Burns and Allen was an American comedy duo consisting of George Burns and his wife, Gracie Allen. They worked together as a successful comedy team that entertained vaudeville, film, radio, and television audiences for over forty years.
The duo met in 1922 and married in 1926. Burns was the straight man and Allen was a silly, addle-headed woman. The duo starred in a number of movies including Lambchops (1929), The Big Broadcast (1932) and two sequels in 1935 and 1936, and A Damsel in Distress (1937). Their 30-minute radio show debuted in September 1934 as The Adventures of Gracie, whose title changed to The Burns and Allen Show in 1936; the series ran, moving back and forth between NBC and CBS, until May 1950. After their radio show’s cancellation, Burns and Allen reemerged on television with a popular situation comedy, which ran from 1950 to 1958.
Burns and Allen’s radio show was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 1994. Their TV series received a total of 11 Primetime Emmy Award nominations and produced what TV Guide ranked No. 56 on its 1997 list of the 100 greatest episodes of all time.
Burns and Allen met in 1922 and first performed together at the Hill Street Theatre in Newark, New Jersey, continued in small town vaudeville theaters, married in Cleveland on January 7, 1926, and moved up a notch when they signed with the Keith-Albee-Orpheum circuit in 1927.
Burns wrote most of the material and played the straight man. Allen played a silly, addle-headed woman, a role often attributed to the “Dumb Dora” stereotype common in early 20th-century vaudeville comedy. Early on, the team had played the opposite roles until they noticed that the audience was laughing at Gracie’s straight lines, so they made the change. In later years, each attributed their success to the other.
The Burns and Allen team was not an overnight sensation. “We were a good man-and-woman act,” Burns said, “but we were not headliners or stars or featured attractions. We were on the bill with them. There would be a star or two stars and a featured attraction, and then we would come — fourth billing in an eight-act show.” Their career changed direction when they made their first film.
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