Classic comedy shows (1932- 50)
and Allen are one of the most beloved couple in old
time radio. They got started, like many of the greats of
old time radio, in vaudeville, which is really just the
touring popular entertainment in America prior to movies.
Gracie was the sparkplug of the act, always the center of
attention. George played the foil, the guy vainly trying
to make sense of the ditzy world of Gracie. By the early
30s, Gracie was probably the best known woman on radio.
Gracie often sang in a voice that
showed she was also an excellent comedienne songstress.
By the early 1940's, Burns decided that their act needed
a change.He decided that the audience knew Gracie's and
his reactions well enough that it would be possible to play
off them, and create situations something like screwball comedy, but with the Burns and Allen touch. Jack
Benny and Burns and Allen worked much the same
way with their comedy.Vaudeville's snappy patter and give
and take jokes, good even if the audience didn't know you,
could be developed into running gags and put-downs based
on character. Burns was always astute when it came to comedy - he lead the brainstorming sessions that wrote the shows,
and carefully edited his writers with the final word on
what was cut and what stayed. Elvia Allman play Gracie's friend Tootsie Sagwell and Gale Gordon and Hans Conried made frequent appearances.
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So in 1942, George and Gracie became, in their characters,
the perfectly normal husband and wife that is, if Gracie's
non sequiturs and impulsive behavior could be considered
perfectly normal. For Gracie, of course, it was perfectly
normal, and the American public continued their love affair
with her.The shows had names after the sponsors, such as Maxwell
House Coffee Time, or The Ammident Show - it
was the Burns and Allen show to the public. Other fine radio
actors were a part of the fun. Mel Blanc did the happy postman,
and was also famous for his zany characters on The Jack
Benny Show, and his own Mel
Blanc Show. Elliott Lewis, a veteran of many radio
"bit" parts on the Burns and Allen shows of the 40s.
Burns and Allen went on to TV, as did many of the
greatest radio stars that had worked in vaudeville - Jack
Benny, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby,
Red Skelton and others.