27, 1964(1964-08-27) (aged 69)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death Heart attack
Resting place Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale
Occupation Actress, comedienne, vaudevillian
Years active 1924–1958
Spouse(s)  1926–64)m.(
Children Sandra Jean Burns
(b. 1934 – d. 2010)
Ronald Jon Burns
(b. 1935 – d. 2007)
Gracie Allen, George Burns and children aboard Matson flagship Lurline just before they sailed for Hawaii, 1938

Grace Ethel Cecile Rosalie "Gracie" Allen (July 26, 1895[1][2] – August 27, 1964), was an Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6672 Hollywood Boulevard.[3] The team of Burns and Allen was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1988.

Contents

  • Early life 1
    • Birth date mystery 1.1
  • Double act 2
  • Radio 3
  • Publicity stunts 4
  • Television 5
  • Films 6
  • "Say good night, Gracie" 7
  • Private life 8
  • Death 9
  • Filmography 10
  • Radio series 11
  • Gracies Award 12
  • See also 13
  • References 14
  • Further reading 15
  • External links 16

Early life

Allen was born in Irish Catholic extraction. She made her first appearance on stage at age three and was given her first role on the radio by Eddie Cantor.[4]:94–95 She was educated at the Star of the Sea Convent School and during that time became a talented dancer.

She soon began performing comedy act. They were married on January 7, 1926, in Cleveland, Ohio.

Gracie Allen was born with heterochromia, giving her two different color eyes; one blue and one green.

Birth date mystery

Depending on the source, Allen is alleged to have been born on July 26 in 1895, 1896, 1902 or 1906. All public records held by the City and County of San Francisco were destroyed in the

External links

  • I Love Her, That's Why!: An Autobiography by George Burns (1955, 2003, 2011) ISBN 978-1258012144
  • The Third Time Around by George Burns (New York: Putnam, 1980), including transcripts of several classic Burns & Allen routines.
  • Burns, George (1988).  
  • Say Goodnight, Gracie: The Story of Burns and Allen by Cheryl Blythe and Susan Sackett (1986, 1989) ISBN 1-55958-019-4
  • The Great American Broadcast by Leonard Maltin (New York: Dutton, 1997)
  • On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio by John Dunning (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998)

Further reading

  1. ^ a b c "Ancestry of Gracie Allen". Genealogy.com. 2002-07-18. Archived from the original on 3 May 2012. Retrieved 2010-08-02. 
  2. ^ Grace Allen, age 4 years, born July 1895. U.S. Census, June 1, 1908, State of California, County of San Francisco, enumeration district 38, p. 11A, family 217.
  3. ^ "Hollywood Walk of Fame database". HWOF.com. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Burns, George (November 1988). Gracie: A Love Story. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons.  
  5. ^ "Photo of her crypt marker". Findagrave.com. 2004-06-23. Retrieved 2010-08-02. 
  6. ^ "Genealogy, Family Trees and Family History Records online". Ancestry.com. Retrieved 2010-08-02. 
  7. ^ Mazel, Henry F. "The Gracie Allen Presidential Run". Retrieved 6 November 2012. 
  8. ^ "Gracie Allen Dead".  
  9. ^ "Michael's Foreverland". The Daily Beast. 2009-09-01. Retrieved 2010-07-26. 

References

  • The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show, 1950–58, CBS

See also

The Gracie Award is presented by the Alliance for Women in Media to recognize exemplary programming created by women, for women and about women in radio, television, cable and web-based media, including news, drama, comedy, commercials, public service, documentary and sports. The awards program encourages the realistic and multi-faceted portrayal of women in entertainment, news, features and other programs. Allen has twice been nominated to the National Women's Hall of Fame which has so far chosen not to induct her. She has been honored by James L. Brooks, who named "Gracie Films" after her.

