Friday, July 26, 2013
July 26: Happy Birthday, Gracie Allen
If the great comedian, George Burns, had a great love of his life...it was Gracie Allen. Miss Allen was born July 26, 1895 (at best guess as her birth records were lost in the great San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906) and through her illustrious career, she endeared herself to the hearts of millions of fans around the globe. She made her first appearance to the masses at the age of 3 when she performed with Eddie Cantor. As part of “The Four Colleens”, she and her sisters performed irish dances and eventually ended up on vaudeville with her older sister Bess. In 1922 she met a young comic vaudevillian named George Burns and teamed up...both on stage and in life. In their act, Gracie originally was the straight force of the duo, but as she was receiving the laughter for her less than “all there” approach to dialog. Gracie Allen became the focal point of the jocularity.
In reality, Miss Allen had a keen I.Q. and was very articulate. Their success on the stage carried the husband-wife team perfectly onto radio. By the 1930’s, their rapporte of wit and witticism became a huge portion of their popularity on the air waves. As the 40’s rolled around, their situational radio comedy program, “Burns and Allen”, blossomed into a generational approach to humor. Gracie and her “illogical logic” made each episode a delight and favorite with the listening public. She might make you scratch your head trying to figure out the explanation or phrase she gave to each quip or barb flung her way...yet she never fell down for lack of something to say. She and her husband played off a stunt that lasted most of the election year of 1940 when they ran for President and Vice-President under the Surprise Ticket. Gracie Allen received over 40,000 votes that November.
Over the years their program made it to television and film and they were a continual favorite among the american audience. In 1964, Gracie Allen lost her battle with heart disease. When George Burns uttered the infamous line, “Say goodnight Gracie”...she did for the last time.