By 1935 Burns and Allen were already being heralded as one of the World's greatest Film Partnerships, as illustrated in this 1935 'cigarette card' from Great Britain
The Campbell Soup Company was Burns and Allen's second major sponsor over Radio
LIFE magazine Campbell's Soup ad from December 1936
Note some of the more anachronistic Campbell's Soup offerings of the era. Among them: Mock Turtle, Mutton, Mulligatawny, Ox Tail, and Printanier.
Syracuse spot ad for the premiere of new Burns and Allen program for Campbell Soup Company from October 2nd 1935
Legendary Radio sportscaster Ted Husing served as Burns and Allen's first announcer for Campbell's
Gifted young heavyweight (267lbs) bandleader Jacques Renard supported Burns and Allen and Campbell's until jumping to the Eddie Cantor Fire-Chief program for Texaco in the Fall of 1936
Tenor Milton Watson provided the song solos for Campbell's Tomato Juice Presents
Eddy Duchin's was one of the featured orchestras who filled in for Jacques Renard until the arrival of the Henry King Orchestra
Singing legend Tony Martin made his first breakout appearances over Radio with the Fall 1936 Season of Campbell's Presents Burns and Allen
Radio veteran Ken Niles, brother of Wendell Niles, took over from Ted Husing for the Fall 1936 season of Campbell's Tomato Juice Presents. Wendell Niles served as Burns and Allen's announcer as 'Ronald Drake' during their Grape Nuts sponsored 1937 series.
George Burns and Gracie Allen's three seasons over CBS for General Cigar began a Burns & Allen franchise over Radio, in Film and on Television spanning twenty-six years. Burns & Allen's Radio programs spanned eighteen of those years:
- 1932 The Robert Burns Panatela Program
- 1933 The White Owl Program
- 1934 The Adventures of Gracie
- 1935 Cambell's Tomato Juice Presents Burns and Allen
- 1936 Campbell's Soups Presents Burns and Allen
- 1937 George Burns and Gracie Allen [for Grape Nuts]
- 1938 Chesterfield Time with George Burns and Gracie Allen
- 1940 The Hinds Honey and Almond Cream Program
- 1940 The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show [for Hormel]
- 1941 Well I Swan [for Swan Soap Flakes and Detergent]
- 1945 Maxwell House Coffee Time
- 1949 The Amm-i-dent Show
Needless to say, as George Burns and Gracie Allen's fame and popularity continued to rise there were no end of sponsors willing to promote their goods with Burns & Allen as their headliners.
The Campbell Soup Company doubles down on early Radio
From the very inception of locally and regionally broad-cast Radio The Campbell Soup Company was among the more prominent early sponsors of local, regional and eventually nationally broadcast Radio. Campbell Soup promoted its--then--twenty-one lines of concentrated soup as well as its Tomato Juice.
- 1931 The Campbell Orchestra
- 1932 Lanny Ross
- 1934 Hollywood Hotel
- 1937 Komedy Kingdom
- 1935 The Campbell Tomato Juice Program
- 1936 Campbell's Soup Presents George Burns and Gracie Allen
- 1938 Edwin Hill and the News
- 1938 Amos 'n' Andy
- 1938 Campbell's Playhouse
- 1939 Helen Hayes Theatre
- 1939 Brenda Curtis (Serial)
- 1939-1958 Edward R. Murrow and the News
- 1940 Fletcher Wiley and the News
- 1940 Charlie and Jessie
- 1941 The Man I Married
- 1941 The Arkansas Traveler
- 1944 Grand Hotel
- 1946 The Jack Carson Show
- 1946 Hildegarde
- 1946 Meet Corliss Archer
- 1947 Double or Nothing
- 1951 Club Fifteen
- 1954 Grand Central Station
- 1956 Aunt Jenny's Real Life Stories (Serial)
George Burns and Gracie Allen expand their CBS franchise
One of the more unlikely duos to achieve Entertainment World super-stardom, Jewish-born Nat Birnbaum [Stage name George Burns] and Irish Catholic-born Grace Ethel Cecile Rosalie Allen grew up worlds apart in myriad ways. Nat from New York and Grace from San Francisco found each other in New Jersey, Birnbaum performing a vaudeville act with then partner Lorraine. Grace reportedly approached Birnbaum after his 'Burns & Lorraine' act about working in vaudeville and 'George Burns' offered her a suggestion that she work with him. That was 1922. The act became a couple, and the couple married shortly after meeting. Continuing to slug it out in vaudeville for another five years, Burns & Allen soon caught the attention of the Film Industry and its search for comedy teams for its growing production of 'talkies' of the era. Burns & Allen were featured in several Vitaphone Shorts of the era, eventually leading them into featured guest appearances over network Radio. As the guest appearances grew more frequent, Burns & Allen's novel 'dumb Dora' act acquired exponentially more fans.
