Born Grace Ethel Cecile Rosalie
Allen, July 26, 1906, in San Francisco, Gracie Allen had
been on the vaudeville stage since the age of three. At the
time she met George, however, Gracie was enrolled in secretarial
school in New York City, feeling that show business life was
too uncertain to ever offer a real living. But the spark had
not totally faded, and one evening in 1923 after accompanying
a friend to watch the about-to-split up act of Burns and Lorraine
in Union Hill, New Jersey, the girls went backstage where a
dapper young George convinced Gracie to become his new partner.
In actuality, Gracie had found she hated to type and therefore
decided to take the plunge back into show business, although
George always felt it was really his "irresistible charm"
that convinced her!
Although they werent an overnight sensation, Burns and
Allen received a lot of bookings, many as a "disappointment
act," to replace another act that for some reason had cancelled
at the last minute. Still, they worked their way up as George
continued to perfect his writing skills behind the scenes, and
onstage played the straight man to Gracies dizzy character
with her "illogical logic." One classic example of
Gracie's on-stage persona occurred when she was asked by an
interviewer about her childhood, "Were you the
oldest one in the family?" . . . . "No,
no," Gracie quickly replied, "My
mother and father were much older ! "
It may seem surprising, but in the beginning
of their partnership, George and Gracies roles were actually
reversed, with Gracie playing the straight character and George
having the funny lines. However, it was soon apparent that Gracie
was actually getting more laughs with her stylish delivery of
the straight lines than George was with his comic responses.
He decided to switch their roles, and Burns and Allen began
their upward climb.
In 1925, their first big break came when they were booked to
play the Orpheum circuit for a total of 16 weeks. They were
married on January 7, 1926, in Cleveland, Ohio, by a justice
of the peace. Shortly after their marriage, Burns and Allen
broke in their new act, the now famous "Lamb
Chops." It was an immediate hit, and they
were soon signed to a five-year contract on the Keith-Orpheum
circuit and played to huge crowds all across the country.
In the middle of their hectic schedule, George and Gracie still
found time to make movies, and between 1933-1939 they appeared
in a total of thirteen features, including College
Humor, Were Not Dressing, Here Comes Cookie, Big Broadcast
of 1936, and Honolulu.
Additionally, Gracie appeared in three films on her own between
1939 and 1944.
On the personal side, by the mid-1930s, the energetic young
couple were ready to start a family, and in 1934 they adopted
a baby boy, Ronnie. About this time, the Burnses also moved
into a permanent home in Beverly Hills, where the children grew
up and where George and Gracie resided for the rest of their
"The Burns and Allen Show"
remained one of the top radio shows during its nearly 20-year
run with 45 million listeners tuning in each week. By 1950 George
felt they were ready for the new medium of television. The show
transferred well, and for the next eight years on CBS, Burns
and Allen entertained audiences with plotlines revolving around
home life, neighbors, and even vaudeville routines.
Gracie retired from show business in 1958, while George went
on to pursue an independent career. In August of 1964, Gracie
Allen died of a heart attack in Los Angeles.