|Born||John Herbert Gleason
February 26, 1916
Brooklyn, New York, United States
|Died||June 24, 1987
Lauderhill, Florida, United States
|Cause of death||Colon cancer|
|Occupation||Actor, comedian, musician|
|Spouse(s)||Genevieve Halford (1936–1970; 2 children)
Beverly McKittrick (1970–1975)
Marilyn Taylor (1975–1987; his death)
|Children||Geraldine Halford (b. 1940)
Linda Halford (b. 1942)
John Herbert "Jackie" Gleason (February 26, 1916 – June 24, 1987) was an American comedian, actor, and musician. He was known for his brash visual and verbal comedy style, exemplified by his character Ralph Kramden in The Honeymooners. Among his notable film roles were Minnesota Fats in the 1961 drama The Hustler (co-starring with Paul Newman) and Buford T. Justice in the Smokey and the Bandit series.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Career
- 3 Personal life
- 4 Illness and death
- 5 Tributes
- 6 On television
- 7 Career accomplishments
- 8 Singles discography
- 9 Unreleased songs
- 10 LP record discography
- 11 Compact disc discography
- 12 References
- 13 Sources
- 14 Further reading
- 15 External links
Gleason was born at 364 Chauncey Street in the Bedstuy section of Brooklyn. He grew up nearby, at 328 Chauncey (an address he later used for Ralph and Alice Kramden on The Honeymooners). Originally named Herbert Walton Gleason Jr., he was baptized John Herbert Gleason. His parents were Mae "Maisie" (née Kelly), a subway change-booth attendant, and Herbert Walton "Herb" Gleason, an insurance auditor. His mother was from Farranree, Cork, Ireland, and his father was Irish American. Gleason was one of their two children—his brother Clemence died of spinal meningitis at age 14, and his father abandoned the family.
He remembered his father as having "beautiful handwriting", as Herbert Gleason often worked at the family's kitchen table writing policies in the evenings. On the night of December 14, 1925, Gleason's father disposed of any family photos he was pictured in; just after noon on December 15, he collected his hat, coat, and paycheck, leaving the insurance company and his family permanently. When it was evident he was not coming back, Mae went to work for the Brooklyn–Manhattan Transit Corporation (BMT).
After his father left, young Gleason began hanging around on the streets with a local gang and hustling pool. He attended elementary school at P.S. 73 in Brooklyn and attended (but did not graduate from) John Adams High School in Queens and Bushwick High School in Brooklyn. Gleason became interested in performing after being part of a class play; when he left school, he got a job as master of ceremonies at a theater that paid $4 per night. Other jobs he held included working in a pool hall, as a stunt driver, and as 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 was also offered the same work two nights a week at the Folly Theater.
After his father's disappearance, Gleason was raised by his mother. When she died in 1935 of sepsis from a large neck carbuncle (which young Jackie had tried to lance), Gleason was 19, had nowhere to go and less than 40 cents to his name. The family of his first girlfriend, Julie Dennehy, offered to take him in; Gleason, however, was headstrong and insisted he was going into the heart of the city. His friend Sammy Birch made room for him in the hotel room he shared with another comedian. Birch also told him of a one-week job in Reading, Pennsylvania, that would pay $19, more money than Gleason could imagine. The booking agent advanced him bus fare for the trip against his salary. This was Gleason's first job as a professional comedian, and he had regular work in a number of small clubs after that.
Gleason worked his way up to a job at New York's Club 18, where insulting its patrons was the order of the day. Skater Sonja Henie was greeted by Gleason, who handed her an ice cube and said, "Okay, now do something." It was here that Jack L. Warner first saw Gleason, signing him to a film contract for $250 a week. By age 24 Gleason was appearing in movies: first for Warner Brothers (as Jackie C. Gleason) in such films as Navy Blues (1941) with Ann Sheridan and Martha Raye and All Through the Night (1941) with Humphrey Bogart, for Columbia Pictures for the B military comedy Tramp, Tramp, Tramp (1942) and finally for Twentieth Century-Fox, where Gleason played Glenn Miller Orchestra bassist Ben Beck in Orchestra Wives (1942). He also had a small part as a soda shop clerk in Larceny, Inc., (1942) with Edward G. Robinson, and a modest part as an actor's agent in the 1942 Betty Grable–Harry James musical Springtime in the Rockies.
