The year is 1947 — specifically, Christmas 1947. Totò is right in the middle of being Italy’s greatest comedian; corporal punishment is still treated lightly enough to come up in casual jokes; and Gracie Allen, for the first and last time in her entire career, has called in sick to work.
Yes, it’s the one and only episode where Gracie’s lines are handled by someone else — the marvelously talented Jane Wyman. (Just a year later, Wyman won the Academy Award for Best Actress, along with the first of her three Golden Globes.)
There’s a couple question marks left where I couldn’t quite catch a word. If you can tell what they’re saying, please comment and let me know!
George Burns: Ladies and gentlemen this is George Burns. The old flu bug that’s going around got Gracie today, and at the last minute she couldn’t make it to the studio. It was too late to rewrite the script, but a very dear friend of our has stepped in and offered to read Gracie’s lines. She’s a very famous and talented movie star: ladies and gentlemen Miss Jane Wyman. Okay Jane from now on you’re Gracie, take it.
Gracie Allen (Jane Wyman): Another cup of Maxwell House coffee, George?
George: Sure, pour me a cup Gracie.
Gracie: You know Maxwell House is always good to the last drop.
George: And that drop’s good too.
Narrator: Yes it’s Maxwell House coffee time starring George Burns and Gracie Allen. With yours truly Toby Reed, Hans Conried, Gale Gordon, Henry Blair, Meredith Wilson and the Maxwell House Orchestra, and Bill Goodwin.
Bill: For your Christmas night comedy enjoyment at George and Gracie, brought to you with holiday greetings from the makers of Maxwell House coffee: always good to the last drop.
Narrator: Well, it’s Christmas morning as we looking at the Burns house, and George and Gracie are making their plans for the day.
Gracie: George, let’s invite all our friends over this afternoon.
George: Okay Gracie.
Gracie: I can make some turkey sandwiches and coffee, and oh George, we’ll have an open house.
George: Swell, and then I’ll pass around my cigars.
Gracie: Oh, wait, but George, I can’t open the house that much.
George: Are you inferring that my cigars are strong?
Gracie: Well remember last Christmas when poor Meredith Wilson smoked one?
Gracie: Well, he turned so green everyone hung tinsel on him.
George: Well I’ll have Meredith go easy. Who else shall we invite?
Gracie: Well Dr. Miller’s wife is visiting her mother so let’s be sure and invite him and then Bill Goodwin and Mr. Judson the Texan.
George: Well do you think a guy with Judson’s millions will be happy with turkey sandwiches and my cigars?
George: Oh he’s one man who loves your cigars; he says the cowboys use them in Texas.
Gracie: Yeah! Only he says instead of cutting them up into cigars they just leave them in one long piece of rope.
George: I see. Well, let’s call on Mr. Judson first, I think he’s at the Ambassador Hotel, isn’t he?
Gracie: Yes, he has seven, eight, nine and ten.
George: He’s got four rooms?
Gracie: No, four floors.
George: Yes, I forgot he’s broke. Come on, let’s go.
[scene change music]
Gracie: Merry Christmas Mr. Judson.
George: Merry Christmas.
Mr. Judson: Well now the same to you.
Gracie: Did Santa Claus come to see you last night?
Mr. Judson: Yeah, I reckon by now old Santa’s heading back to his home in Texas.
George: I think the old boy is supposed to live at the North Pole.
Mr. Judson: Santa Claus doesn’t live in Texas?
Mr. Judson: Well now that sure is mighty unfair.
Mr. Judson: Well he’s so nice to everyone and look what a dirty deal he got.
George: Yes it was rough on the old boy.
Gracie: Mr. Judson we’d like for you to come over and spend Christmas with us.
Mr. Judson: Well now I’d be dee-lighted. Are you sure you want me?
George: Well if you don’t come we’ll be dis-mayed. Want us to pick you up later?
Mr. Judson: No, no, you don’t have to bother, I’ll drive over in the old bus.
