George Burns (January 20, 1896 - March 9, 1996) was a legendary American vaudeville comedian who went on to work in movies, radio, and early television. He was born as Nathan Birnbaum to Louis and Dorothy Birnbaum, the ninth of twelve children, in New York City, New York.
Burns teamed with his second wife Gracie Allen as "Burns & Allen"; they built their routines and their television sitcom around situations where she said (and did) ditsy things and he made wry comments as asides to the audience, often while brandishing a cigar or golf club. Gracie retired due to poor health in 1958 and died in 1964.
In the 1930s the couple adopted two children: Sandra Jean and Ronald "Ronnie" John; when Ronnie was grown, he joined the cast of his parents' 1950-1958 Monday-night television show on CBS, The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show.
After Allen's death, many considered Burns a "has been" until he co-starred with Walter Matthau in the 1975 movie adaptation of Neil Simon's hit play The Sunshine Boys. Matthau and Burns played feuding comics reunited for a television special. Burns had been lifelong friends with Jack Benny and Benny was originally slated to make the film, but after being diagnosed with cancer, he requested Burns get the role instead. Although he had not made a film since 1939 and had never really "acted" before, Burns won wide acclaim and an Academy Award for best supporting actor.
In 1977, Burns made another hit film Oh, God!, playing the title role opposite John Denver. The film inspired two sequels. Burns continued to be active well into his nineties, writing a number of books and appearing in films and television.
Burns remained deeply devoted to Allen after she passed away. He never re-married, and though he developed a running joke of being a sexy senior citizen (he was often seen in the company of beautiful young women), he was never crude and his devotion to his wife was unquestioned up until his death. On his relationships, he said, "I'd go out with women my age, but there are no women my age."
Burns had long planned to celebrate his 100th birthday by performing in Las Vegas. However, in 1994, Burns was badly injured in a fall and his health steadily declined. He died forty three days after his 100th birthday in 1996. Burns faced death very bravely; he often said that in a way he was looking forward to it. He believed he would be reunited with Gracie in Heaven.
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