Today marks 100 years since the birth of one of the world's greatest comedians, Jackie Gleason. He is most fondly remembered for his work in Television, especially as Ralph Kramden in The Honeymooners.
The Honeymooners is one of my favorite shows. My favorite quote from the show, and one that never fails to make me tear up, comes from the Christmas episode "T'was the Night Before Christmas."
You know something, sweetheart? Christmas is... well, it's about the best time of the whole year. When you walk down the streets, even for weeks before Christmas comes, and there's lights hanging up, green ones and red ones, sometimes there's snow and everyone's hustling some place. But they don't hustle around Christmastime like they usually do. You know, they're a little more friendlier... they bump into you, they laugh and they say, "Pardon me. Merry Christmas"... especially when it gets real close to Christmas night. Everybody's walking home, you can hardly hear a sound. Bells are ringin', kids are singing, the snow is coming down. And boy what a pleasure it is to think that you've got some place to go to. And that the place that you're going to, there's somebody in it that you really love. Some one you're nuts about. Merry Christmas.
Full episode. Quote at 23:10.
All of the episodes are great, but one of my favorite is "Better Living Through TV," when he and Norton star in a television commercial for a wonder kitchen utensil (we still have them!). It's hilarious!
Below is a song Gleason recorded titled "One of These Days, Pow!"
There was also a version sung with Alice (Audrey Meadows) that used to be on Youtube but is sadly gone (why didn't I download it!). A small clip was shown on Me-TV which I've included below. It had slightly different lyrics ("when my shirt needs a button" changed to "when my dress needs zipping").
The set of The Honeymooners (1955) show was based on Jackie's childhood home on Chauncey Street in the Bedford-Stuyvesant (originally Bushwick) area of Brooklyn, New York. The apartment building is still there and looks very much the same as in Jackie's time.
Did you know Gleason had a round house built in Peekskill, NY? The precious wood interior took special crafting by Swedish carpenters who were brought to the U.S. for a year to work on the house. It contained a basement disco and one of the very first in-home video projection systems. Despite the enormous cost, the Gleason dream house long suffered from a leaky wooden roof. You can see some photos and read about it here. The last house Gleason built, known as Glea Manor, is up for sell here.
Gleason was nominated for four Emmy's but never won.
There is a eight-foot bronze statue of Gleason as Ralph Kramden in the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York City. It was unveiled in 2000.
Before The Honeymooners, Gleason starred in The Life of Riley, a show that ran one season in 1949. Several episodes can be found on Youtube but they are extremely blurry. All 26 episodes can be purchased on dvd here.
Read my post on some of Jackie Gleason's films here.