George: What kind do you drive?
Mr. Judson: A regular Greyhound bus.
George: You own a Greyhound bus?
Mr. Judson: Yeah, well, I got on it one day and the driver didn’t have change of a $10,000 bill so I –
George & Mr. Judson: – I bought the bus.
George: Well, let’s go over and invite Bill Goodwin, Gracie. See you at the house Mr. Judson.
Gracie: Yes and don’t do anything fancy Mr. Judson, just a nice little quiet get-together.
Mr. Judson: Oh that will be nice; we can sit around and swap yarns.
Gracie: Oh you like to knit?
Mr. Judson: Do I like…? [uproarious laughter] Oh, I like your sense of humor ma’am! Be seeing you!
[scene change music]
Gracie: I’m sorry we got you out of bed, Bill.
Bill: Oh that’s all right Gracie; I got up at 6 o’clock to look at my stocking.
Gracie: What’d you find?
Bill: My foot. I forgot to take them off last night.
George: It sounds like you had a large evening.
Bill: Well, you know Christmas Eve, George, had to remember all my girls!
Gracie: But what did you give them, Bill?
Bill: I gave each girl a ring.
Bill: Yes, I was on the phone all night.
George: Generous little kid [?], you know.
Gracie: Oh, Bill, George and I would like for you to spend Christmas at our house. Can you make it?
Bill: Oh sure Gracie, count me in!
George: I’ll have plenty of my cigars for you to smoke!
Bill: Count me out.
Gracie: Oh, but Bill, we’re going to serve Maxwell House Coffee.
George: Ohh, count me in!
George: And of course I’ll sing a few songs!
George: – count me out, I know, I know.
[audience loves it]
George: Look, Totò.
George: If it’ll make you happy, I’ll sing about Maxwell House coffee.
Bill: Oh, no George, not with your voice, Maxwell House is America’s number one coffee.
Gracie: And George is America’s number one singer.
Bill: Maxwell House is loved by millions.
Gracie: And George is loved by millions.
Bill: Maxwell House has been great since 1885.
Gracie: And George has been great–
George: Okay, okay. So you won’t come over, Bill.
Bill: Oh sure I will George I was only kidding! I’d love to come to your house. There’s always something warm and friendly there.
George: Really Bill?
Bill: Yeah – and be sure you have a cup of it ready for me.
George: Oh, the coffee.
George: I just got it. Well, I’ll see you later, Bill.
Bill: Count me out!
[festive scene change music]
Gracie: Oh, I wonder if Meredith is at home.
George: Oh yeah, he’s here, I can hear him tootling on that silly flute.
Meredith Wilson: Well, Merry Christmas all!
George: Happy New Year all!
Gracie: Oh we’re having an open house this afternoon Meredith, will you come over?
Meredith: Oh you bet I will. Can I bring Fifi?
George: Who threw that at me? Who is Fifi?
Meredith: Well a young lady from Paris, France, with whom I had a date last night, that’s who. What an evening!
Gracie: What did you do?
Gracie: Oh, I bet those French games are fun.
Meredith: Gracie, they’re composers. I played Fifi 17 selections on the flute.
George: Yeah? What an evening.
Meredith: I want to say there was only one disturbing element.
George: Let’s hear it!
Meredith: Now and then Fifi would look at me and say quel jerk.
George: And that disturbed you?
Meredith: Yes, I don’t understand French, and I was afraid the word quel might mean something uncomplimentary.
Gracie: Oh, Meredith it means what. She was saying what a jerk.
Meredith: Oh thanks Gracie! That takes quite a load off the mind.
George: Being called a jerk doesn’t bother you?
Meredith: Not at all George! Jerk must be a term of endearment. All my friends call me that.
George: Well it’s the same as spunky. Meredith you’re really a case, you played 17 songs on the flute and you didn’t even give Fifi one kiss?