Here's an example of just one of hundreds of articles of the era, making observations on Gracie Allen's genius, this one from the November 17th 1935 edition of the Oakland Tribune:
Real Money For Just Acting Dumb
IT IS axiomatic of show business that it is as futile to separate any of the reigning teams of stage, screen or radio as to enjoy ham and eggs without one of the component parts.
Like most of the bits of wisdom that flutter down the ages and find their way into the adage text books, it isn't worth the paper it is written on. For every Kolb and Dill who can't maintain their pace as individuals there are dozens of Lowes and McLaglens who do all right when parted.
There are a good many persons in this world who consider an eggless breakfast the nadir of matutinal meals, but who wouldn't give you a dime a dozen for ham, fried, broiled, boiled or baked. Many a doughnut addict can't abide the aroma of coffee and shuns it as he would the works of the devil.
All of which is prelude to the iconoclastic statement that an interview with Burns and Allen, from which George Burns is absent, may be as rare as a day in June, but it is nonetheless a pleasant enterprise, for Gracie Allen isn't nearly as dumb as she lets on to be.
Most interviewers find the pair as a team in interviews, however, and also find Burns doing most of the talking. That is all part of the game to delude the public into the belief that Miss Allen, off stage, is the same merry zany that she is when faced with an audience, a microphone or a camera.
This interview, as a matter of fact, was due to be a Burns and Allen gabfest, but Burns got his dates mixed and was off in a downtown hideaway sweating over his next radio program and Miss Allen was at home playing housewife and mother.
"Let me telephone George," she began in her customary flutter after the introductions. "It'll only take him a few minutes to get here and he knows all the answers."
"No, indeed," demurred the suave Teet Carle, cicerone on this expedition from Paramount, at a signal from your correspondent. "We'll just rest here a bit and catch George later at his leisure."
And Miss Allen, with definite misgivings, had to let it go that way. She would much rather play dumb, but if there is no evading an issue, she meets it with resignation. After all, as thickwitted as she seems to be, it was her, not Burns, who catapulted the team into international prominence.
BURNS had gone on the stage when he was 12 as the oldest of four juvenile singers who called themselves the Peewee quartet. By the time he met Gracie Allen he had had so many partners that fellow vaudevillians used to greet him with: "Who you with this week, George?"
Even when the Burns and Allen team was launched it was George, not Gracie, who had the top line. The audience promptly changed that when they laughed more at Gracie's questions than at George's answers. In more or less self-defense he switched positions. A good many years of minor success followed, success in vaudeville both here and abroad, but nothing of the sort that came out of a chance invitation to Gracienot George, mind youto play a bit in one of Eddie Cantor's programs on the air. She did so well that she and George were signed for another network program.
Yet despite all this, Gracie Allen will answer you that it is Burns who is the brains of the team, who does all the work, who thinks up all the jokes, who makes all of the business contacts. As a matter of fact he is and does, but the genius that is added to the programs and pictures is the genius of a young woman who discovered a type that American comedy had overlooked.
She is the personification of the sweet young thing who asks the stupid questions at the baseball games, who titters at the wrong time at serious dramas, who greets friends across the auditorium ecstatically at swanky operas, who walks in front of automobiles against signals and miraculously escapes, who trumps all of her partners aces and still wins the bridge prize.
THE virtue of Gracie Allen's impersonation is that she is a perfectly normal-looking person, dark, vivacious, pretty, smartly dressed and intelligent.
