Show: Remembering When

Episode: 868-007 Burns and Allen.mpg

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Episode Description:

Burns and Allen, an American comedy duo consisting of George Burns and his wife, Gracie Allen, worked together as a comedy team in vaudeville, films, radio and television and achieved great success over four decades.

When The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show, aka The Burns and Allen Show, began on CBS Television October 12, 1950, it was an immediate success. The show was originally staged live before a studio audience (during its first three months, it originated from the Mansfield Theatre in New York, then relocated to CBS' Columbia Square facilities in Los Angeles). Ever the businessman, Burns realized it would be more efficient to do the series on film (beginning in the fall of 1952); the half-hour episodes could then be syndicated. From that point on, the show was shot without a live audience present, however, each installment would be screened before an audience to provide live responses prior to the episodes being broadcast. With 291 episodes, the show had a long network run through 1958 and continued in syndicated reruns for years. It started being broadcast on Antenna TV (Los Angeles affiliate: KTLA Digital Channel 5.2) in the Spring of 2011, usually airing late on Sunday through Thursday nights.

After the live series ended, the shows were filmed at General Service Studios. The sets were designed to look like their real-life residence, often using an establishing shot of the actual house at 312 Maple Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210. Although extensively remodelled, that house still exists today—including the study over the garage where George would "escape" from Gracie's illogical logic. Burns lived in that house for the rest of his life.

One running gag of the TV show involved a closet full of hats belonging to various visitors to the Burns household; guests would slip out the door unnoticed, leaving their hats behind, rather than face another round with Gracie. The format had George watching all the action (standing outside the proscenium arch in early live episodes; watching the show on TV in his study towards the end of the series) and breaking the fourth wall by commenting upon it to the viewers. Another running gag was George's weekly "firing" of announcer Harry Von Zell after he turned up aiding, abetting or otherwise not stopping the mayhem prompted by Gracie's illogical logic.

During the course of the eight-year run, the TV show had remarkable consistency in its cast and crew. The episodes were produced and directed by Ralph Levy (1950-'53), Frederick de Cordova {who would go on to direct most episodes of NBC's "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson"} (1953-'56), and Rod Amateau (1956-'58). In addition to cast members Harry Von Zell (replacing original announcer Bill Goodwin in September 1951), Bea Benadaret (who made the transition from the radio show), and Larry Keating, the original writing staff consisted of Sid Dorfman, Harvey Helm, Paul Henning, and William Burns (George's brother). Later writers, supporting Dorfman, Helm and Burns, included Nate Monaster, Jesse Goldstein, Norman Paul, and Keith Fowler. The Associate Producer was Al Simon, the Director of Photography was Philip Tannura, A.S.C., and the Editor was Larry Heath. The show's primary sponsor was Carnation Evaporated Milk, later alternating with B.F. Goodrich (1952-'57), and General Mills, for Betty Crocker (1957-'58).

Larry Keating, actually, was not in the original cast, with his character of Harry Morton first being portrayed by Hal March (October-December 1950), then John Brown (January-June 1951), and after that, Fred Clark, until 1953. In one famous episode, George stops a conversation between Harry (Clark) and Blanche (Bea Benadaret) and explains that Clark is going to be leaving the show in order to do a Broadway show in New York. At this point Clark leaves, and Larry Keating enters. George introduces him to the TV audience and then to Bea Benaderet saying, "This is Larry Keating and he is going to be your husband now". She says hello and they begin to talk, complimenting each other on their previous work. George says that if they are going to be so nice to one another, no one will believe that they are married. He then gives original cue, and Blanche continues with the scene, along with the new Harry Morton, with the scene continuing right where it left off as if nothing had happened.

