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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.



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.)


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!


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.


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.


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.”


“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.”

Burns & Allen Transcript: Gracie Adopts Mickey Rooney (1949-05-19) February 26, 2017

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The year is 1949. The Republicans are the left-wing party; Hialeah Park is doing a booming horse-racing business; and Mickey Rooney is best known as the adorable fresh-faced star of the Andy Hardy movies.

Also, Gracie Allen is Tumblr. This adult male actor is her son now. She adopted him, he is her child, sorry folks but she doesn’t make the rules.

Download the episode here, and read the transcript below.

And the shoe just dropped [My Favorite Husband vs. Burns and Allen] October 31, 2015

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Welp, I’ve gotten to the domestic-abuse jokes in My Favorite Husband. Or, to put it another way: wow, this show talks about spanking a lot. Maybe it would work if you could headcanon in some kind of kinky domestic-discipline negotiation backstory, but mostly it just feels very Fifty Shades of Cooper.

…which is compounded by the fact that “making out” is the only thing Liz and George seem to really enjoy about each other. The narration bills them as a Happy Couple, but a fair amount of the comedy is from the “straight married people fight with each other” school. A regular gag is George saying something vaguely positive about another woman, and Liz bursting into tears about how clearly he doesn’t love her anymore. George can be super condescending, and both of them will end up in situations where they’re yanking the other’s chains, and the joy they take in it has an edge of meanness, instead of, say, fondness.

It has its charms, and at their best they’ll hit genuinely funny and clever notes, so the series is still in the “listenable” pile. Re-listenable, not so much.

For the record, there are things that don’t make the “listenable” pile. I’m not so desperate for audio material that there’s nothing I won’t bounce off of, honest.

A few old-school radio comedies that got rejected: Vic and Sade; Duffy’s Tavern; Fibber McGee and Molly (Great Gildersleeve was a spinoff of this, but even the Gildy episodes felt subpar); the radio version of The Red Skelton Show.

I said MFH felt like watered-down Burns & Allen Show — you know, it’s possible George and Gracie could’ve made something better out of the same material? Their IRL happy marriage, and their general adoration of each other, glows through their characters. (Same way Stephen Colbert’s general human decency showed through in “Stephen”, come to think of it.)

But the material they got was different, too. They don’t make fun of each other. There’s that power balance I talked about, where Liz’s George doesn’t seem to rely on her for anything, while Gracie’s George relies on her to have the talent and make the money. (And Gracie, in turn, relies on George to have good business sense…and do the housework.)

Here, have some demonstrative episode recs….

1948-10-07 Kleptomaniacs: George becomes convinced that Gracie is the compulsive thief who’s been stealing from local stores.

This is the point when George Cooper would have sat Liz down for a lecture (and maybe a spanking, for good measure). George Burns, though? He worries about her — considers that maybe he’s been contributing to her compulsive behavior by not paying her enough attention — tries to cover for her — and, when he gets caught, pleads guilty.

Gracie, who is not the thief, hears about this, becomes convinced George is really the thief…and, you guessed it, takes it upon her own shoulders to cover for him.

1949-02-17 George Collects Alley Cats: Lots of shenanigans with cats, until the new neighbors adopt one from George and Gracie. Meanwhile, Gracie gets the idea that George is being wooed by the neighbor wife. She ends up going over and demanding him back…and of course “George” is what they named the cat.

(Gracie: “…you want to buy him?” James Mason: “Yes, I’ll give you fifty dollars!…Is he worth more?” Gracie, earnestly: “No, the price is right, but I love him!”)

And this is where Liz would have started wailing, or maybe gotten all jealous of Pamela Mason and ended up cackling with joy when something bad happened to her. But Gracie? When she hears about how “George” loves sleeping at the foot of the Masons’ bed, and is all frisky and excited about living with them, she decides that if this really is best for her husband, she’ll resign herself to giving him up.

Burns & Allen are undoubtedly staying on my hard drive for re-listening purposes. Repetitive ads and all.

Erin Listens (with episode recs!): Our Miss Brooks, Burns & Allen, The Great Gildersleeve October 3, 2015

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Highlights of the previously-mentioned “burning through a ton of audio” situation.

