The Simpsons: C. Montgomery Burns
Charles Montgomery "Monty" Burns (usually simply Mr.
Burns), a fictional character, is the owner of the Springfield Nuclear
Powerplant in The Simpsons cartoon series. He is fabulously wealthy, and
due to his status as Springfield's leading (and perhaps only) plutocrat,
Mr. Burns is able to do whatever he wants with little to no consequences.
He is attended at almost all times by Waylon
Smithers, his loyal aide and confidant. Harry Shearer is the voice
behind the character of Mr. Burns, though Chris Latta voiced him for the
first few episodes. With his unapologetic lack of morals, huge wealth and
sprawling influence, Burns represents a realistic view of the underside of
modern Corporate America as exemplified by Kenneth Lay of Enron, Bernard
Ebbers of WorldCom, and various current and former Halliburton executives.
Originally, this character was simply called Montgomery Burns,
but in an early episode, called "Two Cars in Every Garage and Three
Eyes on Every Fish," he yelled "You can't do this to me, I'm
Charles Montgomery Burns!", which plays on a quotation from Orson
Welles's Citizen Kane ("You can't do this to me, I'm Charles Foster
Kane!"). His catchphrase is the word "Excellent" muttered
in a low, sinister voice, accompanied by tented fingertips (see Davros).
Burns has a seemingly childlike dependence on Smithers, who performs
all his tasks from kidnapping Tom Jones to lying to Congress to serving
birthday is September 15, but the year of his birth is uncertain. His age
is most often mentioned as being 104 years. (Though once in the episode
"Simpson and Delilah" where Homer became an executive, he stated
his age as 81 after Homer guessed 102; and he once had a ninetieth
birthday during the series.) Another episode stated that his age was a
four digit number (which is also the PIN to his bank account). In another
episode he is portrayed terrorizing children in a 19th century woodcut. He
has credited his longevity to Satan, and/or an operation done to him every
Friday night. He has the same blood type as Bart Simpson, "double-O
negative". According to tests done at the Mayo Clinic, he has every
single disease known to man (including several newly discovered ones) in
him, and survives only because they are just barely but perfectly
counteracting one another. This fictional medical anomaly is called
"Three Stooges Syndrome." He mentions casually in one episode
having leprosy after losing a fingernail in Homer's beer, a malady largely
unseen today in the Western Hemisphere.
Because of his age, Burns is very physically weak, often to the point
where he seems to straddle the line between life and death. He often has
great difficulty doing the most basic physical tasks, such as giving a
thumbs-up or stepping on an ant. A single high-five is capable of knocking
Burns off his feet. Though he often gets hurt, in one episode it was shown
that he undergoes a lengthy weekly procedure, which in the words of
Smithers allows Burns to "cheat death for another week." His
organs have grown immensely weak over the years: his heart is dissected
and shrunken to the size of a cherry, and on one occasion, Burns' brain
fell out through his ear. Another time, his lungs came out through his
mouth and acted like an airbag. It has been hinted that Burns can survive
without his heart - he stated that when some paper money struck his chest,
"had my heart been inside at the time, it could have been
fatal". He is also light enough to be pushed over by an ant. He is so
old he bleeds dust if his finger is pricked. He wears dentures, as
evidenced in "Homer the Smithers" ("I think...the vampire
Burns was originally the real villain of the show. However, his very
frail, weak body and 19th century mind have become some of the show's
running gags; except of course in 'The Simpsons Halloween Special II'
where Burns clearly has a strong arm while beating the bag with a shovel
in which Homer is still alive.
Occasional flashbacks show his early life. When he was very young he
lived happily with his loving, natural parents, little brother George, and
his teddy bear Bobo. Apparently his parents even called him
"Happy." He chose to give this up and live with a twisted
billionaire, again reminiscent of Welles's Citizen Kane. He has since
recovered the bear. His mother is still alive, despite her likely age
being in the area of 120-140, and is very resentful of her son; it is
mentioned that she once had an affair with US President William Howard
Taft (1857 - 1930), something that Mr. Burns has never forgiven her for.
Anachronistically, she refers to the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant as an
"atom mill". Just before the Simpsons visit Britain, Mr. Burns
uses an ATM after Smithers tells him that his PIN is Mr Burns's Age, and
Mr Burns presses at least four buttons (although it could be 0125).