Meredith: Oh yes I did George; the eleventh number I played was “One Kiss” from the operetta New Moon.
George: Be there at 12, the sociable will be over at 11.
Meredith: Good bye all.
George: Good bye all.
Gracie: Oh George, I’d better hurry home and get things ready for our open house.
George: Okay, Gracie, and I’ll go on and invite Dr. Miller.
[festive scene change music]
Dr. Miller: Well, I’d be delighted to come to your open house, George.
George: Oh, swell, doctor. How about your little son?
Dr. Miller: Oh, Bobby will be quite content to stay home alone. Won’t you Bobby?
Bobby: Indeed I will, Daddy. Anything you say sir.
George: Say doc, you really got the little fella trained.
Dr. Miller: George I’m a psychiatrist! You know my wife used to spank him until her hand was blistered and did absolutely no good? And along I came with a book on child psychology.
George: That did it huh?
Dr. Miller: Oh yes. When I spanked him with that book he straightened right out.
George: Psychology is great if you can lift it.
Bobby: Daddy? Can I play with my electric train now?
Dr. Miller: Oh, why of course, son. George, you’re about to witness the practical application of psychology to the choice of a child’s Christmas present.
George: What do you mean?
Dr. Miller: The assembling and operating of this train will teach Bobby many valuable lessons.
Dr. Miller: Yes, now observe. Putting the tracks together will teach him how to work with his hands. See the section of the track, they fit into one another like…Bobby, get your hands off, daddy’s getting tracks together.
Bobby: Yes sir.
Dr. Miller: So as I was saying this teaches him to work with his hands.
George: I can see that, doc.
Dr. Miller: Now the next step is put the cars together. Here Bobby learns the lesson of observation, which car comes first.
Bobby: I think the engine comes first, like this, and–
Dr. Miller: Son you don’t want to break things. Daddy’ll put the cars together.
George: Yeah kid, take it easy, you’ll wear yourself out.
Dr. Miller: Now let’s start the train. Here comes Bobby’s lesson in coordination, George. He must figure out which way to throw the switch in order to send the train through the tunnel instead of crashing into those freight cars.
Bobby: Well that’s easy! I just throw the switch this way and…
Dr. Miller: Bobby will you please keep your hands off your nice new toys? I’ll throw the switch there.
Bobby: But daddy, that’s the wrong way.
Dr. Miller: Oh no, your father’s a great deal older and wiser than you are son.
Bobby: I know, but daddy…
Dr. Miller: Son I’m trying to teach you something, now pay attention!
[plastic crashing noise]
Dr. Miller: What’s the use? You give a child a nice toy, the first thing he does is break it up.
[festive scene change music]
[Maxwell House coffee ad]
Narrator: And now back to the Burns home with George and Gracie, played by Miss Jane Wyman.
Gracie: Well George, our guests should be arriving pretty soon.
George: Yeah. You know, Gracie, I wish I had presents hanging on the tree for them.
Gracie: Oh, don’t worry about that! A glorious song from you will be their present, Sugarthroat.
George (singing): Ohhh jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way, ohhh!
Gracie: When you sing, you’re the perfect Christmas present.
George: You think so?
Gracie: Oh everybody thinks so. The other night at that party when you sang I heard 15 people say that you should be hanging from a tree.
George: I’ll have to think that one over.
Gracie: As soon as everyone gets here, I’ll ask you to sing.
George: Yes, but be kind of subtle about it, Gracie. Lead into it from the conversation.
Gracie: What do you mean?
George: Well for example, we know that Dr. Miller is going to talk about psychoanalyzing people, so have a lead in ready off of that.
Gracie: Oh I get it! If he’s talking about his patients, I’ll say, oh, speaking of being crazy, would you like to hear George sing.
George: I think we can be more subtle than that. Now he’s sure to talk about dreams, so you say, speaking of dream, George sings like one!
Gracie: Oh George, how brilliant! Why, you’re smart enough for two people.
