On May 9, 1971, the final episode of the sitcom The Honeymooners, starring Jackie Gleason aired on CBS. Think you're a Honeymooner fanatic? Here are five interesting facts you probably didn't know about the show...
In The Beginning, There Was A Different Alice
In 1951, sketches of The Honeymooners appeared regularly on “Cavalcade of Stars,” which was Jackie Gleason’s variety show. Pert Kelton, a former vaudevillian, originated the role of Alice, and probably would have remained on board had her husband, Ralph Bell, not sponsored a 1948 ad in The Daily Worker, which was a communist newspaper. Bell was branded a Communist, which got the husband and wife blackballed from the industry. Kelton was guilty of fascism by association so, despite Gleason’s protests, the network terminated her while telling the viewing public that she’d left for health reasons. Audrey Meadows appeared on the CBS series as her replacement.
Only One Of The Show's Stars Received Lifetime Residuals
Audrey Meadows probably laughed all the way to the bank when her two brothers, both lawyers, insisted on putting a residuals clause in her contract when she signed it in 1952. The network agreed to the clause and granted her residual income for any episode that was re-broadcast. That lack of foresight cost the network heavily, and payments were made to Meadows for the next four decades.
Norton's Signature Hat Belonged To Art Carney In his role as sewer worker Ed Norton, Art Carney always sported a battered pork pie hat. The hat belonged to Carney himself, which he bought in 1935 while he was in high school. In a 1985 interview with People magazine, Carney said that he still had the hat stashed in the closet of his home in Westbrook, Connecticut. Carney died in his sleep of natural causes on November 9, 2003, five days after his 85th birthday. Carney's son Brian now proudly sports the pork pie hat that his dad made famous.
Jackie Gleason Didn’t Believe in Rehearsals Jackie Gleason didn’t believe in rehearsals, mainly because he preferred his performance to be spontaneous, and partially because he preferred to spend his afternoons hanging out with friends at Toots Shor’s, the legendary Manhattan restaurant and saloon. Art Carney, Audrey Meadows and Joyce Randolph, who played Trixie, rehearsed by themselves with someone else reading Gleason's lines.
Gleason Called It Quit After Just One Season The Honeymooners was a big hit after it premiered, and Gleason was nicknamed the “king of Saturday night television. However, by fall, The Perry Como Show moved into the time slot opposite The Honeymooners and caused ratings for the show to drop. Gleason decided to pull the plug on the show after only 39 episodes, stating that the writers had exhausted all possible plots for the show. The Honeymooners would return once again as a recurring skit on The Jackie Gleason Show whenever Art Carney was available. According to Gleason, Carney was “90 percent” responsible for the success of The Honeymooners.