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Marriage of Ratings

April 17, 2009

THE BURNS AND ALLEN SHOW began in 1933 and had a successful seventeen-year run. Although they were wed 7 January 1926, Burns and Allen didn’t acknowledge it on radio until 1942. Burns recalls,

When your ratings drop little by little, a half a point … then a quarter of a point,…you’re in trouble. If your ratings drop five points you’re not in trouble because that means that night somebody that was very good was on against you on another network, but our ratings kept dropping a quarter of a point. One morning I woke up at about 2 o’clock and woke up Gracie. I said, “Gracie, I figured out what our problem is. Our jokes are too young for us. Were’re older than these jokes.” And that’s when I told the audience on the very next show that Gracie and I were married and had two children. So we changed the whole idea, the jokes, the writing, and our ratings picked up.

Burns and Allen’s successful transition to television in 1950 proved without a doubt that they were one of the greatest comedy teams in any medium. With grace and ease they moved their radio-style format to a television broadcast, not dissimilar to acts that they performed on stage. Their highly popular television series ran until Allen retired in 1958. It seems that she had been suffering from illness and had been wanting to leave show business for sometime. She died in 1964, but Burns went on to star in a number of Hollywood films and continued to perform until his death in 1996 at the age of one hundred.

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