"George is very careful writing the programs to keep me on the thin line between absolute idiocy and common sense," she was saying. "It's a difficult job, and he gets far too little credit for it. People are forever complimenting me on bright sallies or devastating remarks. They feel they are impromptu even when they see me reading a script in the studio.
"To tell the truth, I rarely know what the program is to be about before we start rehearsal. I don't want to. It's George's business. I come with a clear minda varant mind, if you will, and often my natural errors in reading tricky speeches make the situations even funnier than if the answers were pat.
"As soon as a broadcast is finished I go home or out with friends, as the case may be, and George shuts himself up in his office and maps out the general theme for next week's work. It's all fresh in his mind then, he has had a chance to test out audience reaction on certain ideas, and he stays on the job until early morning.
"I don't know how he stands the grind. Of course he buys jokes and comedy situationseverybody doesbut that's only the beginning. They must be worked into the script and they must be arranged to fit the characters."
"YOU had it a lot easier in vaudeville, even it you didn't make so much money."
"I suspect it seemed that way from out front," Miss Allen smiled; "but we were unconsciously preparing ourselves for the demands of radio long before we ever dreamed of going on the air. Nearly every performance we gaveand sometimes we did four and five a daycontained new bits of business. We were constantly adding and dropping material.
"If other vaudeville folks had followed our system, there would be vaudeville today. It died of dry rot. No one ever wanted to change an act or get a new one.
"If we got a good big laugh in an act and decided it was getting stale, we'd pull it out and risk another, maybe getting smaller returns. Then we'd go to work on the old one. George would rearrange it, dress it up to fit a new situation, change it around a little, and presently we'd have it in the routine again, bigger and better than ever.
"He found that people laugh more at jokes with which they are somewhat familiar than brand-new gags.
"We had an experience in London that is more or less typical. Two of the biggest laughs in our routine in America came out of gags dealing with the word 'hug' and the term 'Post Office.' We were flabbergasted when the English public found them riotously unfunny. You know how it is when you're waiting for a big laugh and nothing comes. It's ghastly.
"The audiences were kind and polite, but they wouldn't laugh. Then one evening a little English pantomime artist came up to the dressing room in a friendly spirit and gave us a tip. "Try cuddle instead of hug," he suggested, and change Post Office to Postman's Knock. They don't know what you mean."
"That bit of advice saved the day. From that time on we had no difficulty keeping our English cousins amused, and we have a standing offer to do a week in London whenever we get a chance to go over."
"And how about pictures, what of them?"
"Oh, I like the work," said Miss Allen, smiling diplomatically at Paramount's representative, "and I like the money, naturally."
Gracie Allen is a San Francisco product, daughter of an old song-and-dance man. She made her first public appearance as an infant dancer at three and a half at entertainments. By the time she was 13 she was filling in the vacation months as a vaudeville dancer. She did a tour with her three older sisters, and when Charlie Reilly left the Columbia here and took out a vaudeville unit, the Allen Sisters went with him.
"It was an Irish sketch, you may recall," she said, "and in time I inherited a speaking part as one of the colleens. My sisters left the show one by one and returned home to teach dancing. I stayed with it. I didn't want to become a dancing teacher. In fact, once when things got tough in vaudeville, I decided to become a stenographer and went to a secretarial school to study."
She was laboring over her pothooks when a friend induced her to go over to Union Hill in New Jersey to give her moral support in a vaudeville tryout. Back stage she met a brash young man who was doing a song-and-dance act with Billy Lorraine. His name was George Burns, and before long Lorraine was looking for another partner and the secretarial school had lost a student.
"The funny part of our start was that I'd been with the Reilly troupe so long I adopted a brogue that was almost natural." Gracie giggled. "For a long time the Burns and Allen gags were delivered with a touch of the- Ould Sod. Finally it slipped away from me. Married? Oh, no, we were business partners for four years before we were married.
"We both had obligations, but when RKO signed us on a six-year contract our future was more or less assured, so we took the fatal plunge!"
And from the May 22nd 1936 edition of the Oakland Tribune:
VOTED TOPS IN
Gracie Allen Given Palm by
Students for Consistent
By RELMAN MORIN
Associated Press Staff Writer
HOLLYWOOD, May 22.(AP)Gracie Allen, the professional dumbbell of the movies and the air waves can't fool psychology students a the University of Southern California.
