1 9 5 0 – 1 9 5 8 (USA)
The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show was just one more world to conquer for the legendary vaudeville, movie and radio stars Burns (real name Nathan Birnbaum) and Allen.
The premise was utterly simple: George Burns was in show business, providing ample opportunity for gags about their work and walk-on appearances by staff members.
He was also the calm centre of the storms created by wacky neighbours, nutty friends and, especially, his zany wife Gracie.
Through the years, George Burns had seldom been more than a glorified straight-man for the hare-brained Gracie Allen as she skewered common sense and chatted about her bizarre relatives.
But television finally brought Burns into his own.
He established eye contact with viewers and regularly spoke to them during the show; the device was taken to surreal heights during the final years of the programme, when Burns installed a television set in his den that magically allowed him to view the mayhem being caused by his wife in the neighbourhood (although, curiously, it never forestalled her predicaments).
Inspired writing complemented the comic performances, making Burns and Allen an all-time classic.
Also in the cast were Harry Von Zell (playing, as he was in real life, an announcer), Ronnie Burns (George and Gracie’s real-life son), and Bea Benadaret as neighbour Blanche Morton.
Blanche’s husband Harry, the stuffy accountant, was played through the years by Hal March (who went on to host The $64,000 Question), Bob Sweeney, Fred Clark and Larry Keating.
Burns and Allen continued until Gracie retired in 1958, then George acted one season in a revised format that suffered without Gracie’s non-sequiturs.
He later starred for a season with Connie Stevens in Wendy and Me and finally changed his persona into that of a monologuing roué with great success.
Gracie died in 1964 of heart problems, while George lived to the age of 100, passing away in 1996.
The Burns’ house was at 312 Maple Street, Beverly Hills. The Mortons lived at 314.
The first 50 episodes of the series were broadcast live and not recorded – hence only episodes post-1953 exist in the archives.
Harry Von Zell
Hal March (1)
Bob Sweeney (2)
Fred Clark (3)
Larry Keating (4)
Bonnie Sue McAfee