George Burns

George Burns


1/20/1896, New York, New York, USA



Birth Name

Nathan Birnbaum



Also Known As

Nattie, George N. Burns
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Born in 1896, George Burns began working at the ripe old age of 7 after his father died from the flu epidemic in 1903. George quit school in the fourth grade to help support the family, he was ninth of twelve children. Performing on stage, his vaudeville act…more


Trivia and Quotes

  • Trivia

    • Until his death Burns smoked as many as ten cigars a day.

    • Burns was best friends with comedian Jack Benny.

    • Burns dropped out of school when he was 9.

    • He starred in over 40 movies.

    • George Burns provides the only actual spoken dialog in the 1978 musical film Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

    • He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Motion Picture at 1639 Vine Street.

    • He was married to Gracie Allen from January 7 1926, until her death on August 27 1964.

    • He is interred along with his wife Gracie Allen at Forest Lawn, Glendale, California, USA.

    • He quit school in the fourth grade to go into show business full-time.

    • He started working at age 7, shining shoes, running errands, and selling newspapers.

    • He was the ninth of twelve children.

    • In the movie 18 Again! (1988) George's character celebrates his 81st birthday though he was already 92 years old!

    • George was originally supposed to deliver the eulogy at the funeral of his best friend, Jack Benny, but he was so overcome with emotion after trying that he let someone else do it

    • George was in very fragile health and could not attend his 100th birthday celebration in person.

    • George discovered Ann-Margret and made her his opening act in Las Vegas.

    • In the beginning of their partnership, Gracie played the straight character and George had the funny lines. When George realized Gracie got more laughs, he switched their roles.

    • George's first marriage was in name only. In the early 1920s, George was doing a ballroom dancing act with Hannah Siegal, and they were offered a 36-week contract to go out on the road. When her dad objected to her traveling with a young man outside the bonds of matrimony, George and Hannah got married so as not to turn down the offer. When they returned from their three-month engagement, they divorced.

    • Up until George's death he smoked as many as ten cigars a day.

    • George took the name "Burns" from the Burns Brothers Coal Company, whose trucks he'd stolen lumps from growing up, to help heat the family home. "George" was a sobriquet his brother occasionally used.

    • George and Gracie continued to play single, even years after they were married; declining ratings prompted George to "update" the act on-air. He said later, "We were the only couple on radio who got married because we had to."

    • George actually wore a hairpiece for most of his performing career; appears briefly without it in The Sunshine Boys (1975).

    • George was best friends with fellow comedian Jack Benny, who also served as best man at his and Gracie's wedding. George loved playing jokes on Benny--almost as much as watching him laugh (and pound the floor) afterwards.

    • George is the oldest recipient of an Oscar. He was 80 when he won the 1976 Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for The Sunshine Boys (1975).

    • George's best known trademark was his ever present cigar.

    • George played the straight man to his wife, Gracie Allen. After her death and his retirement period, he created a new image as an remarkably active amiable old comedian.

    • George and Gracie's show The Burns & Allen Show (on CBS and NBC from 1934 to 1950) was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1994.

    • George was a regular on the Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts. He was even a guest of honor in 1978.

    • George was the father of actor Ronnie Burns.

    • As a child, George attended P.S. 22 and left after the fourth grade due to economic reasons.

    • George was genuinely only married once in his life ... it was to his beloved sidekick Gracie Allen from January, 1926 until her death in August, 1964.

    • George was 5' 7" (1.70 m) tall.

    • George's nickname was "Nattie."

  • Quotes

    • George Burns: To me, the electrician is the most important part of the show. If he doesn't turn on the lights, there's no show.

    • George Burns: Smartness runs in my family. When I went to school I was so smart my teacher was in my class for five years.

    • George Burns: I've been a straight man for so many years that from force of habit I repeat everything. I went out fishing with a fellow the other day and he fell overboard. He yelled, 'Help! Help! Help!' so I said, 'Help? Help? Help?' And while I was waiting for him to get his laugh, he drowned.