They selected her today as the most intelligent actress in Hollywood.
The other nine named were Mary Pickford, Norma Shearer, Ann Harding, Irene Dunne, Claudette Colbert, Grace Moore, Bette Davis, Ruth Chatterton and Jeanette MacDonald.
Two groups of students, an elementary class of 80, and an advanced section of 40, participated in the polling. They were warned by Dr. John Todd, the instructor, not to make their selections on the basis of the roles the women play on the screen.
AGREE ON GRACIE
Voting separately, the two groups agreed on Gracie Allen as the most intelligent, and saw eye-to-eye on eight others. The difference was that the elementary class put Miss Chatterton in the list of ten, while the advanced group had Katharine Hepburn on the roster.
A list of 50 names was compiled, before the election, to aid those students who are unfamiliar with the picture people, Dr. Todd said. But the selections were not restricted to this list.
Mae West and Constance Bennett polled almost enough votes to land among the first ten. The students noted that these two actresses must be intelligent to command the salaries they receive. Gladys Swarthout's versatility as a singer, actress and best-dressed woman also brought her near the top bracket.
GRACIE LEADS LIST
But Gracie led the list.
One student's reply phrased a consensus regarding her.
"It requires a clever brain to project so consistently an insane characterization," the paper remarked. "Miss Allen is known here as a successful home maker and a shrewd business woman, in addition to the difficult personality she displays professionally."
Miss Allen insisted, however, when informed of the university test, that she is just a mental pygmy.
"You know the saying," she cooed. "When it's wise to be foolish it's a good thing not to tell George, or something."
Burns and Allen were one of three popular husband and wife comedy teams of the era, along with Fred Allen and Portland Hoffa and Jack Benny and Mary Livingstone. The following article from the January 19th 1936 edition of the Oakland Tribune compared and contrasted the three wildly popular comedy couples:
By Bernes Robert
"OUT WEST, where men are men" used to be a very apt expression in the old days of six-shooting cowboys and timid tenderfeet. But radio has changed even that worn adage. It should read now: "Out West, where men are men and women are radio comediennes."
For radio's most successful comediennes are those three merry wives of mountebanks Mary Livingstone, Portland Hoffa and Gracie Allen. They all hail from the Pacific side of the Rocky Mountains. Perhaps some psychologist might be able to evolve a theory that there is something in the climate or the soil out there that makes the feminine members of the species particularly humorous.
Mary, Mrs. Jack Benny, was born in Seattle, Wash. Portland, Mrs. Fred Allen, first saw the light of day in the city in Oregon for which she is named, and Gracie started complicating life for other people, in her dizzy fashion, first in the vicinity of San Francisco. All three married funny men. The husbands come from the other half of the country. Mary's Jack is a native of Chicago who grew up in Waukegan, Ill. Portland's pokerfaced provider was born on a farm near Springfield, Mass., and Gracie's Georgie-Porgie cavorted on the sidewalks of New York along with Georgie Jessel, Eddie Cantor and Georgie Price.
None of these three comical wives started out to be quipstresses. Mary had a business career in mind and was doing very well as the chief lingerie buyer in a Los Angeles department store when Jack came along and swept her off her counter. Portland was a chorus girl in a show in which Fred was appearing. He took her out of the front kicking and firing line and gave her gags to read. George met the inimitable Gracie on the same vaudeville bill. She was a dancer then.
From the October 18th 1936 edition of the Oakland Tribune:
Peace At Any Price,
Pleads Gracie Allen's Spouse
By George Burns
What a Woman! What a World!
What a Headache!
Moans Husband of "Dizzy" Actress
"There is one thing worse than being alone--that is being alone with Gracie Allen", wails her husband George Burns. But perhaps that statement should not be taken too literally, for they are happily married and have two children.
"And so it goes! Day after day and headache after headache!", asserts Gracie's husband as he writhes in anguish. "If all the aspirin tablets I've taken were laid end to end, I'd still have to take them -- and I'd still have a headache".