Gleason did not make a strong impression on Hollywood at first; at that time, however, 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." Gleason's first significant recognition as an entertainer finally came on Broadway when he appeared in the hit musical Follow the Girls (1944). While working in films in California, Gleason also worked at former boxer Maxie Rosenbloom's nightclub (Slapsy Maxie's, on Wilshire Boulevard).
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 unable to accept the television role at first because of film commitments.) Despite positive reviews, the show received modest ratings and was canceled 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. The program initially had rotating hosts; the offer first made to Gleason was for two weeks at $750 per week. When he said he did not consider that worth the train trip to New York, the offer was extended to four weeks. Gleason then returned to New York. He framed the show with splashy dance numbers, developed sketch characters he would refine over the next decade, and became enough of a presence that CBS wooed him over 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 inversely and shouting, "And awaaay we go!" The phrase became one of his trademarks, along with "How sweet it is!" (which was 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
- Boisterous, boorish Rudy the Repairman
- Gregarious Joe the Bartender, 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 demonstrate sweet gratitude at things no more complicated than 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 future Honeymooners co-star Art Carney)
- 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 the connection of 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.
By far Gleason's most popular character was blustery bus driver Ralph Kramden. Largely drawn from Gleason's harsh Brooklyn childhood, these sketches became known as The Honeymooners. The show customarily centered 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.
The Honeymooners also became the birthplace of catchphrases invented by Gleason, such as harmless threats to Alice: "One of these days, Alice, pow, right in the kisser" or "To the moon Alice, to the moon."
The Honeymooners originated when Gleason was collaborating on a sketch with his show's writers. He told them he had an idea he had always wanted to work out: 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.
The Honeymooners first appeared 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 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. Early sketches come as something of a shock to modern critics accustomed to Meadows's Alice.
When Gleason moved to CBS, Kelton was left behind; her name had turned up in Red Channels, a book that listed and described reputed communists (and communist sympathizers) in television and radio. Gleason reluctantly let her leave the cast, with a cover story for the media that she had "heart trouble". He also turned down Meadows as Kelton's replacement at first. 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 Ed Norton's wife, Trixie. 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 were 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 afterward, they aired the half-hour Honeymooners in syndicated reruns that began to build a loyal and growing audience that made the show a television icon. Its popularity was such that a life-size statue of Jackie Gleason, in uniform as bus driver Ralph Kramden, stands outside the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York City.
Throughout the 1950s and 1960s Gleason enjoyed a secondary music career, lending his name to a series of best-selling "mood music" albums with jazz overtones for Capitol Records. Gleason felt 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 album longest in the Billboard Top Ten Charts (153 weeks), and his first 10 albums all sold over a million copies. 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 singles chart.
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"). There has been much debate over the years as to how much credit Gleason should have received for the finished products; biographer William A. Henry III 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 the making of these recordings. Red Nichols, a jazz great who had fallen on hard times and led one of the group's recordings, did not even get session-leader pay from Gleason. Cornetist and trumpeter Bobby Hackett, who soloed on the albums and was leader for seven of them, when asked by musician–journalist Harry Currie in Toronto weeks before Hackett's death what Gleason really did at the recording sessions, Hackett replied "He brought the cheques".
However, this alleged statement is at odds with others made by Hackett, who said to 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." Nearly all of Gleason's albums are still available and have been re-released on compact disc.
Return to television
Gleason restored his original variety hour (including The Honeymooners) in 1956, winning a Peabody Award. He abandoned the show in 1957 when his ratings for the season came in at #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.
One of the perks Gleason received from CBS was the network's picking up the tab for his Peekskill, New York "Round Rock Hill" mansion. Set atop a hill on six acres, the site for the circular dream home included a guest house and a round storage building. Gleason planned the home for two years; it was completed in 1959, but Gleason sold the home when he relocated to Miami.
His next foray into television was the game show You're in the Picture, which survived its disastrous premiere episode only because of Gleason's humorous on-the-air apology the following week. For the rest of its scheduled run, the program was a talk show once again 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. 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 loud 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 midgets). 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, actress and delighted 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 (actually the TV audience, with Gleason speaking to the camera). 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 in 1964). Then 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 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 (except for 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"), 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 alcoholic. When the CBS deal expired Gleason signed with NBC, but ideas reportedly came and went before he ended up doing 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 about an unusual pair of Federal prohibition agents, which aired on CBS in 1985.
