CD Reviews


Webmaster: Len Mullenger

[Jazz index][Purchase CDs][ Film MusicWeb][Classical MusicWeb][Gerard Hoffnung][MusicWeb Site Map]

Burns and Allen – Radio Stars of America

Extended Excerpts from the Burns and Allen Show 1942-47

Gracie Works in a Department Store – with Gale Gordon and Mel Blanc
Talking About Gracie’s Family
Beating the High Cost of Living
Auctioning Brian Aherne’s Underwear with Brian Aherne
Playing Poker with the Boys – with Alan Ladd
Recorded off air 1942-47
LIVING ERA CD AJA 5592 [77.53]


Amazon UK Budget price

Burns and Allen’s first radio show was in 1932 so by the time these extracts were recorded they’d been on air for over a decade - one of the five sketches incidentally is from a 1942 Treasury Star Parade programme. They had a regular sidekick in Mel Blanc and a coterie of guest stars, either well-known film stars such as Alan Ladd or radio actors of the likes of Gale Gordon and Hans Conreid. Gordon actually stars in one of these sketches and the buffo charms of silly-ass Englishman Brian Aherne are also heard in a 1944 show. Though Burns was always deferential to Allen and claimed her skills far outstripped his own, his gruff feeds are as potent as ever and her daffy loquaciousness is as pleasurable as ever.

That said, and though these were still Burns and Allen’s Golden Years as far as their radio shows were concerned, I don’t think there’s as much comic mileage to be had from these excerpts as there is in, say, Jimmy Durante’s broadcasts also recently released by Living Era. Naturally the comedic fields are very different but the temperature in these studio broadcasts is consistently lower and the formula rather too predictable. There’s not the incendiary sense of things about to go wrong as there is in Durante’s shows, or any improvised business to cover up pratfalls or corpsing.

Burns is not yet the cigar-burnished elder statesman he was to become and one feels him straining to keep within the bounds of the well-crafted scripts. I’m sure it’s not imagination that leads me to think he makes conscious efforts to hold back off-the-cuff lines. In the first sketch though, Gracie Works in a Department Store, one can hear Gracie Allen wring applause from an audience that has merely tittered at a gag. She holds the line and – I assume – cocks an eyebrow at them and like a lion tamer Allen knew just how to control them. Burns, too, has his gag-clinchers and one we hear in the second skit, Talking About Gracie’s Family where he repeatedly sings a droll refrain to get his laugh doubled. Probably the best of the sketches is that with Aherne who, in true British style, has lost his underpants a word, in true British style, he can’t bring himself to utter. He finally brings himself to call them shorts.

The final Poker sketch with Alan Ladd (whistles from the ladies in the audience) is recorded in the best sound though at seven minutes it’s the shortest of the five. One or two run on for over twenty minutes. The documentation and notes are helpful and the package is attractively done. Plenty to please the B & A admirer.

Jonathan Woolf

Return to Index