George: I have to be. [laughter] Now Mr. Judson will talk about Texas, so you say, speaking of glorious Texas reminds me of my husband’s glorious voice.
Gracie: Oh that’s easy.
George: And getting a music from for Meredith is even easier. All you have to do is suggest that he play the flute and he’ll blow his brains out.
Gracie: Well, how does that get you to sing?
George: Well while he’s getting his flute out of the case you quick suggest that I sing first.
Gracie: Oh yes I’ll say wait till you’ve heard George sing and then blow your brains out.
George: Ah, you just ask him to play the flute and I’ll take it from there.
[festive scene change music]
Gracie: Quiet everybody, quiet! Look, let’s have some entertainment. Meredith, would you play the flute?
Meredith: Well, I’d be glad to Gracie, but I left it at home.
George: Oh, well that’s too bad, Meredith. But we can have some other entertainment.
Meredith: Very well, I’ll regale you with stories of Mason City, Iowa.
George: I don’t want to be regaled.
Meredith: Every Christmas, Mason City has what is called the Mason City corn festival. This is held in Mason City.
George: Well you’ll regale us later.
Meredith: Well sir again and again I was chosen to represent the spirit of corn.
Bill: They couldn’t have made a better choice.
Meredith: Thank you. Well I stood in the center of the stage with my arms outstretched holding an ear in each hand.
Gracie: Oh my goodness that must have stretched them terribly.
Bill: Yeah, it’s too bad they didn’t snap back.
Meredith: They weren’t the same ears you see now. They were ears of corn! And on my shoulders I had a pumpkin.
George: Well, that’s the same one we see now! [under his breath] Gracie, I’ll like to see you in the next room for a moment, excuse us folks.
[door closing noise]
George: Meredith will never stop talking about Mason City, so you better take your cue from Mr. Judson. Remember the one we rigged up for him?
Gracie: Well, you better tell me again.
George: Okay, first we get him to say something about Texas, then you say speaking of glorious Texas reminds me of my husband’s glorious voice, how about a song from George, got it?
Gracie: Got it.
George: Okay go on.
Gracie: Oh Mr. Judson!
Mr. Judson: Say little lady I just had an idea, how about a song from George?
Gracie: Oh speaking of a song from George reminds me of glorious Texas.
Mr. Judson: Glorious Texas right! Now you sit down and I’ll tell you all about it.
George: Gracie step in the next room for a moment. Well you certainly fixed that one up good. He says how about a song, and you say that reminds me of Texas.
Gracie: Well I’m sorry George all of a sudden I just went into reverse.
George: Well go back to Judson and use the right gearshift! If you were speaking of glorious Texas…
Gracie: Well now don’t worry, I’ll do it this time. Oh Mr. Judson?
Mr. Judson: Yes little lady.
Gracie: Is Texas really as glorious as you say it is?
Mr. Judson: Why, it’s a paradise, the Texas sky is just as beautiful and blue as your lovely eyes.
Gracie: Oh speaking of my…mm?
Mr. Judson: I said our sky is as lovely as your eyes.
Gracie: You really think my eyes are lovely?
Mr. Judson: I sure do.
George (under his breath): Actually speaking of glorious Texas…
Gracie: Oh speaking of glorious Texas, how about my hair?
Mr. Judson: That’s mighty pretty too like the gold of a Texas Sunset.
George (under his breath): Hey, Gracie…
Gracie: Ever happened to notice my complexion?
Mr. Judson: Yes, it’s as soft as the petals of a Texas prairie flower.
George: Step in the next room for a moment. [door noise] Again you messed me up! Things like this wouldn’t happen if you were a sane sensible woman like Jane Wyman.
Gracie: Oh, now, she’s no smarted than I am.
George: Well this time I’ll give my own cue.
George: When we go back you ask me how I used to celebrate Christmas when I was a boy, I’ll take it from there.
