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George and Gracie enter an elegant drawing room, looking everywhere for something. Turns out, they're looking for the audience, and when George spots the camera, they start in on their patter. Gracie wants to convince George that she's smart, not dizzy - it's an uphill struggle of which she's blissfully unaware. Midway through, they break into song: "Do You Believe Me?" It includes a little bit of hoofing as the chatting continues. They end on a story Gracie whispers into George's ear.Written by
Gracie warns George: "I have brains I haven't even used yet!"
This amusing Vitaphone short captures George Burns & Gracie Allen in the full bloom of their stage success in vaudeville. The duo made their screen debut in 'Lambchops,' but based on their calm self-assurance before the camera you'd never guess it was their first film. In 1929 they were still young, the act was fresh and the jokes were new—well, fairly new, anyway. The highlight of the routine as performed here is a charming song and dance punctuated with punch-lines, effortlessly executed, or so it appears. George & Gracie are sweet and funny throughout, and their comic rapport is a joy to behold.
One of the trademarks of the Burns & Allen TV show of the '50s was George's special relationship with the viewer, i.e. the way he could step out of the action, turn to the camera and address us. It's interesting to find that even here in his screen debut, Burns is aware of the audience, and is already breaking through the fourth wall. The setting for the sketch is a drawing room decorated in high Art Deco style, and the short begins as George and Gracie enter without fanfare and begin to look under chairs and tables, seemingly for some missing item. They're looking for the audience! It's George who first "sees" us, and calls his discovery to Gracie's attention. Once the audience has been acknowledged the team launch into their act, a series of jokes, puns, and similar verbal acrobatics on a wide array of unrelated topics: family, cars, boats, crossword puzzles, and what to do when you jump from a plane and your parachute doesn't open. Gracie drives the routine with her characteristic dizzy dame act—though her genuine intelligence shines through, as it also would for Judy Holliday—while George acts as the calm, sane master of ceremonies, perennially irritated yet strangely drawn to this crazy woman. When they first teamed up, George planned to be the comedian while Gracie was merely supposed to feed him straight lines, but they soon found that her delivery was getting all the laughs. At one point in 'Lambchops' the duo seem to be making an ironic reference to this, when George attempts to tell a few jokes and Gracie keeps stepping on his laughs by jumping ahead to the punch-lines.
Most of the jokes are pretty corny, but the duo punch 'em across anyhow, and then wrap up the act with "Do You Believe Me," a cute song they later recorded. Gracie's dancing is graceful, and her singing voice is thin but quite nice; George sounds just like the George Burns we recall from TV talk shows, decades later. When the song is over we expect a quick fade-out, but the team remain on stage with the camera still rolling and no finale prepared, or so they pretend. Once more it's Mr. Burns who first becomes aware of the situation. He calls "us" (i.e. those unseen viewers) to his partner's attention, and eventually manages to ease their way off stage with one more gag. This final bit reveals that comic shtick involving a performer seemingly lacking material and nervously aware of being watched, i.e. the Actor's Nightmare routine, has been around longer than we might think. In any case, 'Lambchops' is a must for fans of Burns & Allen, vaudeville, Vitaphone shorts, and anyone who enjoys seeing a solid comedy routine smoothly handled by a pair of pros.
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