- NAME: Gracie Allen
- OCCUPATION: Film Actress, Comedian, Singer
- BIRTH DATE: July 26, 1895
- DEATH DATE: August 27, 1964
- EDUCATION: Star of the Sea Convent School
- PLACE OF BIRTH: San Francisco, California
- PLACE OF DEATH: Los Angeles, California
- Full Name: Grace Ethel Cecile Rosalie Allen
- AKA: Grace Allen
Best Known For
One of America's best-loved comediennes, Gracie Allen developed the Burns and Allen weekly radio program with husband George Burns.
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Her popularity with listeners prompted invitations from other radio shows, and CBS soon offered Burns and Allen a contract. On the night of February 15, 1932, they joined Guy Lombardo's musical variety show. Within a year, Lombardo had been reduced to a supporting role on The Burns and Allen Comedy Show.
The switch to radio required major changes in the Burns and Allen style. Dialogue assumed primary importance,
which lessened the emphasis on Allen's singing and dancing. Burns suggested they pretend to play themselves and give the audience a glimpse of their private lives—a milestone in the development of the domestic situation comedy. In the future, the Burns and Allen formula would spawn many imitators.
In the late 1930s, The Burns and Allen Comedy Show was ranked as one of the top three shows in the United States; an estimated 45 million people listened to the show each week. Burns and Allen were always affiliated with CBS, except in 1937 when they moved to NBC. Over the years, the show was sponsored by a number of companies: Robert Burns Cigars, Lever Brothers, Maxwell House Coffee, Campbell Soup, Grape Nuts, General Foods and Swan Soap. Domestic humor was the staple of Burns and Allen. A typical example was the search in 1933 for Gracie's "lost brother." During the hunt, she visited all major radio programs and urged the public to help seek out her elusive relative. Gracie's real brother, George Allen, a San Francisco accountant, was forced to go into seclusion until the gag was terminated.
Occasionally, Burns and Allen departed from their usual format. In 1940, for instance, Allen decided to run for president as the candidate of the Surprise party. She declared her political philosophy to be the avoidance of overconfidence. "I realize," she said, "that the president of today is merely the postage stamp of tomorrow."
Early in the 1930s, Burns and Allen took up residence in Beverly Hills, California. Their domestic life was happy and tranquil. In the middle of the decade, they adopted two children. During these years, they also starred in a number of feature films for Paramount Studios, including The Big Broadcast (1932), Six of a Kind (1934) and College Holiday (1936). But motion pictures were a distant second to their weekly radio program.
In October 1950, Burns and Allen moved to television. Their popularity continued, but Allen began to tire of the character she had played for so many years. In 1958, she retired from show business, and Burns subsequently pursued an independent career. On August 27, 1964, Allen died of a heart attack in Los Angeles, California.
From the 1920s to the 1950s, Allen stood at center stage as one of America's favorite female entertainers. She and Burns pioneered in the development of the domestic situation comedy. She always played the role of a zany woman who had found happiness through pleasant insanity. Her appeal rested upon an ability to convince an audience that in reality she was indeed the scatterbrained character she portrayed.
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George Burns met Gracie Allen in 1922, and they married in 1926. Their highly successful vaudeville act featured George as the straight man to Gracie's zany antics. The couple created its best-known sketch for radio, a situation comedy starring themselves as a working show-business couple. They carried the format to television in 1948, including next-door neighbors Harry and Blanche Morton, Gracie's infamous illogical logic, and the signature "Say goodnight, Gracie" at the show's close. The duo also made films, including an Oscar-nominated turn in A Damsel in Distress with Fred Astaire.
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