The film clips are the best part of CBS' "George Burns 90th Birthday Special," airing at 8 tonight on Channels 2 and 8. Unfortunately, there are too few of them.
What we get instead are a lot of cutesy birthday greetings on tape from a bunch of celebrities and gushy performances by some others before Burns and an audience at the Beverly Theatre. It's all very sincere and very deserved, of course--and Diahann Carroll and John Denver deliver on their respective songs--but it's all so bland compared to the clips.
There are George and Gracie Allen in a series of 1931 comedy shorts. There is George trading quips with Bing Crosby in "The Big Broadcast" (1932). There are George and Gracie hoofing it with Fred Astaire in "A Damsel in Distress" (1937). There is George doing a routine with Jack Benny dressed as Gracie, from CBS' "The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show" (1950-1958). There is George starring in "The Sunshine Boys" (1975) and "Oh, God!" (1977).
What a career. What an entertainer.
Burns, who actually turns 90 on Monday, finally comes on stage at the end, cigar in hand, to sing, do a (very) soft shoe and crack a few jokes. "Retire? I'm gonna stay in show business until I'm the only one left," he says.
He'd probably be enough.
Irving Fein and Walter Miller co-produced, with Miller also directing. Writer: Hal Goldman. Musical director: Peter Matz.