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Case Number 04615: Small Claims Court

Buy The Burns And Allen Collection at Amazon

The Burns And Allen Collection

Passport Video // 1950 // 300 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Bill Treadway (Retired) // June 16th, 2004

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All Rise...

Judge Bill Treadway gnawed a stinky old stogy while penning this appreciative review.

The Charge

They made as loving a couple off screen as they did on.

The Case

The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show is one of the funniest and best shows of its kind. Few realize the influence this show has had on television since the last show. Let's take That '70s Show for starters. What is Kitty Forman but an updated version of Gracie Allen? What about the popular cantankerous next-door neighbor? You can find the genesis here in the form of Harry Morton, played by five actors over the show's run. (The fifth Harry Morton was Larry Keating, best known as Roger Addison on Mister Ed. Also of note is that Morton's wife Blanche was played by Bea Benederet, best known as the first Betty Rubble on The Flintstones.) How did the team start? In 1922, the comedy team of George Burns and Harry Lorraine was in tatters. Allowed to pick out a partner from the team, Gracie decided to form a team with George. Initially, Gracie was the straight "man" and George the comic relief. Shortly after, George decided to switch roles and the result was comedy magic. It was around this time that George fell in love with Gracie. After years of resistance, Gracie married George, and they remained together until her untimely death in 1964. Few know that it was her heart problems that led to the show's premature end in 1958.

Eight of the best episodes from the 1950-58 CBS television show are featured on four discs. The accompanying documentary appears on the set's fifth disc. Rated on a scale of zero to five stars, here are the episodes:

•"Pilot"
This is the premiere episode of The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show on CBS. Gracie manages to confuse an encyclopedia salesman (Henry Jones, Vertigo, Deathtrap).
Rating: ****1/2

•"Gracie's Tax Return"
Gracie manages to infuriate a tax auditor sent to the Burnses' home to appraise the furniture.
Rating: *****

•"Speech Writer"
George finds writing a speech a difficult task, especially with the annoying children of Gracie's sister Mamie playing nearby.
Rating: *****

•"Gracie's Checking Account"
George decides to cancel Gracie's checking account. The problem is how to break it to her.
Rating: ****

•"Gracie's Wedding Plans"
Gracie returns a friend's favor by offering to host the wedding of said friend's daughter.
Rating: ****1/2

•"Teen Visit"
George and Gracie offer to allow their local banker's teenage daughter to stay with them for the weekend.
Rating: *****

•"Swami"
A shifty fortune-teller convinces Gracie to divorce George.
Rating: *****

•"Beverly Hills Society"
Gracie accidentally uses the rent money for The Beverly Hills Uplift Society to purchase a wall safe for the rent. The ladies attempt to convince George to give them the rent money.
Rating: ****

Hollywood Couples: George Burns and Gracie Allen
This is a one-hour documentary detailing the partnership and eventual courtship of one of the greatest comedy teams in history.
Rating: ****

This box set was released by Passport Video, a public-domain outfit. Only in rare instances are public-domain prints renowned for top quality, and, as expected, the transfer isn't very good. Most of the problems arise from the fact that these are public-domain dupes. Some of the episodes look fairly good considering their age. Others look terrible. Grain actually isn't a problem here. The main culprit is ghosting, the annoying process of the image eerily multiplying in front of your eyes. Scratches and specks galore appear, along with those annoying black vertical lines that indicate a messy splice or tear in the print.

Audio is much better. I was surprised at how good this set sounded. Dialogue always comes through loud and clear, which is extremely important given that the humor is of the verbal variety. Music also comes through clean and loud, although there is some slight muffling, which is most likely due to the condition of the elements used for this transfer.

Despite the shaky transfer and lack of extras, I am still recommending The Burns and Allen Collection. Columbia remains hesitant to give us an official release, and TV Land no longer airs the program on Sunday mornings. For the time being, how else are we going to get a Burns and Allen fix? The sheer brilliance of the duo and the timelessness of the comedy make it easy to recommend a purchase. $29.99 for five discs is a good deal in the end, and that's really all that matters. At least until an official set comes to light, that is!

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 90

Perp Profile

Studio: Passport Video
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Release Year: 1950
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Genres:
• Classic
• Comedy
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• None

Accomplices

• IMDb








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