Burns and Allen blowing up 'The Fourth Wall"

Discussion in 'Visual Arts' started by Chip TRG, Feb 11, 2016.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. Chip TRG

    Chip TRG Senior Member Thread Starter

    I've always read about this but this morning was the first time I actually got to see it. Long before Garry Shandling was talking to the audience through the TV, there was George Burns literally stopping the show midway to introduce the 'new' Harry Morton (Larry Keating) to both the audience AND Bea Benaderet. If this is blowing my mind here in 2016, it must have been something else back in 1953.

    (Happens right past the 8:30 mark)
  2. ky658

    ky658 Forum Resident

    Miami, Florida
    This was a great show, the fact that Burns did this with the audience regularly is really what made it different than anything on TV at the time...
  3. HGN2001

    HGN2001 Mystery Picture Member

    Absolutely. It gave the audience a feeling of being a part of the show.

  4. Solaris

    Solaris a bullet in flight

    New Orleans, LA
    Some cable channel used to re-run these when I was in my early teens (sometime in the 80s) so I was aware of this a long time ago and never thought of it as such an unusual thing, but you make a good point.
  5. RayS

    RayS A Little Bit Older and a Little Bit Slower

    Out of My Element
    If I had a "special" TV like George did in his den in 1953, I could have ... dare I say it ... ruled the world.

    In the early 80s CBN (Christian Broadcasting Network) used to air classic B&W series at night - "Burns & Allen", "Jack Benny", "You Bet Your Life", "Dobie Gillis", "I Married Joan".
  6. zonkaraz

    zonkaraz Forum Resident

    Livonia, MI, USA
    I think Groucho Marx did the same thing on TV and even in the 1930s in the Marx Brothers films. The earliest example I've seen of breaking the 4th wall was Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle in the 1910s. He would briefly break character and stare at the camera (audience).
    beccabear67 and Rfreeman like this.
  7. stereoguy

    stereoguy Its Gotta Be True Stereo!

    I remember Grouch doing that in his movies. He'd walk forward , look at the camera and say "I have to stay here, but theres no reason why you folks cant wait in the lobby until this thing blows over".,...

    Audiences in 1937 must have howled.
    Rfreeman and PonceDeLeroy like this.
  8. RayS

    RayS A Little Bit Older and a Little Bit Slower

    Out of My Element
    Yes, there is the famous moment when Roscoe is about to undress and prompts the camera to raise above waist level for the sake of propriety. Buster Keaton used that bit as well later on.
    Rfreeman likes this.
  9. nopedals

    nopedals Forum Resident

    Columbia SC
    Asides go back at least to Shakespeare, maybe ancient Greece, right?
  10. HGN2001

    HGN2001 Mystery Picture Member

    George Burns, in his speaking to those of us in the audience, gave us a feeling of superiority. He'd clue us in on what was about to happen, or comment on that which had already occurred, making us feel a part of the action.

  11. ChadHahn

    ChadHahn Forum Resident

    Tucson, AZ, USA
    Not only did it break the 4th wall but the show also predicted frozen yogurt! In one episode Harry Morton was ridiculed for investing in a company that made frozen yogurt. As if you could imagine anything so ridiculous.

  12. PaulKTF

    PaulKTF Senior Member

    That's a great moment!

    I've been watching it on Antenna TV lately and it's a very funny show. :)
  13. JamieC

    JamieC Forum Resident

    Detroit Mi USA
    Turning to the audience to make an aside or comment while Gracie rambled was part of Burns shtick since vaudeville. That translated to him doing the same thing when he would do a song(but of course never finishing a song) for the rest of his career after Gracie's unfortunate passing.
  14. JFOK

    JFOK Well-Known Member

    Cape Cod, Mass.
    Oliver Hardy used to break the fourth wall and stare into the camera after suffering countless Stan Laurel mishaps.
    I also remember a Three Stooges short where Larry Fine looks into the camera at the beginning of a romantic scene and states, "this I like and I get paid for it too."
    PonceDeLeroy and Vidiot like this.
  15. Jay_Z

    Jay_Z Forum Resident

    But all the people in that universe were actors who knew they were on TV and just ignored the cameras to make the show go. It was proved when Larry Keating replaced Fred Clark and he was introduced as Larry Keating before he started playing Harry Morton. Bea Benederet was also allowed to break character as she and Larry complemented each other on their acting careers, as shown in the above clip.

    So in universe, George's TV only worked because the other actors on the show pretended to play characters and be ignorant of the cameras. In universe. The joke was on the viewer.