Both of the couple's children were adopted. Their son, Ronnie, became a near-regular on their television show, playing himself but cast as a young drama student who tended to look askance at his parents' comedy style. Sandra & Ronnie first appeared playing themselves in the 3rd season episode "Uncle Clyde Comes to Visit," aired 1/1/53. The teenagers are in the Burns living room, threading a 16mm projector with that night's episode. In voiceover, George introduces them, and tells the audience that they've been away at school and that's why we haven't met them before. Ronnie later made a guest appearance on the October 18, 1954 episode ("Gracie Gives Wedding in Payment of a Favor") playing a character named "Jim Goodwin" prior to his debut as a regular, and was formally introduced to the audience at the episode's conclusion. Their daughter, Sandy, was somewhat shy and not too fond of show business. Sandy declined efforts to get her on the show as a regular cast member, and she later appeared in a few episodes as a classmate of Ronnie. In one episode, Ronnie's drama class puts on a vaudeville show to raise funds for the school. Gracie hosts the show while Ronnie and Sandy deliver an impersonation of their famous parents along with one of their classic routines. Since Ronnie played himself, Gracie closed the segment with a wisecrack: "The boy was produced by Burns and Allen."

In later seasons, George and Gracie would often reappear after the end of the episode, eventually before a curtain decorated with the names and locations of the various theaters they headlined in their vaudeville days, performing one of their patented "double routines," often discussing one of Gracie's fictional relatives ("Death Valley Allen", the prospector; "Florence Allen", the nurse; "Casey Allen", the railroad man, and so on).

Burns would always end the show with "Say goodnight, Gracie," to which Allen simply replied "Goodnight." She never said "Goodnight, Gracie," as legend has it. Burns was once asked this question and said it would've been a funny line. Asked why he didn't do it, Burns replied, "Incredibly enough, no one ever thought of it."

From October 1950 until March, 1953, the series aired on Thursday nights on CBS.(During its first two years on television, it aired every other Thursday night.) In March 1953, "The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show" joined I Love Lucy as part of the CBS Monday night prime-time line-up. As a result, the show entered the top 30 television programs in the Nielsen ratings ranking at #20. For the 1954-1955 season, it ranked #26 and for both the 1955-1956 and 1956-1957 seasons, it was #28. With "I Love Lucy" ending its six-year run on CBS in the spring of 1957, the television network wanted to renew the Burns and Allen series, but by this time, Gracie had grown tired of the grind. Nevertheless, George committed both of them for another year, which would be their eighth—and last—on television. Gracie announced her retirement on February 17, 1958—effective at the end of the current season. They shot their last show on June 4. At the wrap party, Gracie had a token sip of champagne from a paper cup, hugged her friend and co-star Bea Benaderet, said "Okay, that's it . . . thank you very much, everyone," and walked off the set—never looking back.

Following a mild heart attack in the 1950s, Gracie suffered a series of angina episodes over a number of years. She had a major heart attack in 1961. Upon returning from the hospital, she hired a full-time nurse/companion named Claribel Crewell, who remained with her for the rest of her life. She lived a slower but comfortable retirement for another three years, often appearing with her husband but never performing.

Burns attempted to continue the show with the same supporting cast but without Gracie. The George Burns Show lasted only one season on NBC (1958–59); Burns realized that viewers kept expecting Gracie to enter the scene at any time.

After trying another sitcom, Wendy and Me, Burns turned to nightclub work, teaming up with long-time friend Carol Channing. He enjoyed an Oscar-winning movie resurgence at the age of 80 with The Sunshine Boys. Then director Carl Reiner asked him to play the title role in Larry Gelbart's comedy, Oh, God!, which was so successful it spawned two sequels. He also co-starred with Art Carney and Lee Strasberg as a businesslike bank robber in the Martin Brest senior-citizen caper comedy Going in Style.

Gracie Allen died in 1964, while watching a Spencer Tracy movie on television. George Burns died in 1996, at the age of 100.

The kinescope recordings of the live telecasts from the 1950–1952 seasons of The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show have fallen into the public domain.

All of the TV shows were produced under the banner of McCadden Productions, the company that George Burns ran. He named the company after the street on which his brother, William, lived. McCadden also produced the iconic TV show "Mr. Ed." The McCadden catalog is owned by Sony Pictures Television.

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SD (Standard Definition) File

File Name of SD Episode: 868-007 Burns and Allen.mpg

Total SD Episode Video Runtime (hh:mm:ss): 00:32:04

File Size of SD Episode Video: 1,499,871,580 Bytes

Resolution of SD Episode Video: 720x480

Date SD Episode Video Uploaded: Sunday, January 13, 2013 - 11:04

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