D.A. Ball
February 02, 1996 AT 05:00 AM EST

From small-time vaudeville to the pinnacles of radio, TV, and movie success (including an Oscar at 80 for The Sunshine Boys), Burns was never more than a laugh away from lines like ”I can’t die — I’m booked.” Critic Martin Gottfried tattles in George Burns and the Hundred-Year Dash that Burns never used cue cards because he could barely read, yet the comedian’s wisdom included such handy truths as ”…the only people who don’t [make mistakes] are people who don’t do anything.” The best part of the book recounts Burns’ 41-year romance with Gracie Allen, his ”shiksa goddess,” the wife he never stopped talking to even after her death. You’ll smile on every page, except to weep over the passing of Gracie and pal Jack Benny.

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