Legendary actress, Gracie Allen, was born Grace Ethel Cecile Rosalie Allen on Jul 26, 1895 in San Francisco, CA. Allen died at the age of 69 on Aug 27, 1964 in Hollywood, CA .
Grace Ethel Cecile Rosalie Allen was most likely born on July 26th, 1895 in San Francisco, California and was one of four girls: Bessie, Hazel, and Pearl. Thanks to faulty record keeping and the great earthquake and fire of April 1906, most of San Francisco's public records were destroyed, leaving her true age a mystery. Although it commonly believed she was born in 1895, her gravestone stated her birth year as 1902. Allen was born in an Irish Catholic family to George and Molly Allen. Her father was song and dance man who primarily performed in traveling minstrel shows while her mother chose to stay home and keep watch over the children. By the time Gracie was three, she had already made her stage debut dancing at the local church. Two years later, at the age of five, George Allen went on tour and never came back, disappearing from his family's life forever. Molly Allen would quickly remarry to Edward Pidgeon, who took over as Gracie's formative father figure in her life. Little Gracie would inherit her mother's love of show business, in particular the theater and the movies. She would often daydream of one day seeing her name in bright, shining letters, lighting up the marquees. She developed a great crush on Charlie Chaplin, who her stepfather arranged for her to meet when she was six years old.
Although Gracie and her three sisters received their formal education at the Star of the Sea Convent School, they all received voice and dance lessons due to their mother's love of all things show business. All four sisters soon became proficient dancers, and began instructing their own classes in the basement of their home to make a little cash on the side. They also began to sing at their local churches and movies houses. Eventually the sisters formed their own Irish folk dancing act "The Four Colleens" and began touring the United States. Although the act broke up not too long after it formed, the experience was enough for Gracie to where she belonged: on the stage. Rather than return home to San Francisco with her sisters, Allen decided to stay in New York and join a vaudeville act. After she left the act, she found herself in desperate need of a partner and began a six-month search process. Unfortunately, she found little luck and soon enrolled in stenography classes to learn how the ways of the secretary.
Enter George Burns
Although attending secretarial school, Allen's heart was still in performance. Around 1922 Allen's roommate took her to a show performed by Billy Lorraine and George Burns, whose act was about to break-up. Her roommate knew both Allen and Burns were in the market for a new comedic partner and thought the two might work well together. Allen was impressed with Burns' act and asked to be introduced. Soon after she gave up her keyboard for a microphone and began working on an act with her new partner and with this the George Burns-Gracie Allen act was born. They first began performing as a duo in Newark, New Jersey, earning five dollars with Gracie as the funny man and George as the straight shooter. The pair began touring; first relying on pre-existing acts the two had performed but quickly amassed their own original material. Slowly, Burns began to develop feelings for Allen despite the fact that she was already engaged to a fellow entertainer, Benny Ryan. She was, in fact, ready to marry Ryan, but delayed the marriage when she and Burns were booked tour of the Orpheum circuit theaters at a hefty 450 dollars a week. It was while on this tour that Burns first proposed to Allen, to which she a quick and curt "no." Actually, she gave several "nos" before finally choosing Burns over Ryan. After three years of working, traveling, and living together, the pair was finally married January 7th, 1926 in Cleveland, Ohio.
The newly married couple wasted little time after their nuptials and got right back to work and immediately began performing their newest act, "Lamb Chops."The act was hit and soon Burns and Allen were in high demand. Within just two years of their marriage, the couple landed a gig at the Palace Theater on New York's Great White Way. Their Broadway debut was a smash hit, with much of praise going to Allen's performance and Burns' writing abilities. The couple played at the Palace for 17 weeks straight, a record for vaudevillian acts. Allen also became the first Mistress of Ceremonies in Palace Theater history.
Film and Radio
In 1929 the duo began working on two new mediums: film and radio. After the pairs successful run on Broadway, popular radio show host Eddie Cantor asked Allen to be on his radio program sans Burns. Burns encouraged his wife to do the show, knowing the audiences would fall in love with her as he did. After quickly endearing herself to radio audiences, she received invites to other radio shows and by 1932 George and Gracie had a contract with CBS radio to produce their own show, aptly titled The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show. During this time the pair also became a regular staple on film. In 1929 the duo was offered a contract from Paramount Pictures: $1,800 for the completion of nine short films. Although the Allen originally had no intention of going in to film, the offer was much too tempting and later that year the pair released their first short film, Lamb Chop, a filmic adaptation of their popular vaudeville acts. Over the next two-years they released more successful shorts such as Fit to be Tied, The Babbling Book, and Your Hat. In 1933 they appeared in their first feature length film International House as supporting players to the films main star, W.C Fields. Later that year the pair was featured in the Bing Crosby hit College Humor.
In 1934 George and Gracie finally were stars of their vehicle, this time with the Norman Z. McLeod comedy Many Happy Returns. Through out the rest of mid-1930s, George and Gracie's popularity only grew. They continued to star in hit comedy films such as Love in Bloom, Here Comes Cookie, and College Holiday. They also remained a popular staple on radio; keeping the airwaves amused their domestic humor and pitch perfect comedic chemistry. In 1937 the duo starred opposite Fred Astaire as his comical sidekicks in Damsel in Distress. In the film Gracie got a chance to demonstrate not only her comedy skills but her dancing skills, as well. Although they continued to appear in films for the rest of the decade, their weekly radio show remained their main claim to fame. Their final film together came in 1939 with the comedy Honolulu.
Always a fan of comical publicity, the team announced that Allen would be running for the President of the United States and the third party ticket, The Surprise Party. The duo then went on a nation-wide campaign tour, playing live radio shows in the cities they visited. Although she may have not won the Presidency, she did receive an endorsement from Harvard University and over 42,000 votes. It was around this time that the pair decided to change up their comedy routine, realizing they were simple too old to play the daft young lovers-shtick anymore. Soon, they changed their comedy personas and revealed to the world that were married with new adopted children. They began playing their new domestic humor on their radio-show and ratings went through the roof. In 1950, they moved their act from radio to television, starring in their own series The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show. The show was a tremendous success and ran for 8 years and 299 episodes. During the shows run, Allen received six nominations for Best Actress in a comedy. She made a couple more televisions before her delicate health made her call it quits by the start of the new decade. She spent her time in retirement with her husband playing cards, visiting friends and in general enjoying the golden years of her life. However, after a serious heart attack in 1961, she stayed mostly at home. Gracie Allen died on August 27th, 1962. She was 69 years old.(Source: article by Minoo Allen for Classic Movie Hub).
HONORS and AWARDS:.
She was honored with one star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the category of Television. In addition, Allen was inducted into the TV Hall of Fame and was immortalized on a US postal stamp in 2009. Allen was never nominated for an Academy Award.
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George Edwards: Six minutes?
Gracie De Vore: Yeah, I just put it on... two three minute eggs.
Harrison Allen: [Grace emerges from underneath her bed with a book] Gracie, what were yoy doin'\ Grace, what were you doing with that book.
Gracie Allen: Someone told me to read 'Dr. Jekyll' and hide.
George Burns: I just lost my mind.
Gracie Allen: What a shame. Where did you have it last?
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