In April 1974, Gleason revived several 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) in and out of the Kramden apartment. The storyline involved a wild Christmas party hosted up the block from the Kramdens' building by Reginald Van Gleason at Joe the Bartender's place.
Gleason's acting was not restricted 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 appeared as an episode of Playhouse 90 (a television anthology series).
He was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor award for his portrayal of Minnesota Fats in The Hustler (1961), in the filming of which he made all his own trick shots. (In his 1985 appearance on The Tonight Show, Gleason told Johnny Carson that he had played pool frequently since childhood, utilizing those experiences in The Hustler.) He was extremely well-received as a beleaguered boxing manager in the movie version of Rod Serling's Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962). Gleason also played a world-weary army sergeant in Soldier in the Rain (1963), in which he received top billing over Steve McQueen.
He wrote, produced and starred in Gigot (1962), a box-office flop in which he plays a poor, mute janitor who befriends and rescues a prostitute and her small daughter. The film's script formed the basis for 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.
Gleason played the lead in the Otto Preminger all-star failure, Skidoo (1968). In 1969 William Friedkin wanted to cast Gleason as "Popeye" Doyle in The French Connection (1971), but between Gigot and Skidoo the studio refused to offer Gleason the lead although he wanted it. Instead, Gleason wound up in How to Commit Marriage (1969) with Bob Hope as well as the movie version of Woody Allen's play Don't Drink the Water (1969). Both were unsuccessful.
Eight years passed before Gleason had another hit film. This role was the cantankerous and cursing but comically inept Texas sheriff Buford T. Justice in the films Smokey and the Bandit (1977), Smokey and the Bandit II (1980) and Smokey and the Bandit Part 3 (1983). He co-starred with Burt Reynolds as the Bandit, Sally Field as Carrie (the Bandit's love interest) and Jerry Reed as Cledus "Snowman" Snow, the Bandit's truck-driving partner. Former NFL linebacker Mike Henry played his dimwitted son, Junior Justice. Gleason's gruff and frustrated demeanor and lines such as "I'm gonna barbecue yo' ass in molasses!" made the first Bandit movie a hit.
Years later, when interviewed by Larry King, Reynolds said he agreed to do the movie only if they would hire Jackie Gleason to play the part of Sheriff Buford T. Justice (the name of a real Florida highway patrolman, who knew Reynolds' father). The interview also revealed 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 helped 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 itself 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, a success both critically and financially.
Marriages and family
Gleason had been seeing a lot of Genevieve Halford, a dancer; both were working in vaudeville when they met. Halford wanted marriage, while Gleason was not ready to settle down. She told him that they would either get married or she would begin seeing other men; when Gleason went onstage one evening at the Club Miami in Newark, New Jersey, Halford was seated 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 expected a normal husband who would be home when not at work; instead 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 and Linda). Gleason's daughter Linda was married to actor-playwright Jason Miller; their son, Gleason's grandson, is actor Jason Patric. 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, and Gleason's friends filled in for him while he recuperated. Gleason's injury dealt a permanent blow to his troubled marriage. While still separated when Gleason was hospitalized, Halford came to visit and found dancer Marilyn Taylor from his television show at his side. The two women confronted one another, and 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 (a secretary), at a country club in 1968. Ten days after his divorce from Genevieve was final, Gleason and McKittrick were married in a registry ceremony in Ashford, England on July 4, 1970. Marilyn Taylor (who left show business in 1956) was reunited with Gleason in 1974 when she moved to the Miami area to be near her sister June, whose dancers were part of Gleason's shows for many years. In September 1974 Gleason filed for divorce from McKittrick (who contested, asking for a reconciliation). The divorce was granted on November 19, 1975. Now a widow with a young son, Marilyn Taylor married Gleason on December 16, 1975; the marriage lasted until his death in 1987.