I keep griping about these shows’ flaws, which are inevitable because 1950’s, but for the most part they’re deeply enjoyable. Time to share some more of that joy, in Fun Sample Episode Downloads form.

Our Miss Brooks:

Punny, deadpan-heavy farce about schoolteachers. If you missed the previous episode rec post (or even if you didn’t), those links still stand.

Taxi Fare (1955-06-19): Miss Brooks gets a cab ride home, doesn’t have the money to pay the driver, and tries to raise it by scaring up some of the money she’s loaned to friends and acquaintances over the years. Taking the same cab to visit some of these people might not have been the best strategy.

When they show up at Mr. Boynton’s apartment, he ends up inviting Miss Brooks to visit his parents over their vacation. Although, as he puts it, “I don’t want you to think that bringing a boyfriend to my apartment has influenced me in any way.” And we all totally believe it. Yep.

Cat Burglars (1955-08-07): There’s been a rash of burglaries in the neighborhood, so Principal Conklin enlists Miss Brooks to keep an eye on his daughter while he’s out of town. Includes some lovely defending-ourselves-against-criminals slapstick. Also, this (abridged) exchange from when Mr. Boynton doesn’t quite grasp the reason Miss Brooks is breaking their date that night:

“I honestly didn’t think it would matter so much to you…”

“Oh, it doesn’t! Doesn’t matter in the least! If you’ve found some other man you’d rather go out with, go right ahead. You’ve probably met someone who’s taller, and more handsome, and with a better personality than I have…if so, good luck to you!”

“If so, who needs it?” [Audience joy.] “That is — you don’t understand, Mr. Boynton….”

“Oh, don’t try to spare my feelings! I don’t blame you for preferring to drive around in a Cadillac instead of my old heap. After all, why should a girl waste her time on a poor schoolteacher, when she can enjoy the comforts and luxuries a wealthy playboy has to offer? I couldn’t expect you to pass up cocktails and dinner and dancing at some swanky restaurant, to go out with me! …Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to get a glass of milk to wash this all down.”

Sneaky Peekers (1955-08-14): Our heroine accidentally orders a copy of the wrong Rodin statue for a school cultural exhibition — instead of The Thinker, they get shipped The Kiss. You can tell this takes place before the Internet, because this is shocking, racy content…and half the cast is eager to get a look.

The Burns and Allen Show:

The character versions of George and Gracie are wonderful, but every time I read something about the actors behind them, I get all these bonus feelings. Some praise the real George had for Gracie upon her retirement: “Her lines were the toughest in the world to do. They didn’t make sense, so she had to memorize every word. It took a real actress. Every spare moment — in bed, under the hair dryer — had to be spent in learning lines.”

And here’s the thing, I hadn’t even thought about it. Because in-universe, she makes it sound so natural. Now that’s talent.

Gracie Takes Up Crime Solving (1947-03-06) and Kill The Rat (1947-03-13):

Gracie gets a little too into a detective program (The Tall Man, with Rudy and Trudy, a parody of The Thin Man‘s Nick and Nora — who were also an inspiration for Beyond Belief’s Frank and Sadie), and takes on crime-solving missions of her own. The first of these contains Gracie infiltrating “the underworld” with this flawless cover identity: “You bet I’m tough. You ever hear of Alcatraz? …I’m his sister. Gracie Catraz.”

In the second, she thinks a couple of gangsters are out to kill George, and ends up seeking out Rudy and Trudy themselves for help. Both times, Meredith Wilson (a guy so modest, he once accidentally bumped into a woman and thought “the honorable thing to do” was to marry her) gets wrapped up in the scheme, including supporting her “Gracie Catraz” identity by playing her “moll.”

Gracie Goes to New Orleans (1948-02-26): Gracie is leaving on her own for a vacation, and George’s biggest worry is that she’ll buy expensive hats while she’s there…until he gets overheard addressing a friend on the phone as “Dimples,” and word gets back to Gracie that he’s making plans with a girlfriend. Now George has to scramble to convince Gracie that he was only talking to their friend Bill Goodwin (who is a love interest for nearly every woman in town, but not for him).

“Why would anyone call him that?” “Because he’s got dimples!” “So? He’s got a head, but they don’t call him Heady! He’s got feet, but they don’t call him Tootsie! He’s got a lot of fans, and they don’t call him Fanny!”

