John Herbert Gleason
(February 26, 1916 – June 24, 1987) was an American actor, comedian, writer, composer, and conductor known affectionately as "The Great One."
Developing a style and characters from growing up in Brooklyn
, New York, he was known for his brash visual and verbal comedy, exemplified by his city-bus-driver Ralph Kramden character in the television series The Honeymooners
. He also developed The Jackie Gleason Show,
which maintained high ratings from the mid-1950s through 1970. After originating in New York City, filming moved to Miami Beach
, Florida, in 1964 after Gleason took up permanent residence there.
Among his notable film roles were Minnesota Fats
in 1961's The Hustler
(co-starring with Paul Newman
), and Buford T. Justice
in the Smokey and the Bandit
series from 1977 to 1983 (co-starring Burt Reynolds
). Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Gleason enjoyed a prominent secondary music career, producing a series of best-selling "mood music
" albums. His first album, Music for Lovers Only
, still holds the record for the longest stay on the Billboard Top Ten Charts (153 weeks), and his first 10 albums sold over a million copies each.
To date, his output spans some 20-plus singles, nearly 60 long-playing record albums, and over 40 CDs.
John Herbert Gleason was born on February 26, 1916 at 364 Chauncey Street in the Stuyvesant Heights, now Bedford-Stuyvesant
, section of Brooklyn.
Named Herbert Walton Gleason Jr. at birth, he was baptized John Herbert Gleason and
grew up at 328 Chauncey (an address he later used for Ralph and Alice Kramden on The Honeymooners
His parents were Herbert Walton "Herb" Gleason and Mae "Maisie" (née
Kelly), originally from Farranree
Gleason was one of two children; his brother Clement J. died of meningitis
at the age of 14 in 1919.
Gleason remembered Clement and his father having "beautiful handwriting". He used to watch his father work at the family's kitchen table, writing insurance policies in the evenings. On the night of December 14, 1925, Gleason's father disposed of any family photos in which he appeared; just after noon on December 15, he collected his hat, coat, and paycheck, and permanently left his family and job at the insurance company. Once it became evident that he was not coming back, Mae went to work as a subway attendant for the Brooklyn–Manhattan Transit Corporation
After his father abandoned the family, young Gleason began hanging around with a local gang, hustling pool.
He attended P.S. 73 Elementary School in Brooklyn; John Adams High School
in Queens; and Bushwick High School in Brooklyn. Gleason became interested in performing after being part of a class play; he quit school before graduating and got a job that paid $4 per night as master of ceremonies
at a theater. Other jobs he held at that time included working in a pool hall, as a stunt driver, and a carnival barker
Gleason and his friends made the rounds of the local theaters; he put an act together with one of his friends, and the pair performed on amateur night at the Halsey Theater, where Gleason replaced his friend Sammy Birch as master of ceremonies. He performed the same duties twice a week at the Folly Theater.
Gleason was 19 when his mother died in 1935 of sepsis
from a large neck carbuncle
that young Jackie had tried to lance.
He had nowhere to go, and thirty-six cents to his name. The family of his first girlfriend, Julie Dennehy, offered to take him in; Gleason, however, was headstrong and insisted that he was going into the heart of the city.
His friend Birch made room for him in the hotel room he shared with another comedian. Birch also told him of a week-long gig in Reading, Pennsylvania
, which would pay $19, more money than Gleason could imagine. The booking agent advanced his bus fare for the trip against his salary, granting Gleason his first job as a professional comedian. Following this he would always have regular work in small clubs.
Early publicity photo of Gleason
Gleason worked his way up to a job at New York's Club 18, where insulting its patrons was the order of the day. Gleason greeted noted skater Sonja Henie
by handing her an ice cube and saying, "Okay, now do something."
It was here that Jack L. Warner
first saw Gleason, signing him to a film contract for $250 a week.
During World War II
, Gleason was initially exempt from military service, since he was a father of two. However, in 1943 the US started drafting men with children. Gleason reported to his induction where the doctors discovered that his broken left arm had healed crooked, the area between his thumb and forefinger was nerveless and numb, a pilonidal cyst
existed at the end of his coccyx
, and that he was 100 pounds overweight. Gleason was therefore classified 4-F and rejected for military service.
Gleason did not make a strong impression on Hollywood at first; at the time he developed a nightclub act that included comedy and music. At the end of 1942, Gleason and Lew Parker
led a large cast of entertainers in the road show production of Olsen and Johnson
's New 1943 Hellzapoppin
He also became known for hosting all-night parties in his hotel suite; the hotel soundproofed his suite out of consideration for its other guests.
"Anyone who knew Jackie Gleason in the 1940s", wrote CBS
historian Robert Metz, "would tell you The Fat Man would never make it. His pals at Lindy's watched him spend money as fast as he soaked up the booze." Rodney Dangerfield
wrote that he witnessed Gleason purchasing marijuana
in the 1940s.
Gleason's big break occurred in 1949, when he landed the role of blunt but softhearted aircraft worker Chester A. Riley for the first television version of the radio comedy The Life of Riley
. (William Bendix
originated the role on radio but was initially unable to accept the television role because of film commitments.) Despite positive reviews, the show received modest ratings and was cancelled after one year. Bendix reprised the role in 1953 for a five-year series. The Life of Riley
became a television hit for Bendix during the mid- to late 1950s.
But long before this, Gleason's nightclub act had received attention from New York City's inner circle and the fledgling DuMont Television Network
. He was working at Slapsy Maxie's when he was hired
to host DuMont's Cavalcade of Stars
variety hour in 1950, having been recommended by comedy writer Harry Crane
, whom he knew from his days as a stand-up comedian in New York.
The program initially had rotating hosts; Gleason was first offered two weeks at $750 per week. When he responded it was not worth the train trip to New York, the offer was extended to four weeks. Gleason returned to New York for the show.
He framed the acts with splashy dance numbers, developed sketch characters he would refine over the next decade, and became enough of a presence that CBS wooed him to its network in 1952.
Renamed The Jackie Gleason Show
, the program became the country's second-highest-rated television show during the 1954–55 season.
