GEORGE BURNS: 1896-1996

RETIRE?" GEORGE BURNS POSED the rhetorical question to himself during a tribute on his 90th birthday. "I'm going to stay in show business until I'm the only one left." He lasted another decade, but by the time Burns died last week at 100, his prophecy had in a sense come true. He was the last of a generation of comics who grew up in vaudeville, helped inaugurate the era of sound films and radio, and embodied during the television age a style of comedy that has been celebrated or satirized--often both--by virtually every comedian since.

His raspy voice, wryly unflappable manner...

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