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Gracie Allen (July 26, 1902?, San Francisco, California - August 27, 1964, Los Angeles, California) was a comedienne of film, radio, and television. Born Grace Ethel Cecile Rosalie Allen, she was the scatterbrain of the team Burns and Allen, and her husband George Burns was the straight man. They originated the catch-phrase "Say 'good-night,' Gracie."
Born into an Irish Catholic show-business family (her mother was actress Ronnie Burns), Allen was educated at the Star of the Sea Convent School as a girl, and then became a vaudeville performer with her sister Bessie in 1909. She teamed up with George Burns in 1922, and married him in 1926, despite the difference in their religions, which would have caused other people serious problems in those less enlightened times. Early on the team noticed that Gracie was getting far better audience laughs than George even though she was the comic foil of the team. Bowing to reality, the team switched roles and had great success.
In the 1930s they adopted two children: Sandra Jean and Ronald John, who were raised nominally Catholic. When Ronnie Burns was grown, he joined the cast of his parents' 1950-1958 Monday-night television show on CBS, The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show. Sandra Burns, however, made only brief bit appearances on the show, and soon retired from showbiz.
Allen's stage persona was as a bizarre, illogical, and not very bright woman. Offstage she was anything but dimwitted, however: historians credit her with having the genius to deliver her lengthy diatribes in a fashion that made it look as though she was making her arguments up on the spot. The quote "Never place a period where God has placed a comma", recently used as a slogan of the United Church of Christ, is attributed to her.
She and Burns were deeply devoted to each other, despite Burns' brief dalliance with another woman, which Gracie accepted stoically. After her death, Burns told a reporter that he had received a number of letters asking why he remained married to "that fruitcake". Burns replied to them by publishing a book titled: I Love Her, That's Why.
Allen had one green eye and one blue one. At least one biographer has speculated that her sensitivity about that was what caused her to retire from television when color television came in, which would have revealed that feature to her fans. She had stopped making films in the early 1940s when color movies came in, too.
Gracie Allen died of a heart attack in Hollywood, after a lengthy battle with heart disease, somewhere between the ages of 62 to 70 (see note below regarding Gracie Allen's year of birth). She is interred along with her husband George Burns in a private crypt at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.
- Lambchops (1929) (a "short" film)
- The Big Broadcast (1932) (1st feature film)
- College Humor (1933)
- International House (1933)
- Many Happy Returns (1934) (1st leading rôle)
- Six Of A Kind (1934)
- We're Not Dressing (1934)
- Love in Bloom (1935)
- Here Comes Cookie (1936)
- A Damsel in Distress (1937) (1st Fred Astaire movie without Ginger Rogers & 1st in which Burns and Allen danced)
- College Swing (1938)
- Honolulu (1939)
- The Gracie Allen Murder Case (1939) (without Burns -- a "Philo Vance" mystery by S. S. Van Dine)
- Mr. and Mrs. North (1941) (2nd murder mystery without Burns)
- Two Girls and a Sailor (1944) (guest appearance & last movie)
- The Robert Burns Panatella Show: 1932 - 1933 CBS
In their debut series, George and Gracie shared the bill with Guy Lombardo and his Orchestra. The pair launched themselves into national stardom with their first major publicity stunt, Gracie's ongoing search for her missing brother.
- 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
This series featured another wildly successful publicity stunt which had Gracie running for President of the United States.
- The Hormel Program: 1940 - 1941 NBC
Advertising a brand new product called "Spam". . . this show featured musical numbers by jazz great Artie Shaw.
- The Swan Soap Show: 1941 - 1945 NBC, CBS
This series featured a radical format change, in that George and Gracie played themselves as a married couple for the first time, and the show became a full-fledged domestic situation comedy. This was George's response to a marked drop in ratings under the old "Flirtation Act" format.
- Maxwell House Coffee Time: 1945 - 1949 NBC
- The Amm-i-Dent Toothpaste Show: 1949 - 1950 CBS
- The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show: 1950 - 1958 CBS
- A note regarding her date of birth: Depending on which source you read, Gracie Allen was born on July 26 in 1894, 1895, 1897, 1902 or 1906. 1906 can be safely removed as a possibility. The date cited here, July 26, 1902, is taken from the "California Death Records" database of the State of California, but this is not necessarily 100% gospel truth. During her lifetime, the year of her birth had been accepted as 1906 for many years, but when pressed for proof of this, Gracie would claim that her birth certificate had been destroyed in the big San Francisco earthquake of that year. When it was pointed out to her that the earthquake took place 3 months before her claimed birthdate, she smiled and replied, "Well, it was an awfully big earthquake". George Burns himself professed not to know exactly how old Gracie was.
- IMDB lists 1895 as the year of her birth.
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