Gleason amplified the show with even splashier opening dance numbers, inspired by Busby Berkeley screen dance routines and featuring the precision-choreographed June Taylor Dancers
. Following the dance performance, he would do an opening monologue. Then, accompanied by "a little travelin' music" ("That's a Plenty
", a Dixieland
classic from 1914), he would shuffle toward the wings, clapping his hands and shouting, "And awaaay we go!" The phrase became one of his trademarks, along with "How sweet it is!" (which he used in reaction to almost anything).
Theona Bryant, a former Powers Girl
, became Gleason's "And awaaay we go" girl. Ray Bloch
was Gleason's first music director, followed by Sammy Spear
, who stayed with Gleason through the 1960s; Gleason often kidded both men during his opening monologues. He continued developing comic characters, including
- Reginald Van Gleason III, a top-hatted millionaire with a taste for both the good life and fantasy
- Rudy the Repairman, boisterous and boorish
- Joe the Bartender, gregarious and with friendly words for the never-seen Mr. Dennehy (always first at the bar)
- The Poor Soul, a silent character who could (and often did) come to grief in the least-expected places (or demonstrated gratitude at such gifts as being allowed to share a newspaper on a subway)
- Rum Dum, a character with a brush-like mustache who often stumbled around as though drunk and confused
- Fenwick Babbitt, a friendly, addle-headed young man usually depicted working at various jobs and invariably failing
- Charlie Bratton, a loudmouth who frequently picked on the mild-mannered Clem Finch (portrayed by Art Carney, a future Honeymooners co-star)
- Stanley R. Sogg, a pitchman, who usually appeared on commercials during late night movies and sold items that came with extras bonuses. The ultimate inducement was a 10-pound wedge of Facciamara's Macciaroni cheese.
- The Bachelor, a silent character (accompanied by the song "Somebody Loves Me") doing everyday things in an unusually lazy (or makeshift) way
In a 1985 interview, Gleason related some of his characters to his youth in Brooklyn. The Mr. Dennehy whom Joe the Bartender greets is a tribute to Gleason's first love, Julie Dennehy. The character of The Poor Soul was drawn from an assistant manager of an outdoor theater he frequented.
Gleason disliked rehearsing. With a photographic memory
he read the script once, watched a rehearsal with his co-stars and stand-in, and shot the show later that day. When he made mistakes, he often blamed the cue cards.
Gleason's most popular character by far was blustery bus driver Ralph Kramden. Largely drawn from Gleason's harsh Brooklyn childhood, these sketches became known as The Honeymooners. The show was based on Ralph's many get-rich-quick schemes, his ambition, antics with his best friend and neighbor, scatterbrained sewer worker Ed Norton, and clashes with sensible wife Alice, who typically pulled Ralph's head down from the clouds.
Gleason developed catchphrases he used on The Honeymooners, such as threats to Alice: "One of these days, Alice, pow, right in the kisser" or "Bang! Zoom! To the moon Alice, to the moon!"
originated from a sketch Gleason was developing with his show's writers. He said he had an idea he wanted to enlarge: a skit with a smart, quiet wife and her very vocal husband. He went on to describe that, while the couple had their fights, underneath it all they loved each other. Titles for the sketch were tossed around until someone came up with The Honeymooners
first was featured on Cavalcade of Stars
on October 5, 1951, with Carney in a guest appearance as a cop (Norton did not appear until a few episodes later) and character actress Pert Kelton
as Alice. Darker and fiercer than the milder later version with Audrey Meadows
as Alice, the sketches proved popular with critics and viewers. As Kramden, Gleason played a frustrated bus driver with a battleaxe of a wife in harrowingly realistic arguments; when Meadows (who was 15 years younger than Kelton) took over the role after Kelton was blacklisted
, the tone softened considerably.
When Gleason moved to CBS, Kelton was left behind; her name had been published in Red Channels
, a book that listed and described reputed communists (and communist sympathizers) in television and radio, and the network did not want to hire her. Gleason reluctantly let her leave the cast, with a cover story for the media that she had "heart trouble". At first, he turned down Meadows as Kelton's replacement. Meadows wrote in her memoir that she slipped back to audition again and frumped herself up to convince Gleason that she could handle the role of a frustrated (but loving) working-class wife. Rounding out the cast, Joyce Randolph
played Trixie, Ed Norton's wife. Elaine Stritch
had played the role as a tall and attractive blonde in the first sketch, but was quickly replaced by Randolph. Comedy writer Leonard Stern
always felt The Honeymooners
was more than sketch material and persuaded Gleason to make it into a full hour-long episode.
In 1955 Gleason gambled on making it a separate series entirely
. These are the "Classic 39" episodes, which finished 19th in the ratings for their only season.
They were filmed with a new DuMont process, Electronicam
; like kinescopes
, it preserved a live performance on film but with higher quality, comparable to a motion picture.
That turned out to be Gleason's most prescient move. A decade later, he aired the half-hour Honeymooners
in syndicated reruns that began to build a loyal and growing audience, making the show a television icon
. Its popularity was such that in 2000, a life-size statue of Jackie Gleason, in uniform as bus driver Ralph Kramden, was installed outside the Port Authority Bus Terminal
in New York City.
Gleason went back to the live format for 1956–7 and short and long versions, including hour-long musicals. These musical presentations were reprised ten years later, in color, with Sheila MacRae and Jane Keane, as Alice and Trixie.
Audrey Meadows reappeared for one black-and-white remake of the '50s sketch, "The Adoption", telecast January 8, 1966. Ten years later she rejoined Gleason and Carney, but without Joyce Randolph, and with Jane Kean, for several TV Specials (one special from 1973 was shelved).
The Jackie Gleason Show ended in June 1957. In 1959, Jackie discussed the possibility of bringing back The Honeymooners in new episodes. His dream was partially realized with a Kramden-Norton sketch on a CBS variety show in late 1960 and two more sketches on his new hour long CBS show, The American Scene Magazine, in 1962.
Throughout the 1950s and 1960s Gleason enjoyed a prominent secondary music career, producing a series of best-selling "mood music
" albums with jazz
overtones for Capitol Records
. Gleason believed there was a ready market for romantic instrumentals. His goal was to make "musical wallpaper that should never be intrusive, but conducive".
He recalled seeing Clark Gable
play love scenes in movies; the romance was, in his words, "magnified a thousand percent" by background music. Gleason reasoned, "If Gable
needs music, a guy in Brooklyn must be desperate!