THERE is one thing worse than being alone--that is being alone with Gracie Allen. Fortunately, that has never happened to me for any long period--otherwise I would be completely demented, instead of merely frisking around the ragged edges of insanity. It might sound funny to you, but I actually envy a man when I hear him complain that he's had a bad day. He is implying that some of his days are good--but with Gracie, my days are all the same. All the same, yet hardly what you would call monotonous.
Just let me take you through a day with Gracie and you'll see what I mean. Of course, breakfast is always thrilling and it certainly starts with day with a bang. For instance, let's say that I couldn't find my shaving brush in the bathroom. Why worry? It turns up in my omelette. I ask for sugar in my coffee, but Gracie says that I have had enough sugar for the day. She put three lumps in my bath water.
I explain that it's because this happens to be Monday, July 6th, 1936, and Gracie counters with "Well, wouldn't you think they could find something a little newsier than that for the front page?"
I used to think that getting away from home and going down to the office would be a brief respite from Gracie's whims, but that's just like trying to get rid of fleas by trading dogs. You end up with the same fleas, but [text missing]. And, while Gracie is very seldom present at the office, her presence is always deeply felt.
EVERY mail, in addition to fan letters, brings inquiries from the poor, puzzled people who have come in contact with Gracie the day before. An ice company wants me to verify her order for two thousand pounds of ice cakes to be dumped into our swimming pool every day at noon--a pet store writes that they are very sorry but they cannot send the six dozen feathered goldfish she wanted as there are no feathered goldfish and they told her so at the time. A liquor store drops a reminder that they are still holding the five gallons of "bulk" gin she paid for and said that she would send her daddy down to act as a container for. The only hitch there, is that the police are still holding her daddy as a "filler" for a cell in the jail.
After handling Gracie's "Business Correspondence" with maybe a few hand-to-hand encounters with some of her tradesmen, lunch time can't come too soon for me. It might be a breathing spell for me, but it seldom is. I usually run into Gracie. As I approach the entrance to the Brown Derby restaurant, I note that the crowd of juvenile autograph seekers lingering at the portals, suddenly comes to life. Cries of recognition greet me, but my thrill at this evidence of popularity vanishes when I learn that Gracie has paved the way for me with promises that I will do a song and dance number for them--or show them card tricks. One day, in a moment of generosity, she told the kids that I would pass out five-dollar bills to them.
With luncheon out of the way and Gracie maneuvering out of the Brown Derby, I have nothing left to worry about except an appointment to go shopping with her. Gracie has told me very emphatically that I am to meet her at a certain shop on Wilshire at 3 o'clock. Making the allowances for her mental processes, I figure it out that she doesn't mean a shop on Wilshire at 3 o'clock, she means a shop on Sunset at 4 o'clock. So I go to a shop on Hollywood boulevard at 5 o'clock--and there she is waiting for me.
ONCE you get Gracie into a store, you have very little trouble with her. She loves to shop and is very cool-headed about her bargaining, except that she always gets a little rattled if the shop girls recognize her--and the shop girls always recognize her. Now the only difference between the "rattled Gracie Allen" and the "normal Gracie Allen" is that the normal Gracie Allen is nuts--and the rattled Gracie Allen is nuts plus ten per cent! So nothing can happen--and it does.
To hide her embarrassment, Gracie immediately marches over to a counter where they're selling silk hosiery, let's say. After looking the hosiery over and asking the dazzled salesgirl the price, she tells the girl she wants some red flannel slippers and a blue bathing cap. Of course, the salesgirl knows Gracie is nuts, so to show she's all right, she wraps up three different sized stockings, writes out a sales slip for a set of military hair brushes, charges her for a tw0-pants suit and then directs her to the Exchange Desk where she can trade the socks for a waffle iron.
After reading "The Children's Hour," it's easy to see that Henry W. Longfellow didn't have any Gracie Allen mixed up with his children. The "hour" that I spend each day with our little daughter Sandra and our little boy, Ronnie, is so skillfully balled up by Gracie that even Mr. Longfellow would have found it an inspiration for headaches and "D.T's" and not poetry. Now I don't blame Sandra and Ronnie. They're still too young to realize that their mother is a bit dizzy.