Fear of flying
For many years, Gleason would only travel by train; his fear of flying arose from an incident when he had only minor movie roles. Gleason would fly to Los Angeles for movie work, then back to New York when his roles were completed. After finishing one of his movies, the comedian boarded a plane for New York. Two of the plane's engines cut out, and the pilot made an emergency landing in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
While another plane was readied for the passengers to continue their journey, Gleason decided he had enough and made his way from the airport into downtown Tulsa. He walked into a hardware store, and asked its owner to lend him $200 for the train trip back to New York. The owner, amazed, asked Gleason why he thought anyone would lend a total stranger that amount of money. Gleason identified himself and explained his situation; when the store owner learned of Gleason's movie work, he said he would lend him the money if the local theater had a photo of him on display in his latest film. Since Gleason was not yet a major film star, the publicity shots the theater had were only of those with principal roles in the film. Gleason then proposed that he purchase two movie tickets and that they both see the film; the owner would certainly be able to identify him from that. The two men sat in the dark theater for an hour before Gleason appeared on screen. Gleason got his loan, and boarded the next train back to New York. Returning home, he borrowed $200 to repay his benefactor.
Interest in the paranormal
Gleason was a voracious reader of books on the paranormal (including The Urantia Book), parapsychology and UFOs. During the 1950s he was a semi-regular guest on a paranormal-themed overnight radio show hosted by John Nebel, and 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.
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.
Illness and death
Gleason smoked four packs of cigarettes a day. While touring in the lead role of Larry Gelbart's play Sly Fox in 1978 he suffered chest pains, forcing him to leave the show in Chicago and undergo triple-bypass surgery. Gleason initially went to the hospital for chest pains but was treated and released. After he suffered another bout the following week, it was determined that heart surgery was necessary.
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). The film proved to be Gleason's final film role, since during the production he was suffering from colon cancer which had spread to his liver. "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 his Florida home.
After a private funeral mass at the Cathedral of Saint Mary in Miami, 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, is buried to the left of the mausoleum, next to her husband, Sol Lerner.
Miami Beach honored Gleason's contributions to the city (and its tourism) in 1987 by renaming the Miami Beach Auditorium (where he had produced his television show after moving to Florida) 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. New York's Omni Park Hotel, where Gleason maintained a suite from 1953 to 1957, named it the "Jackie Gleason Suite" shortly after his death. A city park with racquetball and basketball courts and a children's playground, near his home in the Inverrary neighborhood of Lauderhill, was named "Jackie Gleason Park".
Signs on the Brooklyn Bridge advising drivers they are entering Brooklyn have the Gleason phrase "How Sweet It Is!" He is also mentioned and seen on the 1955 TV in the 1985 film Back to the Future when Marty McFly watches television with his (future) grandparents and mother, seeing him in a crazy-looking spacesuit in The Man from Space episode that actually aired (December 31, 1955) after the date-setting of Back to the Future.
On June 30, 1988 the Sunset Park Bus Depot in Brooklyn was renamed the Jackie Gleason Depot in honor of the native Brooklynite. A statue of Gleason as Ralph in his bus driver's uniform was dedicated in August 2000 in New York City by the cable-TV channel TV Land. The statue is located in Manhattan at 40th Street and Eighth Avenue at the entrance of the Port Authority Bus Terminal (PABT). Its inscription reads "Jackie Gleason as Ralph Kramden: Bus Driver, Raccoon Lodge Treasurer, Dreamer"; it was featured briefly in the film World Trade Center (2006). Another such statue stands at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame in North Hollywood, California, showing Gleason in his "And away we go!" pose. Gleason had been inducted into the Academy's Television Hall of Fame in 1986.
A television movie called Gleason was aired by CBS on October 13, 2002, taking a deeper look into Gleason's life; although it took liberties with some of the Gleason story, it featured his troubled home life (a side of Gleason that few had previously known). The film also showed backstage scenes from his best-known work. Brad Garrett of Everybody Loves Raymond portrayed Gleason after Mark Addy dropped out. Garrett was made up to resemble Gleason in his prime. His height—6 feet 8 inches (2.03 m), about 8 inches (20 cm) taller than Gleason—created logistical problems on the sets, which were designed so Garrett did not tower over everyone else. Cast members wore platform shoes when standing next to him; the shoes can be seen on Alice in one shot during a Honeymooners sequence.
In 2003, after an absence of more than 30 years, the color musical versions of The Honeymooners from the 1960s Jackie Gleason Show in Miami Beach were returned to television on the GoodLife TV (now ALN) cable network. In 2005, a movie version of The Honeymooners appeared in theaters with a twist: a primarily African-American cast, headed by Cedric the Entertainer. This version, however, bore only a passing resemblance to Gleason's original series and was panned by critics.
