Gracie Allen, the female half of the runaway comedy team of Burns and Allen, announced one March evening over the radio her intention to compete for the presidency at the head of a new third party, the “Surprise Party.” Why the Surprise Party? As Gracie later explained, her mother was a Democrat, her father a Republican, and Gracie had been born a Surprise.
Gracie’s presidential bid had originally been conceived as a simple radio gimmick with the expectation of a short half-life. George Burns later recalled its moment of birth: “Gracie and I were at home in Beverly Hills with our children [when she] suddenly remarked, ‘I’m tired of knitting this sweater. I think I’ll run for president this year.'”
The idea wasn’t particularly new. Other radio personalities, notably Eddie Cantor and Will Rogers, had made slapstick runs in the direction of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Gracie’s unique campaign, however, acquired a unique momentum.
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