Book Report: Gracie: A Love Story by George Burns (1988)

Book coverI can slot this book into the Winter 2022 Reading Challenge in either the Celebrity Memoir or the Love Story category; I’ve tentatively put it into the Love Story category because I have a lot of celebrity memoirs I could otherwise read, and most things I have in my library that one could consider a love story are probably 500 pages long.

As you might recall, gentle reader, I read an omnibus edition of his work called The Most of George Burns in in 2016, when I thought I might pick this particular volume up soon. Well, apparently I have reached a certain age where six years later is soon. Although I am pretty sure that my boys would tell you that whenever I say Soon to them, it can be up to never years later.

This book is a memoir of his marriage and act with Gracie Allen, although I guess they came in the opposite order. He is very flattering of her talent and as a person, making light of the fact that she was the star of the show and he was just the foil and straight man. But oh how he glows in his description of her throughout the book, and talks about her attitude towards show business (she was eager to leave it when they’d made bank) and her heart problems and eventual death. When this book was written, he still lived in the house they shared and went to visit her at the cemetary frequently–twenty-five years after her death.

In talking about the movies they made together, he mentions many by title, and they’re not available any more. He mentions his friendship with Jack Benny, but you don’t see a lot of Jack Benny DVDs on the dollar rack in grocery stores (or you didn’t in the day). I guess you can find the Jack Benny show on Amazon Prime….for six more days from today. (Also note that Burns mentions Benny’s wife, Mary Livingstone, which is know they’re married and whatnot). I think Burns got his modern notice, at least my notice, because of his films in the 1970s and 1980s and because that spurred public domain dumpster divers to put his taped shows out on DVD.

At any rate, I loved this book and his adoration for his wife.

I flagged a couple of things for comment:

Opening night was Monday at eight-fifteen. That’s when the critics came. We packed the audience with friends like Jack, Mary, Rena, Blossom Seely, and Benny Fields, dress designed Orry-Kelly, Archie Leach–a handome necktie salesman who was trying to break into show business with a stilt-walking act. He eventually changed his name to Cary Grant and after that was never much good as a necktie salesman.

You and I know Cary Grant was originally Archie Leach–he mentions the name in a bunch of his films. But this illustrates how Burns and Allen knew a bunch of people in vaudeville, radio, and early television–Burns mentions a lot of them by name. In the 21st century, many of the names are unknown (although Cary Grant makes infrequent appearances in memes about how men dress poorly these days).

Bibelots, or as we call them in English, chatchkas, are little trinkets. I suspect they’re called bibelots because if they were called trinkets, or knickknacks, they wouldn’t dare charge the prices for them that they do. Bibelots is a French word that, literally translated, means “overpriced trinket.”

I have learned a new word: Bibelot. Although since it’s a French word, I will likely mispronounce it when I use it, like so many words I learned from books.

She read everything, but she loved philosophy and trashy novels. I always figured that reading one helped her understand the other.

Sounds like what you find in the Book Reports category here at MfBJN unless the Winter Reading Challenge is on.

318 pages that breeze by, a pleasure to read, and it two sections of photographs of Burns and Allen and the whole Burns family.

I hope I do find more George Burns books in my stacks. They are a hoot.

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