    What is more confusing is how they wound up with two Harrys on the show. Harry Von Zell was playing "himself", but Harry Morton was just a fictional character name. Harry Von Zell was not the original announcer though, that was Bill Goodwin. Whoops...
    halfjapanese and Vidiot like this.
  16. Holy Diver

    Holy Diver Forum Resident

    Great talents. Love the show.
  17. Culpa

    Culpa Forum Resident

    Philadelphia, PA
    Burns would also speak to the audience on the great but seemingly forgotten series "Wendy and Me" (with Connie Stevens).
  18. Jerry

    Jerry Grateful Gort Staff

    New England
    I'm watching "Duck Soup" (1933) right now and Groucho breaks the fourth wall. He did it in the Marx Bros. first film, "Coconuts" to the point where the producer asked him to stop, which he refused. Possibly what inspired the writers of Looney Tunes to have Bugs Bunny do the same.
    Vidiot and Rfreeman like this.
  19. JozefK

    JozefK Forum Resident

    My favorite Marx example is in Horsefeathers, when Chico does his piano solo. Groucho turns to the audience and says, "Look I have to stay here, but there's no reason you folks can't go into the lobby and have a smoke until this blows over."

    But my all time favorite breaking of the fourth wall was in a Monkees episode.

    The boys are standing around arguing about whatever the dilemma of the week is. Suddenly, Mickey gets a brainstorm -- "I know how to solve this!". He walks away from the others, off the set, and we see cameramen, technicians, and all the show's behind the scene's trappings. The camera follows Mickey as he walks out of the soundstage and into an office building, where he finally stops in front of a door reading "WRITER'S ROOM". He opens the door and tells the people inside the episode's plot and that the Monkees need help to solve the big problem.

    Then we see inside the writer's room -- it's filled with Chinese coolies, dressed like it's 1870. One of the Chinese types up something and hands it to Mickey. Mickey reads it and tells them, "This is great guys -- it'll solve everything!". He walks away from the office, out of the building, back to the soundstage, and once again past all the technicians, cables, and finally the camera. He returns to his original position in the scene, and looks at the paper the writer gave him. "This'll never work" he says, "those guys sure are overpaid". He crumples up the paper and throws it away, then proceeds to play the scene with the others as if nothing happened.
  20. Benno123

    Benno123 Forum Resident

    I have always loved the way George would talk to the audience and break that 4th wall but my all-time favorite who would do it is Stanley Roper after he would zing Mrs. Roper.

    Chip TRG and Kirk76 like this.
  21. dance_hall_keeper

    dance_hall_keeper Forum Resident

    I saw this particular episode two years (?) ago and couldn't believe it.
    I'm able to watch The Burns and Allen show on Antenna TV. I usually make time in the morning for it; it's now become a ritual.
    Possibly my favourite George Burns quote about his wife is:
    It's all about the timing. They had great writers and a great cast. And the show went back to the days of radio broadcasts.
    I'm not going to attempt to describe the bit, but it involved Gracie, a visitor and a pencil sharpener. One of the funniest things I've seen in a while.
    The closet full of fedoras is funny as well.
    If you played an episode of one of these shows for them, would the "youth of today' think it was funny?
    Benno123 likes this.
  22. wayne66

    wayne66 Forum Resident

    I remember Alan Hale as the Skipper on Gilligan's Island would look at the camera in exasperation after Gilligan did something stupid. It always reminded me of Oliver Hardy. I always loved that.
    Drifter and Kirk76 like this.

    BILLONEEG Forum Resident

    New Jersey
    I got this laserdisc when it first came out & was looking forward to the additional volumes
    that were never to be. Bummer!!! Who owns their shows now? I'd love to put in a request
    for their release on DVD/Blu-Ray. They were great!
    Benno123 likes this.
  24. Vidiot

    Vidiot Now in 4K HDR!

    Hollywood, USA
    I think there are copyright problems with the series, so basically they're quasi-public-domain shows. Technically, the music is still copyrighted, but I think Sony Pictures (who owns it) is reluctant to remaster it for a modern audience because the DVDs (or whatever) might be copied and resold. I also think the number of people who want to see a show like this is very small.
    halfjapanese and GuildX700 like this.
  25. Commander Lucius Emery

    Commander Lucius Emery Forum Resident

    One old movie that surprisingly breaks the fourth wall is "The Private Life of Henry VIII' from 1933 for which Charles Laughton won the Academy Award for best actor. After his last wife, the dominering Catherine Parr, leaves the room, Laughton looks directly at the camera and says "Six wives, and the best of them' S the worst".

    I love watching the Burns and Allen re runs on Antenna TV. For some reason they hold up very well, probably because they are dependent on Gracie's unique take on interpreting things and actions she takes.
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page