Gracie: Alright. [door noise] You’re having a good time everybody?
Gracie: That’s nice! Now George, George, how did you celebrate Christmas when you were a boy?
George: Well when I was a boy I was very poor, but on Christmas Day we used to get together and I would sing a song that went something like this oh…
Mr. Judson: Say now that’s mighty fine song, let’s get up a quartet and have a little close harmony!
[more general agreement]
George: Okay, okay, that’s better than nothing. I’ll tell you what I’ll sing —
Mr. Judson: I’ll sing bass.
Bill: I’ll sing baritone.
Meredith: I’ll sing first tenor.
Dr. Miller: I’ll sing second tenor.
George: That’s the whole quartet. What, ah, what’ll I do?
Mr. Judson: You hit us a chord on the piano.
George: Oh, no.
[Four-part “Honey, my honey, I love you / Say you’ll be mine forever…”]
[Meredith Wilson instrumental interlude]
George: Well, we’re doing great. The quartet has sung 10 numbers and I haven’t opened my mouth.
Gracie: Well, we’re not licked, George. You had a wonderful idea to lead into a song from Dr. Miller’s conversation.
George: Oh yeah, that’s the one where you get him to talk about dreams, and then you say, speaking of dreams, George sings like one.
Gracie: Oh that’s simple! A dummy could handle that!
George: Well start handling.
[door opening; quartet still singing]
George: Look Gracie has something to ask Dr. Miller.
Dr. Miller: Oh yes Gracie!
Gracie: I’d love to hear about your psychiatry cases. Have your patients had any dreams lately?
Dr. Miller: Oh yes one of them had a horrible nightmare.
Gracie: Oh speaking of horrible nightmares, George sings like one!
George: Step into the next room for a moment. [door noise] Well, you did it again.
Gracie: Well I meant to say dream George but I opened my mouth and nightmare popped out!
George: That’s happened many times in your life. Well, we’ve got one more chance: Bill Goodwin.
Gracie: Oh but we don’t have a cue ready for it.
George: With Bill you don’t need a plan ahead. You just go in there and say that you’re going to make Maxwell House coffee. Bill will say Maxwell House is rich and mellow, then you’ll say my voice is rich and mellow and we’re in!
Gracie: Oh that’s easy; I just wait for Bill to say that Maxwell House coffee is…
George: …is rich and mellow…
Gracie: …rich and mellow, right, here we go. [door opening] Oh, Bill?
Bill: Yes Gracie.
Gracie: I’m going to make some Maxwell House Coffee.
Bill: Oh, swell.
Gracie: Well, Bill, what is Maxwell House?
Bill: Good to the last drop.
Gracie: Oh what else?
Bill: Preferred by millions. Oh, say, Gracie speaking of millions reminds me of this girl I met. She’s the daughter of a Pasadena millionaire. Boy, she’s rich and mellow.
Gracie: Oh but what about Maxwell House?
Bill: Oh she loves it! She’s a smart girl in addition to being rich and mellow.
Gracie: But what about Maxwell House?
George: Gracie take my song cue from what he says about the girl.
Gracie: Oh what did you say about the girl Bill?
Bill: Her old man is lousy with money.
Gracie: Oh speaking of lousy, George…
George: Okay, okay! Well you fixed that one too.
Gracie: You want to see me in the next room huh?
George: This time I want to see Meredith. Meredith?
Meredith: Me, George?
George: Yes, step into the next room a minute.
Meredith: Very well.
George: Look Meredith maybe you can help me, you’re an agreeable sort of a shmoe.
Meredith: Or as the French would say, quel shmoe.
George: Oui, oui. Yes, and now go back there, hit a chord on the piano, and say, how about a song from the talented member of the Burns family, George.
Meredith: Oh, I’ll be glad to!
George: Good, let’s do it.
Meredith: Well, how about a song from that talented member of the Burns family…
Bill: Yeah! Let’s have a song from Gracie.
