His career spanned vaudeville, film, radio, and television, with and without his wife, Gracie Allen. His arched eyebrow and cigar smoke punctuation became familiar trademarks for over three quarters of a century. Beginning at the age of 79, Burns' career was resurrected as an amiable, beloved and unusually active old comedian, continuing to work until shortly before his death, in 1996, at the age of 100.
After fighting a long battle with heart disease, Gracie Allen suffered a fatal heart attack in her home on August 27, 1964 at the age of 69. She was entombed in a mausoleum at Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery. In his second book, They Still Love Me in Altoona, Burns wrote that he found it impossible to sleep after her death until he decided to sleep in the bed she used during her illness. He also visited her grave once a month, professing to talk to her about whatever he was doing at the time — including, he said, trying to decide whether he really should accept the Sunshine Boys role Jack Benny had to abandon because of his own failing health. He visited the tomb with Ed Bradley during a 60 Minutes interview on November 6, 1988.
George Burns' Death
In July 1994, Burns fell in his bathtub and had to undergo surgery to remove fluid that had collected on his brain. His health began to decline afterward. All performances celebrating his 100th birthday were canceled. In January 1995, 99 year old Burns made one of his last public appearances at the unveiling of a street named in his honor, and in December of that year, Burns was well enough to attend a Christmas party hosted by Frank Sinatra, where he reportedly caught the flu, which weakened him further. On January 20, 1996, he celebrated his 100th birthday, but was no longer mobile enough to perform or even attend a birthday party taking place that night and instead spent the evening at home. He did release a statement joking how he would love for his 100th birthday, "a night with Sharon Stone."