Did Gracie Allen Really Receive Tens of Thousands of Write-In Votes for U.S. President in 1940?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends related to radio and the people “behind the microphone,” so to speak, and whether they are true or false.

RADIO URBAN LEGEND: Gracie Allen received tens of thousands of votes in a joke campgaign for President in 1940.

In the past, I’ve discussed the fact that Gracie Allen never actually said “Goodnight, Gracie.” on the popular television series starring George Burns and Gracie Allen (which was an extension from their equally popular radio show).

Now I’m going to debunk ANOTHER part of the Gracie Allen legend.

As you likely know by now, married entertainers George Burns and Gracie Allen were one of the most popular comedy duos of the 20th Century.

Allen’s act involved refining the “dumb blonde” character to absolute perfection.

Another way that Allen stood out was in the popularity of her publicity stunts. One popular gag involved her looking for her “lost brother George.”

She would show up on all different radio shows looking for him. It was great fun and great publicity for their radio show.

Another stunt involved Gracie running for the President of the United States in 1940.

Check out Radio Revisited if you’re interested in purchasing recordings from these landmark comedy programs.

Allen definitely DID “run” for President – as a member of the “Surprise Party.” However, for years the punchline to the gag was that she actually ended up getting actual votes!

Most accounts say 50,000 votes (I’ve seen others ranging from 40,000-50,000).

That would be pretty remarkable! But is it TRUE?

As it turns out, we actually know who got votes in the 1940 Presidential Election, and Gracie Allen was not a major votegetter.

It is kind of odd, really – it’s not like this information is guarded heavily. I get that people might not have known at the time how many votes she ACTUALLY got, so it’s fair enough that the story continued to be told then, but I’ve seen it cited as true in plenty of RECENT texts, and that’s pretty odd.

According to Dave Leip’s Atlas of US Presidential Elections (one of the greatest election data websites out there), here is how the voting went down…

Franklin Roosevelt

Wendell Willkie

Norman Thomas

Roger Babson

Earl Browder

John Aiken
Socialist Labor


Alfred Knutson

As you can see, if we presume that, somehow, Allen got ALL of the write-in votes, she still would not have even cracked 2,000.

This does not take away from her legacy as a brilliant comedian, of course, just perhaps her legacy as a Presidential candidate (politically she was fine – she became the Governor of the State of Coma soon afterward!).

The legend is…


Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future urban legends columns! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com

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