Gracie Allen became famous worldwide for being the "funny man" opposite her husband George Burns "straight man" in their comedy duo. They toured the USA with their act, performing in major vaudeville houses. In the 1930s, they moved to radio and changed their act from one portraying a young flirtatious couple to that of a working married couple to match their own advance in years. Burns noted, "Our jokes were too young for us".
They became famous for a number of publicity stunts, which included pretending Gracie Allen's brother was missing (he wasn't), Gracie announcing she was running for president with funny tag lines such as "Everybody knows a woman is better than a man when it comes to introducing bills into the house", and perhaps most notably, Gracie announcing she was to perform a piano concerto at the Hollywood Bowl. They had had a special piece written for the event entitled "Concerto for Index Finger".
The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show
Their show moved to television in 1950, introducing character neighbours, Harry and Blanche Morton into the act. In 1958 Gracie Allen retired from the show and whilst the show continued as "The George Burns Show" with an adjusted storyline to explain Gracie's absence. However, Gracie Allen appeared to be the 'secret' of the show's success and it was to last only another year in the new format without her. Here's a short clip from their show entitled 'Gracie Tells a Story'.
Burns and Allen made a number of short films throughout their career and appeared in "A Damsel in Distress" with Fred Astaire to provide comic relief for the movie. The duo surprised Fred Astaire with their dancing skills during their audition and he added their dance routine to the movie. They also matched Astaire in the "Funhouse Dance" routine in the film, astounding audiences and critics alike as many did not know the duo could dance.
Gracie Allen is honoured with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the duo were inducted into Television Hall of Fame in 1988.