Gracie: Oh, thank you, but I’m really not prepared. George?
George: Yes Gracie, you want me to do something?
Gracie: Yes – run and get my music.
Bill: You don’t need music Gracie! Sing that song you did for his last Christmas, When Irish Eyes Are Smiling
Gracie: Well alright Bill.
[lovely solo singing]
Mr. Judson: Oh sex-ay, that was right pretty little lady! Now sing that song about Texas, “Sure A Little Bit Of Heaven Fell From Out The Sky One Day.”
Dr. Miller: That’s Irish, Mr. Judson. Sing another Irish song, Gracie.
Meredith: Yeah, how about “Kathleen Mavourneen”?
Bill: Yeah, “Rose of Tralee.”
Dr. Miller: “Lakes of Killarney.”
Meredith: “The Wearing Of The Green.”
Bill: “My Mother Came From Ireland.”
George: Would anybody like to hear “Cohen owes me $97?”
[starts trying to sing; gets repeatedly heckled down]
Meredith: Whoa, where did George go?
Bill: If Cohen owes him $97, he went to collect.
Gracie: Oh Bill! George’s feelings are hurt and it’s your fault, every one of you.
[general chorus of protest, “every one of us?”, “what did we do?”]
Gracie: Well, you wouldn’t let him sing! You’ve broken his heart on Christmas day. Now he’s in there all alone, with his little wrinkles filled with tears.
Mr. Judson: Yep, he’s probably bawling like a fresh-weaned calf.
Dr. Miller: Let’s call him back in and persuade him to sing.
Bill: Sure, that’s the least we could do.
Gracie: Oh thank you I’ll call him. George, George, everybody wants to hear you sing. Won’t you come back?
George (despondent): You, ah…you really want to hear me, fellas?
[general chorus of “sure!”, approval]
George (perky): Well okay! Give me a chord, Meredith. [singing] From time to time in every clime, –
Gracie: Isn’t that a beautiful voice? Yet you didn’t give him a chance to sing! Go ahead, George.
George (singing): From time to time…
Gracie: Shame on all of you; you don’t know good music when you hear it. Go ahead, George.
George (singing): From time to time…
Meredith: Oh George, we’re really sorry we were so rude! Go ahead.
George (singing): From time to time…
Mr. Judson: Yeah, it was right thoughtless of us not to let you sing. Now you go right ahead.
George (singing): From…
Bill: And I just dare anyone to stop you! Lay it on us, George.
George (singing, extra fast): Fromtimetotimeineveryclimebl–
Dr. Miller: Sing to your heart’s content.
George: Are you all through complementing me? Can I finish my song now?
[general chorus of approval, “yes”, “go ahead”]
George (singing): From time to time in every clime, blessings come from above…
Gracie (talking over George’s continued singing): Hello? Who? Oh Toby! Oh hey everybody, it’s Toby Reid.
Bill: Toby Reid! Invite him over Gracie.
Mr. Judson: Yes he could sing in our quartet.
Meredith: Oh, he’s got a swell voice.
Gracie (yes, George is singing through the whole thing): That’s a good idea! Come right over, Toby, we’re having a wonderful Christmas party. Yes, everybody’s here. Oh, Mr. Judson, and Dr. Miller, and Bill, and Meredith…oh, don’t bother, just come right on over…!
Narrator: Join us again on Thursday we’ll all be back George Burns, Gracie Allen, Bill Goodwin, Meredith Wilson and the National House orchestra and yours truly Toby Reed. Now here are George Burns and Jane Wyman.
George: Janey, I don’t know how to thank you. It was just wonderful of you to step in at the last minute and read Gracie’s lines.
Jane: Well, it was a pleasure to do it George. And I hope the old devil flu leaves Gracie real soon. Get up Gracie so we can see you New Year’s Eve!
George: Good night Janey, and thanks again. Merry Christmas everyone. [quieter] I’ll be right home, cookie.