Gracies Award

  • The Robert Burns Panatella Show: 1932–1933, CBS
  • The White Owl Program: 1933–1934, CBS
  • The Adventures of Gracie: 1934–1935, CBS
  • The Campbell's Tomato Juice Program: 1935–1937, CBS
  • The Grape Nuts Program: 1937–1938, NBC
  • The Chesterfield Program: 1938–1939, CBS
  • The Hinds Honey and Almond Cream Program: 1939–1940, CBS
  • The Hormel Program: 1940–1941, NBC
  • The Swan Soap Show: 1941–1945, NBC, CBS
  • Maxwell House Coffee Time: 1945–1949, NBC
  • The Amm-i-Dent Toothpaste Show: 1949–1950, CBS

Radio series

Filmography

Burns' remains were interred at her side in 1996 when he died 32 years later at the age of 100; the marker on the crypt was changed from "Grace Allen Burns—Beloved Wife And Mother (1902–1964)" to "Gracie Allen (1902–1964) and George Burns (1896–1996)—Together Again".[9]

Gracie Allen fought a long battle with heart disease, ultimately dying of a heart attack in Hollywood on August 27, 1964, at age 69.[8] Her remains were interred in a crypt at the Freedom Mausoleum at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, California.

Crypt of Gracie Allen, in the Freedom Mausoleum, Forest Lawn Glendale.

Death

In the 1930s Burns and Allen adopted two children, Sandra Jean and [4]:306

Private life

George Burns himself said as much in an interview years later, adding that, surprisingly enough, no one ever thought of having Allen say "Good night, Gracie". However, the former Burns and Allen head writer, Paul Henning, did use the "say good night" bit in at least one episode of the Beverly Hillbillies (The Richest Woman, aired January 5, 1966, two years before Laugh-In premiered. JED: "Say good night, Jethro." JETHRO: "Good night, Jethro.")

The legend was born of their vaudeville routine and carried over to both radio and television. As the show wrapped up Burns would look at Allen and say "Say good night, Gracie" to which she would usually simply reply "Good night." Popular legend has it that Allen would say, "Good night, Gracie." According to George Burns, recordings of their radio and television shows, and several histories of old-time radio (John Dunning's On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio, for example), Gracie never used the phrase. The confusion may have been caused by Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In. Stars Dan Rowan and Dick Martin used a similar sign-off routine wherein Rowan would tell Martin to "Say good night, Dick." Martin's reply was always "Good night, Dick." It seemed like something Gracie Allen would have said.

"Say good night, Gracie"

Burns contacted an act he had once seen that performed a dance using brooms. For the next several weeks, he and Allen worked at home to learn the complicated routine for their audition. When they presented the "Whisk Broom Dance" to Astaire, he was so taken by it, that he had them teach it to him and it was added to the film. Their talents were further highlighted as they matched Astaire step by step in the demanding "Funhouse Dance". Throughout the picture Burns and Allen amazed audiences and critics as they "effortlessly" kept pace with the most famous dancer in films, as many did not know either of them could dance.[4]:205

Astaire's co-star Joan Fontaine was not a dancer and he was reluctant to dance on screen alone. He also felt the script needed more comic relief to enhance the overall appeal of the film. Burns and Allen had each worked in vaudeville as dancers (aka "hoofers") before forming their act and when word of the project reached them, they called Astaire and he asked them to audition.

In the early 1930s, Burns and Allen made several short films, preserving several of their classic vaudeville routines on celluloid. They also made two films with A Foggy Day". It was Astaire's first RKO film without dancing partner Ginger Rogers.

Films
Allen retired in 1958, and Burns tried to soldier on without her. The show was renamed

In the fall of 1949 Burns and Allen became part of the CBS talent raid. Their good friend (and frequent guest star) Jack Benny had decided to jump from NBC over to CBS. William S. Paley, the mastermind of CBS, had recently made it openly clear that he believed talent and not the network made the difference, which was not the case at NBC. Benny convinced Burns and Allen (among others) to join him in the move to CBS. The Burns and Allen radio show became part of the CBS lineup and a year later they also brought their show to television. They continued to use the formula which had kept them longtime radio stars, playing themselves only now as television stars, still living next door to Harry and Blanche Morton. They concluded each show with a brief dialogue performance in the style of their classic vaudeville and earlier radio routines.