NEARLY every evening Gracie has some hilarious new game for the kiddies and even though the game is never chess, I am just a pawn. For instance, let's say it's going to be Blind Man's Buff . . . at least, Gracie's interpretation of it. First she blindfolds my eyes and then, before turning me loose to grope for the kiddies, she turns me around eight hundred times just to make it more exciting. Of course, it's very hard for me to find the kids, because while I stumble and fall over furniture, Gracie hustles the kids off to bed.
I'll never forget one night when I kissed little Ronnie good-night after he'd been tucked in his crib. I couldn't help noticing a very worried look on Ronnie's face and as I started to leave the nursery, he whimpered a little and then burst out with a terrifying "QUACK QUACK QUACK." I rushed back to his bedside and he seemed calm and quiet again . . . but as I again started to leave, he resumed the loud, frantic quacking. As he now seemed to be in some sort of violent convulsions, I threw off the bedclothes and discovered that Gracie had stuffed a live duck under the covers with him. Now you may think that was silly of her, but Gracie had a reason. Those contraptions with which small children are fastened into bed are called "Snuggle-duckies," so Gracie very logically reasoned that Ronnie's Snuggle-duckie wouldn't work unless he had a ducky to snuggle.
Usually after Sandra and Ronnie are in bed, their troubles with Gracie are over, but mine aren't. That's when Gracie begins to plan out their future. If they really turn out the way Gracie often plans, we might as well start embroidering straight jackets for them right now. For instance, she spends hours babbling to me about whether Ronnie will make a better burglar or a business man when he grows up. Gracie would really prefer having Ronnie a business man but she says she doesn't want her family to think he's a failure. I don't know what she has in mind for Sandra, but so far it looks as though Sandy will grow up to be a ventriloquist's dummy. Anyone would, under the circumstances. Gracie hold Sandra on her lap and asks her questions by the hour and answers them all before Sandra has a chance to say anything. One day Sandra beat her to the punch and gave the right answer to a question and poor Gracie has been worried about it ever since.
GRACIE never tires of teaching the kids how to do things. One night she got them out of bed at 11:30 to instruct them in moonlight fishing. I found them out by the swimming pool and Gracie was patiently showing them how to fasten a slab of toast covered with melted cheese on a fish hook. When I asked her where she got the idea that Welsh rarebit was good bait, she said, "George, what else would fish eat at this time of night? They've all probably just returned from theaters and concerts so they don't want a heavy meal."
And so it goes! Day after day and headache after headache!
After a much less harrowing day than mine, the average man goes home expecting a little peace and quiet. I just go home. Usually, if there is time before dinner and if Gracie hasn't given my swimming trunks to some sweet old lady who looked lonely, I go for a swim--if Gracie hasn't had the pool drained and filled with sawdust so her brother will feel more at home lying around in it.
Dinner is a matter of course. Whether we have dinner at home or are invited out, by dinner time nothing tastes good to me but aspirin. If all the aspirin tablets I've taken since I've known Gracie were laid end to end, I'd still have to take them--and I'd still have a headache. I wish you could spend an evening at home with us. A quiet evening at home for me, is just like a quiet afternoon in a boiler factory--only longer.
Now I'm not saying it's Gracie's fault. I wouldn't even go so far as to say the day would be nicer without Gracie around--but I'd like awfully well to try a few days with Gracie without me there. One day of peace and quiet is all I ask--I'd give a lot for it! In fact, I'd give my right arm for it--and I'd be glad to go along with the arm just for the ride.
GEORGE BURNS and Gracie Allen started their screen career with the only contract of its kind with the Paramount Studios.
In January, 1931, they signed with Paramount to star in short subjects and to play on the stages of Public Theatres when not before the cameras.
Today they are playing parts in their feature motion pictures with radio and screen talent.
Burns was born in New York; Miss Allen was born in San Francisco. Both went on the stage while children.
Miss Allen's father was a song and dance man, and she made her first public appearance at the age of three and a half, when she danced at entertainments in San Francisco.
When she was thirteen and fourteen years of age, she spent the summer vacation months from school doing a single act in vaudeville around San Francisco.
With her three older sisters, she next formed the vaudeville team of the Allen Sisters. Eventually, this let them to Larry Reilly's Company, where Miss Allen became a featured player of Irish colleen parts.
