George Burns, major movie star? He certainly came close — with or without his cigar. Here’s the best of Burns on video.
A DAMSEL IN DISTRESS (1937, Turner)
While playboy singer Fred Astaire woos socialite Joan Fontaine with Gershwin tunes, Burns and Allen add comic relief as Astaire’s crafty press agent and daffy secretary. Highlight: George and Gracie hoof it with Fred (and hold their own) in the elaborate fun-house showstopper (above).
THE SUNSHINE BOYS (1975, MGM/UA)
After a 36-year absence, Burns returned to the screen in this gem about feuding ex-vaudeville partners. A never-grumpier Walter Matthau gets top billing, but Burns matches him kvetch for kvetch.
OH, GOD! (1977, Warner)
As an unassuming Almighty, Burns pops up in the life of grocery clerk John Denver, the ordinary joe chosen to spread the Word. Directed by Carl Reiner, the film is gentle and warm. Saving it from getting too sticky is deadpan Burns, who dispenses pearls of divine common sense like so many Tonight Show anecdotes.
THE BURNS & ALLEN SHOW (Film Classics)
Two episodes from the early ’50s about money problems from George and Gracie’s long-running series (”Income Tax” and ”Checking Account”).