Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Cheapjack Christmas Special! #3: Burns and Allen



Just Enough Background: You really should know this story by now, but here’s the extra-stripped-down version: In 1922, a nice Jewish boy met (and eventually married) an Irish girl, and once the guy figured out that he was better as a straight man, they had a beautiful vaudeville-style career together. They made all kinds of entertainment, first on the stage, then on radio and in movies, and finally, beginning in the fall of 1950, television.

By the time they made it to video, George Burns and Gracie Allen had been working a simple but solid sitcom format for nearly a decade. George and Gracie were Mr. and Mrs. Burns, Gracie being the dizzy dame and George usually just riding out the hurricane in as semi-detached a manner as he could manage. The next-door neighbors, providing more people for Gracie to bounce off of, were Gracie's friend Blanche Morton and husband Harry. Blanche was always Bea Benaderet, while four different Harrys were rotated in and out for TV (in this episode, it’s Fred Clark, who stayed with the show until 1953).

George also brought to television the concept of “breaking the fourth wall”, stepping out of the scene from time to time to comment on how the story was progressing. And always smoking those cigars, of course.


The Christmas Episode: Well, they call it “Gracie’s Relatives”, but I’ll call it “Christmas With Mamie Kelly”. Originally broadcast (live): December 20, 1951.

There’s really just enough story here to wind everybody up and turn them loose, but that’s more than enough for our purposes. In the A story (as we ultra-clever modern television fans like to say these days), Mamie Kelly and her three rambunctious young daughters are visiting the Burns household for the holidays. Harry Morton remembers them well: the last time the girls were around, they kicked him in the shins and shot out the glass in his door. They definitely have a way of leaving their mark, such as when they get ahold of George’s sweater.


Would you put it past Gracie to try and lengthen George's arms?

The whole thing wraps up when Gracie tries to tell the girls A Christmas Carol before bed. This is not your father’s Christmas Carol…because his was written by Dickens.

The B-story, such as it is, involves Blanche and Harry trying to hide presents from each other. Blanche got Harry a fishing basket, while Harry picked up a red alligator bag and matching shoes.


Gracie: “I always thought alligators were brown!”

Harry: “It’s dyed.”

Gracie: “Well, I hope it has, if they made a bag and shoes out of it!”

And somewhere in there, Harry Von Zell (the guy who does the commercial) brings over a Santa suit so George can dress up for the Kelly girls. At one point, Von Zell uses his lady friend to demonstrate how to gain a child’s trust as Santa.


Von Zell: "You see? She’s not afraid of me!”

George: “Well, she’s not home yet.”

All in all, a great show (as if they could do any other kind at this point), even if it looks like it was dubbed from a copy of a copy. Click on any pic and you'll get a pretty good idea. Speaking of which…

Reminder That You Only Paid $5 For This Set: Oh yeah, this happens again…


Could somebody spring for a new VCR over there?

Spot ‘Em: One of the Kelly girls is supposed to be Jill St. John, but sorry, they're all pigtails and gingham and I can’t tell ‘em apart.

Our Holiday Lesson For The Day: Courtesy Harry Morton: If you want to stop some kid from playing his/her drum in your ear, tell them there’s candy inside. Bah. Humbug.

I’m having a little bit of trouble finding this online, so you will have to take my word for it for the moment. If you find it before I do, be a good sport and link it in the comments. To make up for it, here's George Burns in a Santa suit.

Next: Captain Gallant of the Foreign Legion starring Buster Crabbe! WITH LEGOS! No, really!

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