After several seasons with the Reilly Company, during which time she became the headline attraction, Miss Allen left the show because she was refused billing.
But jobs proved hard to obtain so she decided to give up the stage and entered a secretarial school to train for the post of a stenographer.
WITH a friend, she went to Union Hill, New Jersey, where her friend was trying out an act. Back stage, she met George Burns, then doing a song and dance act with Billy Lorraine as Burns and Lorraine.
After meeting Miss Allen, Burns dissolved his partnership with Lorraine and teamed with Miss Allen.
Since he had written the act, he made himself the comedian. Miss Allen asked the questions and he gave the funny answers. However, he admits today, she was the natural comedienne and at the first show everyone laughed at her questions and none of his answers. After the show, he switched parts and has been playing "straight" ever since.
After four years as a team, Burns and Allen signed a unique contract with R-K-O theatres. It was for six years straight. With this contract signed, they were married.
On one of their European engagements, they made their radio debut, appearing for fifteen weeks for the British Broadcasting Company.
During the last part of 1930, Burns and Allen made their film debut in short subjects for Paramount.
When their R-K-O contract was completed on January 8th, Burns and Allen signed their film-stage agreement with Paramount on Jan 9, 1931.
The last nine weeks of their R-K-O contract, they played at the Palace Theatre in New York. Without missing a day, they then started four weeks at the Paramount, then moved to Brooklyn for two weeks and took one week of rest before playing the next week at the Capital. This gave them a record of seventeen out of eighteen consecutive weeks in vaudeville on Broadway.
While at the Palace, Eddie Cantor, who was on the same bill, asked Miss Allen to do five minutes with him on his Chase and Sanborn radio hour. She did and was so well liked that Columbia Broadcasting Company signed Burns and Allen as radio stars.
From the January 24th 1937 edition of the Oakland Tribune:
No Laughing Matter
By K.L. ECKSAN
. . . NO DISSERTATION on comedy would be complete without more than passing mention of Burns and Allen. A radio editor who doesn't say something about George and Gracie every once in a while is guilty, in my estimation, of gross negligence. Gracie was born in San Francisco. Her father was an old-time "song and dance man." She made her debut as a public entertainer as a dancer at the age of three years and six months. When she grew up she tried vaudeville as a means of winning success and fame. Decided she'd better become a stenographer instead, but before she finished her course in stenography she met George Burns. George had been on the stage since he was 12. Vaudeville, movies, radio and fame followed in due course.
Gracie says she was born on July 26, but doesn't state in what year. She and George met in Union Hill, N.J. Their first broadcast was over BBC in London. They went to CBS on Washington's Birthday, 1932. . .
From the February 17th 1937 edition of the North Adams Transcript:
GRACIE NOT DUMB,
Hollywood, Feb. 17 (AP)Being Gracie Allen's husband is not the hardship the public might thinkbecause she's not as dumb as she sounds.
You see, I know she's intelligent," explained husband George Burns today, the fifth anniversary of the couple's first broadcast.
But some of the listening public believes Grade is a mental lightweight. Burns produced a fan letter to attest the fact. It read:
"My friend and I were wondering how crazy you really are. He said you weren't crazy at all. I said you were. Here's a test. I need $5,000 and if you are as dumb as I think you are you will send it to me."
His wife, Burns declared, is not going to be that crazy.
Burns commented at length on the professional stupidity of Gracie as motion picture and radio fans know it.
"They think she's nuts," he said. The important thing is that the public continue to believe Gracie is not quite bright, that Burns never relax in his role as a sounding board for her outrageous puns and other manifestations of a brain upon which life has wrought no convolutions.
Eleven years ago Burns and Allen teamed up in vaudeville. Six years later they went on radio, then into the movies. The act never has been essentially changed.
Its success depends on Gracie's childlike ignorance. So far as the public is concerned, she never will get any smarter.
Burns is quite content to remain a stooge.
"I'm not funny," he said. Folks laugh with me, not at me."
Another important thing is that he never gets too impatient with his trying partner. Exasperation, an attitude of "What's the use, anyway, with a woman like that," is acceptable. But you can't be too severe with a well-intentioned moron.
As it is, a lot of motion picture fans and radio listeners think Burns a pretty mean fellow.