Gleason's first album, Music for Lovers Only
, still holds the record for the longest stay on the Billboard Top Ten Charts (153 weeks), and his first 10 albums sold over a million copies each.
At one point, Gleason held the record for charting the most number-one albums on the Billboard 200
without charting any hits on the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100
Gleason could not read or write music; he was said to have conceived melodies in his head and described them vocally to assistants who transcribed them into musical notes.
These included the well-remembered themes of both The Jackie Gleason Show
("Melancholy Serenade") and The Honeymooners
("You're My Greatest Love").
In spite of period accounts establishing his direct involvement in musical production, varying opinions have appeared over the years as to how much credit Gleason should have received for the finished products. Biographer William A. Henry
wrote in his 1992 book, The Great One: The Life and Legend of Jackie Gleason
, that beyond the possible conceptualizing of many of the song melodies, Gleason had no direct involvement (such as conducting) in making the recordings. Red Nichols
, a jazz great who had fallen on hard times and led one of the group's recordings, was not paid as session-leader. Cornetist and trumpeter Bobby Hackett
soloed on several of Gleason's albums and was leader for seven of them. Asked late in life by musician–journalist Harry Currie in Toronto what Gleason really did at the recording sessions, Hackett replied, "He brought the checks".
But years earlier Hackett had glowingly told writer James Bacon:
Jackie knows a lot more about music than people give him credit for. I have seen him conduct a 60-piece orchestra and detect one discordant note in the brass section. He would immediately stop the music and locate the wrong note. It always amazed the professional musicians how a guy who technically did not know one note from another could do that. And he was never wrong.
The composer and arranger George Williams
has been cited in various biographies as having served as ghostwriter
for the majority of arrangements heard on many of Gleason's albums of the 1950s and 1960s.
Williams was not given credit for his work until the early 1960s, albeit only in small print on the backs of album covers
Nearly all of Gleason's albums have been re-issued on compact disc.
Return to television
In 1956 Gleason revived his original variety hour (including The Honeymooners
), winning a Peabody Award
He abandoned the show in 1957 when his ratings for the season came in at No. 29
and the network "suggested" he needed a break.
He returned in 1958 with a half-hour show featuring Buddy Hackett
, which did not catch on.
In addition to his salary and royalties, CBS paid for Gleason's Peekskill, New York
, mansion, "Round Rock Hill
Set on six acres, the architecturally noteworthy complex included a round main home, guest house, and storage building. It took Gleason two years to design the house; it was completed in 1959.
Gleason sold the home when he relocated to Miami.
In October 1960, Gleason and Carney briefly returned, for a Honeymooners
sketch, on a TV special. His next foray into television was the game show You're in the Picture
, which was cancelled after a disastrously received premiere episode, but was followed the next week by a broadcast of Gleason's
humorous half-hour apology, which was much better appreciated.
For the rest of its scheduled run, the game show was replaced by a talk show named The Jackie Gleason Show
In 1962, Gleason resurrected his variety show with more splashiness and a new hook: a fictitious general-interest magazine called The American Scene Magazine
, through which Gleason trotted out his old characters in new scenarios; including two new Honeymooners sketches. He also added another catchphrase to the American vernacular, first uttered in the 1963 film Papa's Delicate Condition
: "How sweet it is!" The Jackie Gleason Show: The American Scene Magazine
was a hit, and continued for four seasons. Each show began with Gleason delivering a monologue and commenting on the attention-getting outfits of band leader Sammy Spear
. Then the "magazine" features would be trotted out, from Hollywood gossip (reported by comedian Barbara Heller) to news flashes (played for laughs with a stock company of second bananas, chorus girls and dwarfs). Comedian Alice Ghostley
occasionally appeared as a downtrodden tenement resident, sitting on her front step and listening to boorish boyfriend Gleason for several minutes. After the boyfriend took his leave, the smitten Ghostley would exclaim, "I'm the luckiest girl in the world!" Veteran comics Johnny Morgan, Sid Fields, and Hank Ladd were occasionally seen opposite Gleason in comedy sketches. Helen Curtis played alongside him as a singer and actress, delighting audiences with her 'Madame Plumpadore' sketches with 'Reginald Van Gleason.'
The final sketch was always set in Joe the Bartender's saloon, with Joe singing "My Gal Sal" and greeting his regular customer, the unseen Mr. Dennehy (the TV audience, as Gleason spoke to the camera in this section). During the sketch, Joe would tell Dennehy about an article he had read in the fictitious American Scene
magazine, holding a copy across the bar. It had two covers: one featured the New York skyline and the other palm trees (after the show moved to Florida). Joe would bring out Frank Fontaine
as Crazy Guggenheim, who would regale Joe with the latest adventures of his neighborhood pals and sometimes show Joe his current Top Cat
comic book. Joe usually asked Crazy to sing—almost always a sentimental ballad in his fine, lilting baritone.
Gleason revived The Honeymooners
—first with Sue Ane Langdon
as Alice and Patricia Wilson as Trixie for two episodes of The American Scene Magazine
, then with Sheila MacRae
as Alice and Jane Kean
as Trixie for the 1966 series.
By 1964 Gleason had moved the production from New York to Miami Beach, Florida
, reportedly because he liked year-round access to the golf course at the nearby Inverrary Country Club in Lauderhill
(where he built his final home). His closing line became, almost invariably, "As always, the Miami Beach audience is the greatest audience in the world!" In 1966, he abandoned the American Scene Magazine
format and converted the show into a standard variety hour with guest performers.
Gleason and Lucille Ball
in a TV special "Tea for Two" (1975)
Gleason kicked off the 1966–1967 season with new, color episodes of The Honeymooners
. Carney returned as Ed Norton, with MacRae as Alice and Kean as Trixie. The sketches were remakes of the 1957 world-tour episodes, in which Kramden and Norton win a slogan contest and take their wives to international destinations. Each of the nine episodes was a full-scale musical comedy, with Gleason and company performing original songs by Lyn Duddy and Jerry Bresler. Occasionally Gleason would devote the show to musicals with a single theme, such as college comedy or political satire, with the stars abandoning their Honeymooners
roles for different character roles. This was the show's format until its cancellation in 1970. (The exception was the 1968–1969 season, which had no hour-long Honeymooners
episodes; that season, The Honeymooners
was presented only in short sketches). The musicals pushed Gleason back into the top five in ratings, but audiences soon began to decline. By its final season, Gleason's show was no longer in the top 25. In the last original Honeymooners
episode aired on CBS
("Operation Protest" on February 28, 1970), Ralph encounters the youth-protest movement of the late 1960s, a sign of changing times in both television and society.
