Book Salesman (film #4 on The Burns & Allen Show DVD (PC Treasures, 2005). Also, film #1 on The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show DVD (Treasure Box Collection)). [Category: Early Film & TV]

This is a great example of early live tv at its finest. “The Burns & Allen Show” occupied a netherworld between vaudeville, radio, and tv sitcoms. George Burns starts the show by giving a monologue on a stage, then the curtain opens to reveal a sparse house set, where the silly antics of George, Gracie, and their neighbors, the Mortons, take place. George alternates between narrating and appearing in the action, and the proceedings are wonderfully surreal, with Carnation milk commercials being bizarrely incorporated into the action, jokes being made about the open-house set, and flubbed lines and appearances of the boom mike being left in. There’s a song in the middle of things, but the real attraction is Gracie’s illogical logic, which is in full flower here. The title of the episode refers to a wonderful segment where Gracie bamboozles a book salesman until he admits defeat––I’d love to have her around to take care of telephone solicitors! The humor is still fresh and lively today, with Gracie’s character so brilliant in her stupidity that she prevails in every sequence, so you can in no way call the portrayal insulting. This episode was found on two different bargain DVDs from the dollar store, which only makes me want to dig through the bins some more to see what other gems can be found there.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: *****+. Weirdness: *****. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: *****.

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