George Burns

An American Life


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About the Book

Having entered the world in 1896 as a poverty-stricken child named Naftaly (Nathan) Birnbaum, George Burns rose from New York’s Lower East Side to the uppermost heights of celebrity in the entertainment industry. His storied romance with Gracie Allen led to their success in vaudeville, films, radio and television as one of the greatest comedy teams in history. Burns experienced both tragedy and triumph during his 100-year lifespan, ultimately recovering from the death of his beloved Gracie in 1964 to re-emerge as a solo performer and an Oscar-winning actor.
This all-inclusive biography explores George Burns’s career against the backdrop of American entertainment history in the 20th century. His loves, his close friendship with Jack Benny, his rivalry with Groucho Marx, and his latter-day success in films are all carefully detailed.

About the Author(s)

Lawrence J. Epstein has written extensively on the history of comedy teams and the influence of Jewish humor in America. From 1974 to 2008 he was a professor of English at Suffolk County Community College in New York.

Bibliographic Details

Lawrence J. Epstein
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 212
Bibliographic Info: 21 photos, chronology, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2011
pISBN: 978-0-7864-5849-3
eISBN: 978-0-7864-8793-6
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      ix
Preface      1

1. Looking Back      5
2. The Land of Hope and Tears      8
3. The Not-So-Dumb Dora      27
4. The Theater of the Mind and the Silver Screen      50
5. Burns and Allen and the Magic Box      107
6. Goodnight, Gracie      144
7. “I Can’t Die. I’m Booked”      158

Chronology      189
Chapter Notes      193
References      197
Index      201