Gleason (who had signed a deal in the 1950s that included a guaranteed $100,000 annual payment for 20 years, even if he never went on the air) wanted The Honeymooners
to be just a portion of his format, but CBS wanted another season of only The Honeymooners
. The network had cancelled a mainstay variety show hosted by Red Skelton
and would cancel The Ed Sullivan Show
in 1971 because they had become too expensive to produce and attracted, in the executives' opinion, too old an audience. Gleason simply stopped doing the show in 1970 and left CBS when his contract expired.
Gleason did two Jackie Gleason Show
specials for CBS after giving up his regular show in the 1970s, including Honeymooners
segments and a Reginald Van Gleason III sketch in which the gregarious millionaire was portrayed as an comic drunk. When the CBS deal expired, Gleason signed with NBC
. He later did a series of Honeymooners
specials for ABC
. Gleason hosted four ABC specials during the mid-1970s. Gleason and Carney also made a television movie, Izzy and Moe
(1985), about an unusual pair of historic Federal prohibition agents in New York City who achieved an unbeatable arrest record with highly successful techniques including impersonations and humor, which aired on CBS in 1985.
In April 1974, Gleason revived several of his classic characters (including Ralph Kramden, Joe the Bartender and Reginald Van Gleason III) in a television special with Julie Andrews
. In a song-and-dance routine, the two performed "Take Me Along" from Gleason's Broadway musical.
In 1985, three decades after the "Classic 39" began filming, Gleason revealed he had carefully preserved kinescopes
of his live 1950s programs in a vault for future use (including Honeymooners
sketches with Pert Kelton
as Alice). These "lost episodes" (as they came to be called) were initially previewed at the Museum of Television and Radio
in New York City, aired on the Showtime
cable network in 1985, and later added to the Honeymooners
syndication package. Some of them include earlier versions of plot lines later used in the 'classic 39' episodes. One (a Christmas episode duplicated several years later with Meadows as Alice) had all Gleason's best-known characters (Ralph Kramden, the Poor Soul, Rudy the Repairman, Reginald Van Gleason, Fenwick Babbitt and Joe the Bartender) featured in and out of the Kramden apartment. The storyline involved a wild Christmas party hosted by Reginald Van Gleason up the block from the Kramdens' building at Joe the Bartender's place.
Gleason did not restrict his acting to comedic roles. He had also earned acclaim for live television drama performances in "The Laugh Maker" (1953) on CBS's Studio One
and William Saroyan
's "The Time of Your Life
" (1958), which was produced as an episode of the anthology series Playhouse 90
Gleason wrote, produced and starred in Gigot
(1962), in which he played a poor, mute janitor who befriended and rescued a prostitute and her small daughter. It was a box office flop. But the film's script was adapted and produced as the television film The Wool Cap
(2004), starring William H. Macy
in the role of the mute janitor; the television film received modestly good reviews.
Years later, when interviewed by Larry King
, Reynolds said he agreed to do the movie only if the studio hired Jackie Gleason to play the part of Sheriff Buford T. Justice (the name of a real Florida highway patrolman, who knew Reynolds' father). Reynolds said that director Hal Needham
gave Gleason free rein to ad-lib a great deal of his dialog and make suggestions for the film; the scene at the "Choke and Puke" was Gleason's idea. Reynolds and Needham knew Gleason's comic talent would help make the film a success, and Gleason's characterization of Sheriff Justice strengthened the film's appeal to blue-collar audiences.
During the 1980s, Gleason earned positive reviews playing opposite Laurence Olivier
in the HBO dramatic two-man special, Mr. Halpern and Mr. Johnson
(1983). He also gave a memorable performance as wealthy businessman U.S. Bates in the comedy The Toy
(1982) opposite Richard Pryor
. Although the movie was critically panned, Gleason and Pryor's performances were praised. His last film performance was opposite Tom Hanks
in the Garry Marshall
-directed Nothing in Common
(1986), a success both critically and financially.
Gleason playing golf with President Gerald Ford
, c. 1975
Fear of flying
For many years, Gleason would travel only by train; his fear of flying
arose from an incident in his early movie career. Gleason would fly back and forth to Los Angeles for relatively minor movie work. After finishing one movie, the comedian boarded a plane for New York. When two of the plane's engines cut out in the middle of the flight, the pilot had to make an emergency landing in Tulsa, Oklahoma
Although another plane was prepared for the passengers, Gleason had enough of flying. He went into downtown Tulsa, walked into a hardware store, and asked its owner to lend him $200 for the train trip to New York. The owner asked Gleason why he thought anyone would lend a stranger so much money. Gleason identified himself and explained his situation. The store owner said he would lend the money if the local theater had a photo of Gleason in his latest film. However, the publicity shots showed only the principal stars. Gleason proposed to buy two tickets to the movie and take the store owner; he would be able to see the actor in action. The two men watched the movie for an hour before Gleason appeared on screen. The owner gave Gleason the loan, and he took the next train to New York. There, he borrowed $200 to repay his benefactor.
Interest in the paranormal
President Richard Nixon and Jackie Gleason in a Golf Cart, 2/19/1973.
Gleason was greatly interested in the paranormal
, reading many books on the topic, as well as books on parapsychology
During the 1950s, he was a semi-regular guest on a paranormal-themed overnight radio show hosted by John Nebel
, and he also wrote the introduction to Donald Bain
's biography of Nebel.
After his death, his large book collection was donated to the library of the University of Miami
A complete listing of the holdings of Gleason's library has been issued by the online cataloging service LibraryThing
According to writer Larry Holcombe, Gleason's known interest in UFOs allegedly prompted President Richard Nixon
to share some information with him and to disclose some UFO data publicly.
Marriages and family
Gleason met dancer Genevieve Halford when they were working in vaudeville
, and they started to date. Halford wanted to marry but Gleason was not ready to settle down. She said she would see other men if they did not marry. One evening when Gleason went onstage at the Club Miami in Newark, New Jersey
, he saw Halford in the front row with a date. At the end of his show, Gleason went to the table and proposed to Halford in front of her date. They were married on September 20, 1936.