Burns's extreme age is hinted at during a news report, which shows an
elderly Burns "terrorizing local children" in a
nineteenth-century woodcut. Burns's memories of his own childhood are
always shown in sepia, in the style of late nineteenth-century cinema.
The Burns family owned "atom mills" at the start of the 20th
century, employing strong laborers to split atoms by repeatedly hitting
anvils with sledgehammers (his grandfather once had an employee walled up
alive in an abandoned charcoal oven for stealing six atoms). As a
privileged child Burns would amuse himself by injuring hapless immigrant
laborers. Burns sometimes imagines that such activity is still a socially
acceptable amusement for the well-to-do. He and his family members are
usually portrayed as archetypal early capitalist exploiters - he employs
immigrant workers at slave-labor wages, he claims to have ridden a fat man
to work for a time, and when Marge suggested "theme days" to
improve worker morale, he leapt at the idea of "Child Labor
Day". When spying on his workers via his security camera network, he
inevitably refers to them using archaic, derogatory terms.
In the 2005 episode "Goo Goo Gai Pan", it was revealed that
his driver's license expired in 1909, which would perhaps mean he was born
Burns graduated from Yale University in the class of 1914 (accordingly,
it is probable that he was born in or around 1892). At Yale, he was tapped
for the infamous Skull and Bones secret society. He may have had an affair
with Countess von Zeppelin, and Burns speaks fluent (though heavily
accented) German. Burns himself claims to have personally known President
In 1939, Burns went to a 25th college reunion at Yale and met Lily
Bancroft, the daughter of his old girlfriend. They had a brief affair,
which resulted in Lily giving birth to Larry Burns. Her family forced her
to give up Larry to an orphanage, and according to Burns, they
"bundled her up to a convent in the South Seas." Burns did not
meet his son until he was adult, and at that point, found himself unable
to be a loving father.
Burns served in the United States Army in World War II, seeing action
in Europe under Sergeant Abraham Simpson (see also: Flying Hellfish
squad). However, Burns may also have worked for (or traded with) Nazi
Germany, as he remarks Schindler and I are like peas in a pod. We're both
factory owners, we both made shells for the Nazis; but mine worked damn
it!. Burns's close relations with an anachronistic version of Germany are
supported by the fact that an Otto von Bismarck lookalike, complete with
handlebar moustache and pickelhaube helmet, was the only guest on his side
in his failed attempt to marry Jacqueline "Jackie" Bouvier. When
Burns meets with a German business consortium to discuss selling the
nuclear plant, it is revealed that he speaks fluent German.
At the end of the war he was personally hired by President Harry S.
Truman to transport a specially-minted trillion-dollar bill that was the
American Government's original contribution to the reconstruction of
Europe, but this bill vanished for many years. Though it was discovered to
be carried on his person, besides a single failed arrest attempt there was
no known investigation or attempt to retrieve the stolen bill. The bill is
currently in the hands of Fidel Castro, who stole it when Burns attempted
to buy Cuba.
During the 1960s Burns operated a biological weapons laboratory until
it was destroyed by peace activists including Mona Simpson (the
laboratory's motto was When the H-Bomb isn't enough). Shortly
thereafter he built the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant.
He has owned and worked at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant for the
last 50 or so years, obtaining a monopoly over Springfield's energy
industry. He also owns the water works and the hotel on Baltic Avenue.
Burns has been known to use his control over the city's energy to
blackmail mayor Joe Quimby, and the town in general.
He has occasionally run other businesses in Springfield, most notably
the Monty Burns Casino which operated for several years after Springfield
legalized gambling. He co-owned the "Li'l Lisa" slurry recycling
plant and once slant-drilled for oil under Springfield Elementary School.
Burns resides in a vast, ornate mansion on an immense estate called
Burns Manor, located at the corner of Croesus and Mammon streets in
Springfield (his address is 1000 Mammon Street). His estate is also the
site of the annual company picnic.