Television

Another publicity stunt had her playing a piano concerto at the Hollywood Bowl (and later at Carnegie Hall).[4]:182 The Burns and Allen staff hired a composer to write the Concerto for Index Finger, a joke piece that had the orchestra playing madly, only to pause while Allen played a single (incorrect) note with one finger. On her final "solo," she would finally hit the right note, causing the entire orchestra to applaud. In fact, the actual index-finger playing was done off-stage by a professional pianist. The concerto was featured in the 1944 film Two Girls and a Sailor, with orchestra conducted by Albert Coates.

Allen was also the subject of one of S. S. Van Dine's famous Philo Vance mystery novels, The Gracie Allen Murder Case. Typically, she couldn't resist a classic Gracie Allen review: "S.S. Van Dine is silly to spend six months writing a novel when you can buy one for two dollars and ninety five cents."

In 1940, the team launched a similar stunt when Allen announced she was running for President of the United States on the Surprise Party ticket.[4]:184–193 Burns and Allen did a cross-country whistlestop campaign tour on a private train, performing their live radio show in different cities. In one of her campaign speeches Gracie said, "I don't know much about the Lend-Lease Bill, but if we owe it we should pay it." Another typical Gracie-ism on the campaign trail went like this: "Everybody knows a woman is better than a man when it comes to introducing bills into the house." The Surprise Party mascot was the kangaroo; the motto was "It's in the bag." As part of the gag, Allen (in reality, the Burns and Allen writers) published a book, Gracie Allen for President, which included photographs from their nationwide campaign tour and the Surprise Party convention. Allen received an endorsement from Harvard University,[7] and went on to receive 42,000 votes in the general election in November 1940; only six other female United States presidential and vice-presidential candidates have received more votes in a presidential election.

Burns and Allen frequently used running gags as publicity stunts. During 1932–33, they pulled off one of the most successful in the business: a year-long search for Allen's supposedly missing brother.[4]:100–105 They would make unannounced cameo appearances on other shows, asking if anyone had seen Allen's brother. Gracie Allen's real-life brother was apparently the only person who didn't find the gag funny, and he eventually asked them to stop. (He dropped out of sight for a few weeks, at the height of the publicity.)

Gracie Allen
How To Become President
Burns and Allen in 1952

Publicity stunts

In the early 1930s, like many stars of their era, Burns and Allen graduated to radio. The show was originally a continuation of their original "flirtation act" (as their vaudeville and short film routines had been). Burns realized that they were simply too old for that material ("Our jokes were too young for us", he later remarked) [4]:165 and changed the show's format in the fall of 1941 into the situation comedy vehicle for which they are best remembered: a working show business married couple negotiating ordinary problems caused by Gracie's "illogical logic," usually with the help of neighbors Harry and Blanche Morton, and their announcer, Bill Goodwin (later replaced by Harry von Zell during the run of their television series).

Radio

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 brother?'"

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, who combined the traits of naivete, zaniness, and total innocence. The reformulated team, focusing on Allen, toured the country, eventually headlining in major vaudeville houses. Many of their famous routines were preserved in one- and two-reel short films, including "Lambchops" (1929), which were made while the couple was still performing on the stage.

Double act

Among Allen's signature jokes was a dialogue in which Allen would claim that she was born in 1906, her California in July 1895.[1] In the census taken on April 15, 1910, however, for San Francisco's 39th Assembly District, Enumeration District 216, Page 5A, Grace Allen is listed as being 13 (instead of 14), indicating a birth date between April 1896 and April 1897.[6]

[5]

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