Halford wanted a quiet home life but Gleason fell back into spending his nights out.
Separated for the first time in 1941 and reconciled in 1948,
the couple had two daughters, Geraldine (b.
1940) and Linda
Gleason and his wife informally separated again in 1951.
In early 1954, Gleason suffered a broken leg and ankle on-air during his television show. His injuries sidelined him for several weeks.
Halford visited Gleason while he was hospitalized, finding dancer Marilyn Taylor from his television show there. Halford filed for a legal separation in April 1954.
A devout Catholic
, Halford did not grant Gleason a divorce until 1970.
Gleason met his second wife, Beverly McKittrick, at a country club in 1968, where she worked as a secretary. Ten days after his divorce from Halford was final, Gleason and McKittrick were married in a registry ceremony in Ashford, England
on July 4, 1970.
In 1974, Marilyn Taylor encountered Gleason again when she moved to the Miami area to be near her sister June
, whose dancers had starred on Gleason's shows for many years. She had been out of show business for nearly 20 years. In September 1974, Gleason filed for divorce from McKittrick (who contested, asking for a reconciliation).
The divorce was granted on November 19, 1975.
As a widow
with a young son, Marilyn Taylor married Gleason on December 16, 1975; the marriage lasted until his death in 1987.
Gleason's daughter Linda became an actress and married actor-playwright Jason Miller
. Their son, Gleason's grandson, is actor Jason Patric
Later years and death
As early as 1952, when The Jackie Gleason Show
captured Saturday night for CBS, Gleason regularly smoked six packs of cigarettes a day, but he never smoked on The Honeymooners
Gleason's sarcophagus—with the inscription "And Away We Go"—at Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Cemetery in Miami
In 1978, he suffered chest pains while touring in the lead role of Larry Gelbart
's play Sly Fox
; this forced him to leave the show in Chicago and go to the hospital. He was treated and released, but after suffering another bout the following week, he returned and underwent triple-bypass surgery.
Gleason delivered a critically acclaimed performance as an infirm, acerbic, and somewhat Archie Bunker
-like character in the Tom Hanks
comedy-drama Nothing in Common
(1986). This was Gleason's final film role. During production, it was determined that he was suffering from terminal colon cancer
, which had metastasized to his liver. Gleason was also suffering from phlebitis
. "I won't be around much longer", he told his daughter at dinner one evening after a day of filming. Gleason kept his medical problems private, although there were rumors that he was seriously ill.
A year later, on June 24, 1987, Gleason died at age 71 at his Florida home.
After a funeral mass at the Cathedral of Saint Mary
, Gleason was entombed in a sarcophagus
in a private outdoor mausoleum
at Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Cemetery in Miami.
Gleason's sister-in-law, June Taylor
of the June Taylor Dancers, is buried to the left of the mausoleum, next to her husband.
Legacy and honors
Sign welcoming drivers to Brooklyn
- Miami Beach in 1987 renamed the Miami Beach Auditorium as the Jackie Gleason Theater of the Performing Arts. As of May 2010, the theater was scheduled to be razed as part of a convention-center remodeling project and replaced by a hotel. The demolition did not take place and The Fillmore Miami Beach is still in operation as of October 2017.
- Gleason was inducted into the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Television Hall of Fame in 1986. In 2000 a statue of him as Ralph Kramden in "And away we go!" pose was installed at the Miami Beach Bus Terminal.
- Remarkably, while Gleason was nominated three times for an Emmy Award, he never won. (Carney and Keane did, however.)
- In 1976 at the Sixth Annual American Guild of Variety Artists (AGVA) "Entertainer of the Year Awards", Paul Lynde received an award for being voted the funniest man of the year. Lynde immediately turned his award over to host Jackie Gleason, citing him as "the funniest man ever." The unexpected gesture shocked Gleason.
- On June 30, 1988, the Sunset Park MTA, NYCT's 5th Avenue Bus Depot in Brooklyn was renamed the Jackie Gleason Depot in honor of the native Brooklynite.
- A statue of Gleason as Ralph Kramden in his bus driver's uniform was dedicated in August 2000 in New York City in Manhattan at the 40th Street entrance of the Port Authority Bus Terminal (PABT). The statue was briefly shown in the film World Trade Center (2006).
- A city park in Lauderhill, Florida was named the "Jackie Gleason Park" in his honor; it is located near his former home and features racquetball and basketball courts and a children's playground.
- Signs on the Brooklyn Bridge which advise drivers that they are entering Brooklyn have the Gleason phrase "How Sweet It Is!"
- Late in his life actor-playwright Jason Miller, Gleason's former son-in-law, was writing a screenplay based on Gleason's life. He died before it was completed. Gleason's daughter, Linda Miller, was also an actress.
- Gleason was portrayed by Brad Garrett in a 2002 television biopic about his life.