Besides attack dogs and stinging bees, this estate includes a robotic
Richard Simmons, a room with a thousand monkeys at a thousand typewriters,
a bottomless pit, a human chessboard (formerly a tennis court), the
largest television in the free world, a Hall of Patriots commemorating his
ancestors, and rare historical artifacts including the only existing nude
photo of Mark Twain, the suit Charlie Chaplin was buried in, King Arthur's
mythical sword Excalibur, and a rare first draft of the Constitution with
the word "suckers" in it. His home also contains "the
playroom" - a theatre showing round-the clock plays (regardless of
whether or not anyone is actually watching), a laboratory filled with
bizarre equipment, and a safe containing a Beefeater guard. Instead of
making his bed, Burns drops the bed through the floor into an incinerator
and after the floor closes, a brand new bed comes out of the wall. Various
other contraptions in his home include automatic metal restraints on his
dining chairs, an automatic dresser, and the entire estate is guarded by
his own private police force (which resembles the Wicked Witch of the
West's guard force from The Wizard of Oz). Burns also controls a unit of
paramilitary riot police which he uses to intimidate people, including
using them to beat up guests at his birthday party.
Burns's office at the nuclear plant contains similarly odd features.
One wall can be raised to reveal various things, including his team of
highly-trained lawyers, a special microbe-resistant chamber in which he
plans to shelter during a flu epidemic, and a two-seat escape
pod—Smithers assumes the second seat is for him, but in fact Burns likes
to put his feet up. The office also contains a ceiling-mounted suction
tube which he can use to transport dissident workers to Morocco. He also
riddles the office with trap doors and giant metric weights for use
against workers. Apparently his entire office can be rotated so that his
window has different views. A sliding wall reveals the headquarters of the
"League of Evil", a cabal which consisted of a mad scientist, a
WWI-era German officer, a cowboy, a US Air Force officer, and a samurai.
When Burns calls upon them, however, he finds nothing but their skeletal
remains sitting at a conference table, apparently having asphyxiated after
decades of neglect.
Burns's telephone number is 636-555-0001 in 'Lisa's Date With Density',
and 636-555-0113 in 'A Tale of Two Springfields'. His Social Security
number is 000-00-0002 (apparently Franklin Roosevelt was the recipient of
000-00-0001, a fact which annoys Burns).
In 1995 Burns built an elaborate contraption to block out the sun in
Springfield, thus ensuring that citizens would have to use his electricity
24 hours a day. The move earned him widespread animosity, and he was
ultimately shot, accidentally as it turns out, by Maggie Simpson. Before
Maggie was revealed to be the shooter there was a widespread investigation
over nearly every citizen in town, as Burns had angered just about
everyone with some of his policies over the years. (see: "Who Shot
Mr. Burns?") There have been indications over the following years
that Maggie might have shot him intentionally.
Burns is a staunchly conservative Republican and is the head of
Springfield's local Republican Party (other members include murderer Sideshow
Bob, the Rich Texan, Rainer
Hibbert, Krusty the
Clown, Bob Dole, Ralph Nader, and Count Dracula). In a parody of
Rupert Murdoch, he once attempted to buy every media outlet in Springfield
but his plans failed after Lisa started her own newspaper.
It is not known who presently stands to inherit his wealth (his
manservant and sole confidante, Waylon Smithers, is to be buried alive in
Burns' coffin). He chose Bart Simpson as his heir for a period — Burns
attempted to isolate Bart from his family and mold him into his own image,
but this failed when Bart still displayed loyalty to his family by
refusing to fire Homer, and Burns disowned him. Burns may leave his money
to the Egg Advisory Council, as he stated he would do this when he felt he
had failed to find a suitable heir. He has been engaged at least twice in
recent years, to Jacqueline Bouvier and a policewoman named Gloria, but
both women left him before the marriage actually took place.
In an attempt to lure people away from the growing cult of the
"Movementarians", Burns attempted to start his own religion,
with himself as its god. After Smithers advised him not to adopt a
"Special K" or a Mickey Mouse-style symbol as its motif, the
religion's symbol was decided as a Christmas Tree with a giant
"B" on the front. At the grand opening of his new religion,
Burns used special effects and his riot police to try and awe the crowd.
However, a spark from a Catherine Wheel ignited his fake beard and body
suit, resutling in him falling from his balcony after Smithers tried to
extinguish the flames.