    • George Burns: You know, lots of times people have asked me what Gracie and I did to make our marriage work. It's simple - we didn't do anything. I think the trouble with a lot of people is that they work too hard at staying married. They make a business out of it. When you work too hard at a business you get tired; and when you get tired you get grouchy you start fighting: and when you start fighting you're out of business.

    • George Burns: Fall in love with what you do for a living. I don't care what it is. It works.

    • George Burns: Retire? I'm going to stay in show business until I'm the only one left.

    • George Burns: (On appearance) Take care not to wear stripes that are out of sync with your wrinkles.

    • George Burns: I did go to school - my kind of school. When I was a kid I went out... and you meet people. You talk to them. Anybody says something that makes sense, it stays with you, rubs off on you. That kind of school.

    • George Burns: Well, anybody can be a straight man if he hears well. You just have to wait for laughs. A straight man just repeats the questions and the comedian gets the laughs and you just wait for them and don't let them die completely at the tail end of the laugh.

    • George Burns: (On his age) I get a standing ovation just standing.

    • George Burns: Nice to be here? At my age it's nice to be anywhere.

    • George Burns: In what other business can a guy my age drink martinis, smoke cigars and sing? I think all people who retire ought to go into show business. I've been retired all my life.

    • George Burns: (On gravity) Everything that goes up must come down. But there comes a time when not everything that's down can come up.

    • George Burns: I would go out with women my age, but there are no women my age.

    • George Burns: Bridge is a game that separates the men from the boys. It also separates husbands and wives.

    • George Burns: A young mind in a healthy body is a wonderful thing. Especially for an old man with an open night.

    • George Burns: If you stay in the business long enough and get to be old enough, you get to be new again.

    • George Burns: I use the cigar for timing purposes. If I tell a joke, I smoke as long as they laugh and when they stop laughing I take the cigar out of my mouth and start my next joke.

    • George Burns: I don't believe in dying... It's been done.

    • George Burns: Happiness is: A good martini, a good meal, a good cigar and a good woman... or a bad woman, depending on how much happiness you can stand.

    • George Burns: The most important thing to succeed in show business is sincerity. And if you can fake that, you've got it made.

    • George Burns: There are many ways to die in bed, but the best way is not alone.

    • George Burns: I can't afford to die; I'd lose too much money.

    • George Burns: (Commenting on winning the Oscar at age 80) It couldn't have happened to an older guy.

    • George Burns: (At 87 years old) I was brought up to respect my elders and now I don't have to respect anybody.

    • George Burns: (On adultery) If you were married to Marilyn Monroe, you'd cheat with some ugly girl.

    • George Burns: (Interviewed in his old age about sex scenes) What actresses do today when they appear on the screen is what they did once upon a time for getting to appear on the screen.

    • George Burns: I'd rather be a failure at something I love than a success at something I hate.

    • George Burns: At my age, the only thing hot waiting for me in my dressing room is a bowl of soup.

    • George Burns: (Discussing his role in Going in Style in 1979) I had to learn how to act old.

    • George Burns: (When asked how he got the title role in Oh, God! in 1977) I was the closest to Him in age.

    • George Burns: (During Dean Martin's roast for Frank Sinatra) We singers aren't worried about getting laughs... see, nobody's laughing, and I'm not worried.

    • George Burns: If you live to be one hundred you've got it made. Very few people die past that age.

    • George: When I was a boy the Dead Sea was only sick.

    • George: When I was young I was called a rugged individualist. When I was in my fifties I was considered eccentric. Here I am doing and saying the same things I did then and I'm labeled senile.

    • George: You can't help getting older, but you don't have to get old.

    • George: You know you're getting old when you stoop to tie your shoelaces and wonder what else you could do while you're down there.

    • George: You've got to be honest; if you can fake that, you've got it made.