- Your Sports Special (1949) as Himself
- The Lamb's Gambol (March 27, 1949) as Himself
- On The Two A Day (1949, NBC TV) as Himself
- The Life of Riley (October 4, 1949 – March 28, 1950, TV Series) as Chester A. Riley
- The Arrow Show (1949) as Himself
- Tex and Jinx (1949) as Himself
- This Is Show Business (1950) as Himself
- Showtime USA (1950) as Himself
- Cavalcade of Stars (1950–1952, TV Series) as Himself - Host / Ralph Kramden / Reginald Van Gleason III
- The Frank Sinatra Show (1950) as Himself
- Ford Star Revue (1951) as Himself
- The Frank Sinatra Show (1951) as Himself
- Cavalcade of Bands (1951) as Himself
- Stage Entrance (1951, DuMont TV) as Himself
- Musical Comedy Time: No! No! Nanette! (1951) as Himself
- Texaco Star Theatre (1951) as Himself
- Ford Festival (1951) as Himself
- The James Melton Show (May 3, 1951) as Himself
- This Is Show Business (1951) as Himself
- The Colgate Comedy Hour (1951) as Himself
- Ford Star Revue (1951) as Himself
- The Colgate Comedy Hour (1951) as Himself
- The Kate Smith Evening Hour (1951) as Himself
- The Jackie Gleason Show (September 20, 1952 – June 18, 1955, TV Series) as Host / Ralph Kramden / Reginald Van Gleason III
- Arthur Murray Party (1952) as Himself
- The Sam Levinson Show (1952) as Himself
- The Ken Murray Show (1952) as Himself
- Toast of the Town (1952) as Himself
- Celebrity Time (1952) as Himself
- Scout O' Rama (1952) as Himself
- Jane Froman's USA Canteen (1952) as Himself
- Arthur Godfrey and His Friends (1953) as Himself
- Studio One: The Laugh Maker (May 18, 1953, TV Movie) as Himself
- What's My Line? (1953) as Himself
- This Is Show Business (1953) as Himself - Guest / Himself
- Arthur Murray Party (1953) as Himself
- Toast of the Town (1954) as Himself
- The Red Skelton Show (January 5, 1954) as Himself
- Name That Tune (1954) as Himself
- Studio One: Short Cut (December 6, 1954, TV Movie) as Himself
- The Best of Broadway: The Show Off (February 2, 1955, TV Movie) as Himself
- What's My Line? (1955) as Himself
- I've Got a Secret (1955) as Himself
- The Jack Benny Program (May 1, 1955) as Himself
- Stage Show (1955) as Himself
- The Honeymooners (October 1, 1955 – September 22, 1956, TV Series) as Ralph Kramden
- The Red Skelton Show (October 4, 1955)
- Studio One: Uncle Ed and Circumstances (October 10, 1955, TV Movie)
- The $64,000 Question (1956) as Himself
- Person to Person (February 3, 1956) as Himself
- The Herb Shriner Show (October 2, 1956) as Himself
- The Jackie Gleason Show (September 29, 1956 – June 22, 1957, TV Series) as Himself
- Playhouse 90: The Time of Your Life (October 9, 1958, TV Movie) as Joe
- This Is Your Life (1958) as Himself
- Arthur Godfrey Show (1958) as Himself
- The Jackie Gleason Show (October 1958 – January 1959, TV Series) as Himself
- All Star Jazz IV: The Golden Age of Jazz (January 4, 1959) as Himself
- The Fabulous Fifties (1960) as Narrator
- Arthur Godfrey Special (1960) as Himself
- The Secret World of Eddie Hodges (June 23, 1960) (TV Movie, [narration only]) as Narrator / Himself
- The Jackie Gleason Special: The Big Sell Review (October 9, 1960) as Salesman / Reginald Van Gleason III / Joe the Bartender / Ralph Kramden
- Step On the Gas (CBS-10/19/60) TV special
- The Red Skelton Show (January 24, 1961) as Himself
- Sunday Sports Spectacular: Jackie Gleason with the putter and cue (1961) as Himself
- You're In the Picture/The Jackie Gleason Show (January 27 – March 24, 1961) as Himself
- The Jackie Gleason Special: The Million Dollar Incident (April 21, 1961) as Himself
- Jackie Gleason and His American Scene Magazine (September 29, 1962 – June 4, 1966, TV Series) as Himself
- The 35th Annual Academy Awards (1963) as Himself
- Freedom Spectacular (May 14, 1964, NAACP Special) as Himself
- Inquiry (June 13, 1965, June 20, 1965, NBC) as Himself
- The Bob Hope Chrysler Theatre: The Big Stomach (November 16, 1966) as the Vast Waistline
- The Jackie Gleason Show (September 17, 1966 – September 12, 1970, TV Series) as Himself - Host
- Here's Lucy: Lucy Visits Jack Benny (September 30, 1968) as Ralph Kramden
- The Mike Douglas Show (October 15, 1968) as Himself
- The David Frost Show (February 17, 1970) as Himself
- The David Frost Show (April 6, 1970) as Himself
- The David Frost Show (May 7, 1970) as Himself
- The Jackie Gleason Special (December 20, 1970) as Ralph Kramden / Reginald Van Gleason III / the Poor Soul
- The Mike Douglas Show (November 13–17, 20-24 and 29, 1972) as Himself
- The Jackie Gleason Special (November 11, 1973) as Ralph Kramden / Reginald Van Gleason III / the Poor Soul
- Show Business Tribute to Milton Berle (1973)
- Julie & Jackie: How Sweet It Is! (1974)
- Bob Hope Special (1974) as Himself
- The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast (1975) as Himself
- The Dick Cavett Show (August 30, 1975) as Himself
- Dinah! (January 13, 1975) as Himself
- Lucille Ball and Jackie Gleason: Two for Three (December 3, 1975) as Himself
- Super Night at the Super Bowl (1976) as Himself
- The Mike Douglas Show (January 12–16, 1976) as Himself
- The Honeymooners Second Honeymoon (February 2, 1976) as Ralph Kramden
- Donahue (1976) as Himself
- The Captain and Tennille (September 20, 1976) as Himself
- Bing Crosby's White Christmas (1976) as Himself
- Dinah! (February 11, 1977) as Himself
- The Honeymooners Christmas Special (November 28, 1977) as Ralph Kramden
- The Honeymooners Valentine Special (February 13, 1978) as Ralph Kramden
- The Second Honeymooners Christmas Special (December 10, 1978) as Ralph Kramden
- The Mike Douglas Show (May 7, 1980) as Himself
- Mr. Halpern and Mr. Johnson (June 3, 1983, TV Movie) as Ernest Johnson
- All Star Party for Burt Reynolds (1984) as Himself
- 60 Minutes (1984) as Himself
- Izzy and Moe (September 23, 1985, TV Movie) as Himself
- The Honeymooners Reunion (May 13, 1985) as Ralph Kramden
- The 39th Annual Tony Awards (June 2, 1985) as Himself
- The Honeymooners Anniversary Celebration (October 18, 1985) as Ralph Kramden
- The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (October 18, 1985) as Himself
- Gleason: In His Own Words (February 14, 1986) as Himself
Compact disc discography
- ^ Musiker, Naomi; Musiker, Reuben (February 25, 2014). Conductors and Composers of Popular Orchestral Music: A Biographical and Discographical Sourcebook. Routledge. ISBN 9781135917708 – via Google Books.
- ^ "Jackie Gleason Biography". JackieGleason.com. Retrieved November 27, 2020.