(When George originally said “goodbye, Dimples,” Bill replied with “goodbye, Wrinkles.” It’s tough to be George.)

The Great Gildersleeve:

Throckmorton P. Gildersleeve scrambles to raise his niece and nephew, keep on good-enough terms with Judge Horace Hooker (who put them in his custody), and generally get along with the town. Oh, and support the troops as WWII kicks off in the background.

The first season (1941-42) is very plot-of-the-week, but the second one (42-43) seems to have an actual Arc, with one episode setting up plot points that get developed in the next. If this keeps up, it’ll be the most continuity of any of these comedies I’ve listened to.

Canary Won’t Sing (1941-11-30): Gildy wins a canary from a fundraiser at Birdie’s Lodge (part of her “having a life of her own outside cooking for the family” background). A good prototypical example of one episode’s worth of shenanigans — our heroes start with “how can we get this bird to sing?” and it takes them to places like “uh-oh, the police just mistook our library-book list of bird foods gets mistaken for a secret criminal code”

Wooing Amelia Hooker (1942-06-28): Gildy gets a flirtation going with Judge Hooker’s sister. The judge tries some shenanigans of his own to thwart the idea. Teenage niece Marjorie thinks the budding romance is sweet; tween nephew Leroy doesn’t see the point: “What does he want a wife for? He’s got Marge to sew on his buttons, and [Birdie] to cook for him, and Judge Hooker to fight with! What more could a guy want?”

…This was the point when I reflected that, if this series was produced today, there would be a bunch of Gildersleeve/Hooker rivalshipping. And that I am strangely okay with that.

Erin Listens: My Favorite Husband, Burns & Allen October 2, 2015

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I currently have a day job that involves 6-8 hours of relatively mindless database-querying. I am burning through a ton of podcast and old-timey-radio hours.

Latest show put in rotation:

My Favorite Husband is a 1948-1951 domestic comedy, the forerunner of TV’s I Love Lucy (the female lead, Liz, is Lucille Ball, and some of the radio show’s plots got straight-up lifted for TV). To me, not having seen Lucy, it sounds like somebody’s suburban AU of the Burns and Allen Show.

Doesn’t help that the male lead is also named George. There was even an earlier one-shot version where George Burns and Gracie Allen played the lead roles!

Going by the early episodes, it’s…not quite as good as Burns & Allen. Liz Cugat is a lovable oddball with her head in the clouds, just not as delightfully, consistently zany as Gracie-the-character. George Cugat is another long-suffering straight-man husband, but one of the fun complexities in George Burns’s character is that he can be as ridiculous in his wife under the right circumstances, and we haven’t seen that from Cugat.

And their careers are different, which messes with the balance of the marriage. In both shows, the husband controls the couple’s finances, but with Burns and Allen, they both work in show business — and everybody knows that Gracie is the powerhouse of the team. (“Don’t worry about money, George, you’ve got one of the biggest talents in the business!” “Oh, thanks, Bill…” “…so as long as Gracie stays married to you, you’re fine!”) You understand that they’re both making the money — it’s just that George, as The Sensible One, is definitely the one who should be managing it.

With the Cugats, their George has one of the blandest middle-class jobs imaginable (a vice president at a bank), and Liz doesn’t work. So there’s more of a sense that this is George’s money, he’s the only one entitled to it, and he lets Liz use it out of generosity. Less interesting and less egalitarian.

To be fair! Burns & Allen is a high bar to hit, so even somewhat-watered-down Burns & Allen makes for good listening. And there are points in favor of My Favorite Husband. The advertising is less intrusive. There’s more humor based on the sitcom-dilemma-of-the-week, in contrast to humor based on running gags that can get repetitive.

Also, Burns & Allen has an uncomfortable streak of “casual/accepting toward domestic violence” humor. I don’t mean slapstick, none of the good characters are shown hurting each other, the show realizes that this is a bad thing — there’s just a disconnect about how bad. That hasn’t shown up in My Favorite Husband, so I’m hoping that’s a sign of a cultural shift (and not just a sign of “you haven’t gotten to that episode yet”).

Most of the show is available on The Internet Archive. A few are misnamed files that are duplicates of other episodes, which is a shame (usually TIA’s downloads are better-curated), but there’s plenty of My Favorite Husband to listen to.