Comedian, Actor. He gained international fame with wife Gracie Allen while performing as the "Burns & Allen" comedy team. Born Nathan Birnbaum, the ninth of twelve children to Austrian immigrants on New York City, New York's Lower East Side in an area where the Yiddish theater flourished and vaudeville was prevalent. At age seven, his father died and he acquired the moniker "George Burns", which was derived from his older brother and from the coal yard his friends and family would steal coal to take home to replenish the fire in the family stove. Along with other boys in the neighborhood he became a "Busker", which was street singer. His education was over with the completion of the fourth grade, and small vaudeville roles followed. At age 15, George Burns took a regular job as a dance instructor at Berstein's School of Dancing, but soon he was back to performing on the stage. In 1922 he met Gracie Allen, who had been on the stage since age three had given up and enrolled in secretarial school in New York City. They teamed up to become the "Burns and Allen" duo, a relationship that lasted for thirty-five years. Their successful stage act brought them to Hollywood, California in the 1930s, and they produced a number of popular comedy short motion picture features. In the 1940s they solidified their popularity with a highly successful radio comedy show, which at the beginning of the 1950s they transitioned to television during what was known as the “Golden Era of TV.” The “George Burns and Gracie Allen Show” ran from 1950 to 1958 and produced 291 episodes. The show came to an end when Gracie Allen’s health issues made it no longer able for her to continue (she would pass away of heart disease six years later). In the 1960s and 1970s George Burns involved himself in television production and making personal appearances in theaters and night clubs before taking the role of faded vaudeville star ‘Al Lewis’ in the 1975 motion picture adaptation of playwright Neil Simon’s “The Sunshine Boys”, taking over the role for an ailing Jack Benny. It was his first feature film since the comedy shorts he made with Gracie Allen in the 1930s, and his performance was such that at age 80 he was awarded the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. His career resurged after the role, starring as ‘God’ in the three popular “Oh, God!” movies among several other films. He remained in the spotlight as a highly popular and beloved entertainment figure well into his 90s, making night club and stand up comedy appearances despite his advanced age. His last public appearance was in Australia in February 1996, and he passed away less than a month later in March 1996. When he had turned 90, the city of Los Angeles, California renamed the northern end of Hamel Road "George Burns Road." Nine years later, the city renamed the eastern end of Alden Drive "Gracie Allen Drive." He has three stars on Hollywood's Walk of Fame.
Bio by: Donald Greyfield
1902–1964 (m. 1926)