Burns is apparently an important figure in an obscure Latin American
state. When addressing his workers at the power plant, he mixes up his
speeches and tells the crowd "Compadres, it is imperative that we
crush the freedom fighters before the start of the rainy season. And
remember, a shiny new donkey for whoever brings me the head of Colonel
State of mind
While fully alert and untouched by senility, Burns is wildly out of
touch with the modern world. For example:
- He often slips into using language appropriate for the early 20th
century or even the 19th century (such as using "score",
meaning 20 years, "twain", meaning 2 years, and
"post-haste", meaning rapidly, when speaking)
- He thinks that Prussia is still a separate country (it became part
of Germany in 1871)
- Upon arriving at a petrol station, Burns orders Marge (whom he
mistakes for an attendant) to "revulcanise my tyres
post-haste", and refers to petrol as "petroleum
- He once claimed to have watched the DuMont Network "last
- He believes that Thailand is still called Siam, and that
Congo-Kinshasa is still the Belgian Congo
- He thinks that Cuba is still controlled by Fulgencio Batista (until
he flies there and discovers Fidel Castro)
- He thinks that India is still part of the British Empire, despite
India having gained independence in 1947 and the British Empire having
long since disappeared.
- He thinks that Sir Donald Bradman is still alive.
- He thinks that JFK Airport is still called Idlewild Airport
- He demands that his mail be delivered by autogyro, considers donuts
to be "ethnic food," and he answers his "telephone
machine" with "ahoy hoy?" (in the manner of Alexander
Graham Bell before "hello" became commonplace)
- He still uses the word "gay" in its meaning of
- He refers to the television as a "jumping box" and a
- He believes that there is still a negro league in professional
baseball, and says, after giving Homer Simpson a Joe DiMaggio baseball
card, "Apparently they've started letting ethnics into the big
- When asked about his hobbies during a date, Burns spies the crowd
for youthful-looking answers. He says his hobbies include (from seeing
kids riding bumper cars) "piloting motorcoaches" and (from
seeing a man pick up after his dog) "collecting dog waste",
believing that the latter is a commonplace pastime for young people.
- He believes cars still have levers instead of a driving wheel; when
learning to drive a car for the first time, he is confident that the
manual will tell him "which lever is the velocitator and which is
the deceleratrix." He still thinks of driving an automobile as
being a special privilege - he drives around town with no regard for
traffic laws in the style of rich young motorists of the early 1900's.
- In addition to his limousine, he owns a 1936 maroon Stutz Bearcat,
which he drives whilst wearing a Victorian motorists' outfit which
includes hat and goggles.
- He writes letters using a quill pen and bottle of ink.
- Trying to chat up a young woman, Burns offers to play the clavichord
and to show some "stereopticon images" of the Crimean War.
- Burns has trouble understanding modern slang, such as
- Faced by the belated news of the 1929 Wall Street Crash on his
tickertape machine, Burns moves his shareholdings into "that
up-and-coming Baltimore Opera Hat Company", "Amalgamated
Spats" and "Confederated Slave Holdings".
- In one of his speeches, Burns made references to "the silent
star of Lulu".
- He is not aware that "there's a New Mexico".
- He believes that Collier's Weekly is still published.
- He thinks that musicals about "the common cat" and
"the king of Siam" are unheard of.
- He is bewildered by the most basic examples of modern technology. In
one episode, he mistakes a vending machine for a confectionery shop
and starts talking to it. When faced with a sneeze guard in his
cafeteria, he is quickly confused and believes it to be "some
kind of a force field".
Since New Mexico joined the Union in 1912 - when Burns was probably in
his thirties - this indicates that he did not gradually lose touch with
modern events, but simply never paid any attention to them to begin with.
He appears to pick up modernity in snatches, such as his 1920s tube radio,
which is hooked up to a massive surround sound system.
For unknown reasons, Burns rarely recognizes Homer Simpson's name or
face, despite all the major events of Burns's recent years having revolved
around Homer. In several episodes, Burns bumps into Homer but does not
recognize him, or cannot put a face to his name when he is mentioned. When
Homer paints his name on Burns's office wall, Burns inquires who the
devil are you?, throwing Homer into a fury.
Real life models
The character of C. M. Burns was originally modeled after Fox
Broadcasting Company executive Barry Diller, with notable similarities to
Howard Hughes (for example, during a particular bout of eccentricity, he
became paranoid about germs, wore tissue boxes on his feet, collected his
urine in jars, and built a model plane which he dubbed the Spruce Moose),
William Randolph Hearst (indirectly through Citizen Kane), Scrooge McDuck,
and others. He bears a striking physical resemblance to Fred Olsen, a
Norwegian shipping magnate and owner of the Timex watch brand.
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