- ^ a b c d Henry, William A. (1992). The Great One: The Life and Legend of Jackie Gleason. Internet Archive. Doubleday. ISBN 978-0-385-41533-0. OCLC 651898009.
- ^ a b Joel Whitburn Presents the Billboard Albums, 6th edition, ISBN 0-89820-166-7
- ^ Staff. "Kid's Talk", News & Record, September 19, 1995. Retrieved June 8, 2009.
- ^ a b "Jackie Gleason Biography". JackieGleason.com. Archived from the original on November 2, 2008. Retrieved November 23, 2008.
- ^ "Fifties Web". Archived from the original on August 12, 2003.
- ^ a b c Yudell, Cliff (December 28, 1980). "Famed funnyman shows a simpler, wiser side". The Milwaukee Journal.
- ^ "Jackie Gleason Biography (1916–87)". filmreference.com. Archived from the original on December 22, 2008. Retrieved January 13, 2009.
- ^ Bishop, Jim (February 11, 1976). "Jackie Gleason Soon to be 60". Reading Eagle. p. 8.
- ^ Pace, Eric (June 25, 1987). "JACKIE GLEASON DIES OF CANCER; COMEDIAN AND ACTOR WAS 71". The New York Times. Archived from the original on March 13, 2017.
- ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Hamill, Pete (September 23, 1985). Gleason's Second Honeymoon. New York Magazine. Retrieved February 3, 2011.
- ^ a b c d Lester, Will (June 25, 1987). "Entertainer Jackie Gleason, the Great One, dies of cancer". The Rock Hill Herald. Retrieved January 20, 2011.[dead link]
- ^ a b c Bacon, James (June 30, 1987). "Funny comic, terrible husband". The Milwaukee Journal.
- ^ a b c d "A sound-proof suite for the noisiest man on Broadway". The Sydney Morning Herald. December 26, 1954. Retrieved January 28, 2011.
- ^ The Golden Ham: A Candid Biography of Jackie Gleason
- ^ "Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - Google News Archive Search". News.google.com.
- ^ Billboard. October 10, 1942. p. 9. Retrieved August 17, 2015 – via Google Books.
- ^ "Jackie Gleason Lew Parker HELLZAPOPPIN 1943 Hanna Theater Cleveland OHIO Program (01/14/2012)". Worthpoint.com. Retrieved August 17, 2015.
- ^ Dangerfield, Rodney (2004). It's Not Easy Being Me: A Lifetime of No Respect But Plenty of Sex and Drugs. HarperCollins.
- ^ "History of Los Angeles-Restaurants that are extinct". The Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on February 10, 2011. Retrieved February 3, 2011.
- ^ "Photo-Slapsy Maxie's Nightclub". Worthpoint. Archived from the original on April 27, 2018. Retrieved February 3, 2011.
- ^ "The Life of Riley". Museum of Broadcast Communications. Archived from the original on February 11, 2011. Retrieved February 3, 2011.
- ^ UCLA Newsroom: "UCLA Library Acquires Papers of Television Pioneer Harry Crane" by Teri Bond Michael Archived July 31, 2015, at the Wayback Machine November 18, 2004
- ^ a b c d Brooks, Tim; Marsh, Earle (2007). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows, 1946–present. Ballantine Books. ISBN 978-0-345-49773-4.
- ^ Jim Callo (November 3, 1980). "After 53 Years in the Limelight, Jackie Gleason Revels in How Sweet It Still Is". People. Time Inc. Archived from the original on February 14, 2013. Retrieved August 16, 2012.
- ^ Billy Ingram (1995–2011). "Mistakes & Blunders". www.TVParty.com. Billy Ingram. Archived from the original on September 23, 2012. Retrieved August 16, 2012.
- ^ Ingraham, Clarke. "Electronicam". DuMont Television Network Historical Website. Archived from the original on October 27, 2010. Retrieved October 2, 2010.
- ^ AoL Music (2012). "Jackie Gleason Albums". AoL Music. AOL Inc. Archived from the original on July 12, 2012. Retrieved August 16, 2012.
- ^ Gael Fashingbauer Cooper (June 15, 2014). Casey Kasem's 'American Top 40' reached for the stars Archived June 15, 2014, at the Wayback Machine. NBC News. Retrieved June 15, 2014. "An unparalleled storyteller, Kasem loved to drop a teasing question about a song or a band, then cut to commercial, making his trivia so tantalizing that listeners just had to stay tuned to find out the answer. (…) Who had the most No. 1 albums without a Top 40 single? (Comic and mood-music expert Jackie Gleason, at least at the time.)"
- ^ Bacon, James. How Sweet It Is. ISBN 0-312-39621-X. p. 118.
- ^ a b c Bacon, James (1986). How Sweet it Is: The Jackie Gleason Story. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-90229-8.
- ^ "Como, Gleason Win Peabody Award". Long Beach Independent. April 12, 1956. p. 32. Archived from the original on January 6, 2017. Retrieved January 5, 2017 – via Newspapers.com.
- ^ Slifka, Adrian M. (July 4, 1957). "Gleason Blasts Ratings As Senseless TV Critics". Youngstown Vindicator. Retrieved November 29, 2010. For his final season, 1956–57, he returned to live Honeymooners of varying lengths and presented a number of hour long musicals (reprised a decade later, in colour, with a "new" Alice and Tricia, Sheila McCrae and Jane Kean).
- ^ Pace, Eric (June 15, 1987). "Jackie Gleason Dies of Cancer; Comedian And Actor Was 71". The New York Times. Retrieved November 21, 2010.
- ^ "Jackie Gleason's Round House". Popular Mechanix. April 1960. Archived from the original on December 31, 2010. Retrieved November 21, 2010.
- ^ Statham, Richard (July 31, 1963). "Jackie Gleason's fabulous home is now up for sale". Ottawa Citizen. Retrieved November 21, 2010.
- ^ "Here's House For Sale, Jackie Gleason Special". St. Petersburg Times. July 28, 1963. Retrieved November 21, 2010.
- ^ Brooks, Tim; Marsh, Earle (2007). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows, 1946–present. Ballantine Books. ISBN 978-0-345-49773-4.
