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Turns out there’s a whole published series of Old Hollywood mystery RPF April 27, 2019

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It’s the Celebrity Sleuths Mystery Series, by George Baxt — 13 books, published between 1984 and 1997, with creative titles like The Greta Garbo Murder Case or The Fred Astaire And Ginger Rogers Murder Case.

Going by online summaries, it looks like they all have the basic formula of “somebody gets murdered, and a star-studded lineup of Golden Age celebrities, led by the one name-checked in the title, needs to solve it.”

Celebrity Murder books

I noted the pattern while shelving people’s returns at the library, but didn’t feel compelled to pull any of them and read further.

And then I saw The Gracie Allen Murder Case, and snapped it up to check out as soon as my shift was over.

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Burns & Allen Transcript: Kill the Rat (1947-03-13) April 18, 2019

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George and GracieThe year is 1947, and Gracie Allen is still way too into The Tall Man, starring Rudy and Trudy — a charmingly deadpan parody of The Thin Man‘s Nick and Nora.

In this direct sequel to Gracie Takes Up Crime Solving, Gracie believes there’s a hit out on George…and tracks down the real Rudy and Trudy for help. Because actors are always just like the caricatured versions of themselves they play on-air, right?

Download the episode here, or listen on YouTube, and read the full transcript below.

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Burns & Allen Transcript: Gracie Takes Up Crime Solving (1947-03-06) April 14, 2019

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Gracie and GeorgeThe year is 1947. The Adventures of the Thin Man is a major hit on the radio; Stepin Fetchit is still a household name, though the actor has backed away from his movie career out of frustration with the racism in the industry; and Gracie Allen is thinking about changing genres.

This is the first of two episodes where Gracie, as a devoted fan of The Tall Man, ventures down into “the underworld” — posing as hardened criminal Gracie Catraz. She’s accompanied by Meredith Wilson (a guy so modest, he once accidentally bumped into a woman and thought “the honorable thing to do” was to marry her), doing his best to be her “moll.”

Download the episode here, or listen on YouTube, and read the transcript below.

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Burns & Allen Transcript: Kleptomaniacs (1948-10-07) March 21, 2019

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The year is 1948. Ballpoint pens are invented but not common, because they cost the modern equivalent of $170 each; “How” being mistaken for “Indian language” is, unfortunately, still considered witty; and Gracie is trying to do something special for George’s birthday.

This is one of my favorite episodes when it comes to the George/Gracie relationship. For once George gets the wrong end of the stick; Gracie gets it too, but a different wrong end (it’s a complicated stick); they both end up thinking the other one is in danger, and are immediately ready to go to the mat for each other.

Download the episode here, watch on YouTube here, or read the transcript below.

George and Gracie

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Burns & Allen Transcript: Last Year’s Christmas Bills (1947-01-09) January 15, 2019

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The year is 1947. Noir films are fond of name-checking Tehachapi, currently an all-women’s prison; Magnin’s has been bought out, but stores are still using the name; and Gracie Allen is just getting the bills for her Christmas 1946 purchases.

Featuring some truly adorable financial logic (as long as it’s not being applied to your finances, anyway).

Download the episode here, listen on YouTube here, or read the transcript below.

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Burns & Allen Transcript: Gracie’s Christmas Party (1947-12-25) December 31, 2018

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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.)

Download the episode here (this one doesn’t seem to be on YouTube), and read the transcript below. (Previous transcripts.)

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! (more…)

Burns & Allen Transcript: Matrimonial Bureau (George Sells Chicken Farm), 1946-03-14 December 24, 2018

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The year is 1946. Tommy Manville is on his eighth marriage (out of an eventual thirteen); a bunch of modern car brands have been coined, but I don’t recognize any of the cleaning products; and Gracie just had a bad time trying to run a chicken ranch.

Seems like only a partial copy of the chicken-ranch episode survived. This is the still-extant sequel, in which Grassie takes up her next business. (With accidental help from Meredith Wilson and Bill Goodwin.)

burnsallen

Download the episode here, or listen on YouTube, and read the transcript below. (Previous transcripts.)

There’s a couple question marks left where I couldn’t quite catch a reference. If you can tell what they’re saying, please comment and let me know!

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Burns & Allen Transcript: Getting A Movie Contract (1950-01-11) December 17, 2017

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It’s the first show of 1950. The country is well into recovery from World War II, Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons are the queens of Hollywood gossip, Joe Pasternak is producing films for MGM, and the future looks bright.

So Gracie has plans to get a friend’s daughter into the movies, and she’s going to turn the rest of Hollywood upside-down to do it.

Download the episode here, or listen on YouTube, and read the transcript below.

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Burns & Allen Transcript: Married, but Single (1942-10-06) May 25, 2017

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The year is 1942. Harry James and his Orchestra’s “One Dozen Roses” is a number-one hit; you need your own maps to follow the developments of WWII because all the news is on radio; and Burns and Allen just got back from a USO tour.

While settling in at home, Gracie realizes she misses their pre-marriage courtship, and urges George to help her re-enact their first date. As far as she’s concerned, it goes perfectly.

Download the episode here, and read the transcript below.

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Burns & Allen Masterpost May 13, 2017

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A combination “as-complete-as-I-can-get-it link roundup” and “Gracie Allen appreciation post.”

The Burns and Allen Show (Radio)

Early on, the show is basically a recorded standup routine, with George and Gracie as generic comedians. Around late 1941 it turns into a more narrative audio sitcom, with George and Gracie as a married couple in the suburbs.

Gracie had an incredible work ethic. did shows with terrible migraines. She did shows when she had a broken nose and could barely talk. Here’s George, referencing the 3/24/29 show:

“In all the years we performed together she missed only one performance. That was a radio show, and her headache was so bad she couldn’t get out of bed. Our friend Janie Wyman, who’d just won the Academy Award as Best Actress, played Gracie’s part. That was about right.”

The Burns and Allen Show (TV)

Episodes for the first two seasons were often “remade” for the next six, which probably explains why a bunch of them aren’t uploaded.

“Screenwriters had an easy time writing for us. In our first few pictures they wrote the dialogue for all the other characters until we entered, then they instructed: Burns and Allen do four minutes here. That’s what they wrote for us: Burns and Allen do four minutes here. Then, later in the script they wrote: Burns and Allen do four minutes here. So writing parts for us was easy.

[…] The shooting schedule usually provided a full day for us to do a complete scene, but because we were used to doing shorts, we could film our whole bit in two hours. Then everybody would stand around wondering what to do to fill the remainder of the day before they could go home. Hollywood was so accustomed to dealing with temperamental stars who took much longer than scheduled that they just didn’t know how to deal with actors who finished too quickly.”

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“Let me tell you a little story about Aunt Clara. She wasn’t really rich, but Papa Burke left her a little money. When Gracie and I were starting out in vaudeville we weren’t doing very well, so every week Aunt Clara would send us a check for $25. Every week. Even after we’d become big stars, earning thousands of dollars a show, we still received that $25 check every week from Aunt Clara. Well, Aunt Clara never knew it, but she lost almost everything she had in the stock-market crash. But she never knew about it, because Gracie found out and arranged to have enough money deposited in Clara’s account each month to cover all her expenses. That went on for years. It’s a good thing Gracie did, too, otherwise we would have stopped getting those $25 checks.”