- ^ Brown, Wesley (July 12, 2014). "Gleason showed real Hustler skills in Augusta". The Augusta Chronicle. Augusta, Georgia, US. Archived from the original on December 20, 2014. Retrieved December 20, 2014. Jackie Gleason needed no help to portray the real-life Minnesota Fats, the cutthroat pool shark he portrayed in the 1961 film who toyed with opponents before making decisive trick shots to collect from local hustlers.
- ^ a b Bishop, Jim (December 31, 1976). "The Great Gleason". Lewiston Evening Journal. Retrieved January 21, 2011.
- ^ a b Rosenblatt, Andy (May 21, 1978). "Jackie Gleason: Why The Great One Is Great". Lakeland Ledger. Retrieved January 21, 2011.
- ^ Meadows, Audrey; Daley, Joe (1994). "Jackie the Hypnotist". Love, Alice: My Life as a Honeymooner. Crown Publishing Group. ISBN 0-517-59881-7.
- ^ Bain, Donald. Long John Nebel: Radio Talk King, Master Salesman, and Magnificent Charlatan. New York: Macmillan. ISBN 0-02-505950-5.
- ^ "The Jackie Gleason Collection". University of Miami. Archived from the original on August 28, 2015. Retrieved August 17, 2015.
- ^ "JackieGleason". Legacy Libraries. LibraryThing. Archived from the original on December 20, 2013. Retrieved December 20, 2013.
- ^ Larry Holcombe: The Presidents and UFOs: A Secret History from FDR to Obama. New York: Macmillan, March 2015.
- ^ a b c Scott, Vernon (November 9, 1983). "Actress seeks place beyond the shadow of her legendary father". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved January 28, 2011.
- ^ a b "Jackie Gleason Asks Divorce in New York". The Times-News. October 24, 1968. Retrieved January 28, 2011.
- ^ "Squabble Erupts in Hospital Room For Bedridden Gleason's Affections". The Miami News. February 9, 1954.[dead link]
- ^ a b "Squabble Erupts in Hospital Room For Bedridden Gleason's Affections". The Miami News. February 9, 1954.[dead link]
- ^ Wilson, Earl (February 13, 1954). "New York". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved November 19, 2010.
- ^ "Gleason's Ankle, Leg Are Broken". Youngstown Vindicator. February 1, 1954. Retrieved November 19, 2010.
- ^ Darrach, Brad (July 13, 1987). "A Fond Goodbye to the Great One". People. Archived from the original on February 17, 2015. Retrieved February 17, 2015.
- ^ "Jackie Gleason Is Granted Divorce". Gettysburg Times. June 24, 1970. Retrieved November 19, 2010.
- ^ Forbes, Donald (July 4, 1970). "Jackie Gleason Weds Secretary". The Tuscaloosa News. Retrieved January 20, 2011.
- ^ "People in the News-Action Contested". Reading Eagle. September 18, 1974. Retrieved January 20, 2011.
- ^ "Gleasons Divorce". The Evening News. November 20, 1975. Retrieved January 20, 2011.
- ^ "How Sweet She Is". The Evening News. December 17, 1975. Retrieved January 20, 2011.
- ^ a b Dickerson, A. J. (27 June 1987). "Gleason's widow pins last carnation on 'Great One's' lapel; fans gather". Schenectady Gazette. Retrieved 19 November 2010.
- ^ "Jackie Gleason To Marry For Third Time Tuesday". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. December 12, 1975. Retrieved November 19, 2010.
- ^ "Jackie Gleason". people.com. Archived from the original on 6 December 2017. Retrieved 27 April 2018.
- ^ "Doctors Say heart attack was imminent before Gleason surgery". Daytona Beach Morning Journal. June 6, 1978. Retrieved April 9, 2012.
- ^ "Gleason ails; Schnoz better". The Miami News. 1 June 1978.[dead link]
- ^ "Gleason in hospital again". The Telegraph-Herald. 30 May 1978. Retrieved 9 April 2012.
- ^ Wilson, Catherine (26 June 1987). "Gleason hid nature of illness from fans". The Times-News. Retrieved 28 January 2011.
- ^ Konicki, Steve (25 June 1987). "Gleason's death came quietly at age 71". The Miami News.[dead link]
- ^ "Jackie Gleason Theater:Away It Goes!". NBC Miami. May 5, 2010. Retrieved October 1, 2010.
- ^ "Future of Former Jackie Gleason Theater Uncertain". Palm Beach Post. June 16, 2010. Archived from the original on June 23, 2010. Retrieved October 1, 2010.
- ^ "Entertainer of the Year Awards: Special with Jackie Gleason as host". Lumberton, North Carolina: The Robesonian. January 11, 1976. Retrieved August 15, 2019.
- ^ Rudolph, Cathy (December 2, 2013). Paul Lynde: A Biography - His Life, His Love(s) and His Laughter. BearManor Media. p. 202. ISBN 978-1629330655.
- ^ "Bus Depot is dedicated to Jackie Gleason". The Pittsburgh Press. July 1, 1988. Retrieved January 20, 2011.
- ^ Miller, Darryl H. (October 12, 2002). "'Gleason' Just Skims the Star's Surface". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on August 7, 2016. Retrieved December 10, 2017.
- ^ Hart, Hugh (October 10, 2002). "And awaaay he goes / Brad Garrett fulfills dream of playing troubled, talented Jackie Gleason in CBS biopic". San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on December 11, 2017. Retrieved December 10, 2017.
- ^ "The Quick 10: 10 Billboard 200 Milestones". Mental Floss. April 23, 2009. Archived from the original on September 5, 2015. Retrieved August 17, 2015.
- Bishop, Jim. The Golden Ham (Simon & Schuster, 1956).
- Metz, Robert. CBS: Reflections in a Bloodshot Eye. (New York, 1975).
- Bacon, James. How Sweet It Is: Jackie Gleason. (New York, St. Martin's Press, 1985).
- Weatherby, W.J. Jackie Gleason: An Intimate Portrait of the Great One. (Pharos Books, 1992).
- Henry, William A. The Great One: The Life and Legend of Jackie Gleason. (New York: Doubleday, 1992).
- Meadows, Audrey. Love, Alice. (New York, Crown Publishers, 1994).
- American Legends Series. The Life of Jackie Gleason. (Charles River Editors, ISBN 9781496125811, 2014).
Last edited on 10 July 2021, at 22:38
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