Actor-playwright Jason Miller, Gleason's former son-in-law, was writing a screenplay based on Gleason's life that was to star Paul Sorvino at the time of Miller's death. Gleason's daughter, Linda Miller, was also an actress.
|Year||Title||Label and Number|
|1951||"What Is a Girl?"/"What Is a Boy?" (spoken by Gleason)||Decca 27684|
|1952||"Melancholy Serenade"/"You're Getting to Be a Habit"||Capitol F2361|
|1953||"Alone Together"/"Body & Soul"||Capitol F2437|
|1953||"My Funny Valentine"/"Love Is Here to Stay"||Capitol F2438|
|1953||"But Not for Me"/"Love"||Capitol F2439|
|1953||"I'm in the Mood for Love"/"I Only Have Eyes for You"||Capitol F2440|
|1953||"Terry's Theme from Limelight"/"Peg O' My Heart"||Capitol F2507|
|1953||"White House Serenade"/"The President's Lady"||Capitol F2515|
|1953||"Mystery Street"/"Golden Violins"||Capitol F2659|
|1955||"The Band Played On"/"In the Good Old Summertime"||Capitol F3144|
|1955||"Autumn Leaves"/"Oo! What You Do to Me"||Capitol F3223|
|1956||"Capri in May"/"You're My Greatest Love"||Capitol F3337|
|1957||"What Is a Girl?"/"What Is a Boy?" (spoken by Gleason)||Capitol EAP871|
|1958||"Where Is She Now?"/"Just Only Yesterday"||Capitol F4062|
|1962||"Allo 'Allo 'Allo"/"Joi De Vivre" (soundtrack)||Capitol F4800|
|1963||"La La La La"/"It's Such A Happy Day "||Capitol F4933|
The following songs were recorded for various LP albums, but not included in the final product. However, when the albums were released on CD, these songs were included as extras.
Sources for unreleased songs data
- Romantic Moods of Jackie Gleason CD, 1996
- And Awaaay We Go! CD, 1996
- Lover's Rhapsody CD, 2001
- Music to Remember Her CD, 2001
- Romantic Jazz CD, 2002
- Night Winds CD, 2005
LP record discography
|#||Year||Title||Label and Number||U.S. Billboard 200 Chart|
|1||1952||Music for Lovers Only||Capitol H352 (10")||# 1 (153 total weeks within the Billboard Top Ten)|
|2||1953||Lover's Rhapsody||Capitol H366 (10")||No. 1|
|3||1953||Music to Make You Misty||Capitol H455 (10")||No. 1|
|4||1954||Tawny||Capitol L471 (10")||No. 8|
|5||1954||And Awaaay We Go!||Capitol H511 (10")||No. 35|
|6||1954||Music, Martinis and Memories||Capitol W509||No. 1|
|7||1954||Melancholy Serenade||Capitol E532 (EP)||-|
|8||1955||Lonesome Echo||Capitol H627 (10")||No. 1|
|9||1955||Music for Lovers Only||Capitol W352||No. 7|
|10||1955||Music to Make You Misty||Capitol W455||No. 11|
|11||1955||And Awaaay We Go!||Capitol W511||No. 85|
|12||1955||Romantic Jazz||Capitol W568||No. 2|
|13||1955||Music to Remember Her||Capitol W570||No. 5|
|14||1955||Lonesome Echo||Capitol W627||No. 1|
|15||1956||Captain Gleason's Garden Band||Capitol E646 (EP)||-|
|16||1956||Music to Change Her Mind||Capitol W632||No. 8|
|17||1956||Night Winds||Capitol W717||No. 10|
|18||1956||Merry Christmas||Capitol W758||No. 16|
|19||1957||Music for the Love Hours||Capitol W816||No. 13|
|20||1957||Velvet Brass||Capitol SW/W859||No. 16|
|21||1957||Jackie Gleason Presents "Oooo!"||Capitol SW/W905||No. 14|
|22||1958||The Torch With the Blue Flame||Capitol SW/W961||# 2|
|23||1958||Riff Jazz||Capitol SW/W1020||No. 27|
|24||1959||Rebound||Capitol SW/W1075||No. 18|
|25||1959||That Moment||Capitol SW/W1147||No. 36|
|26||1959||Take Me Along (original cast)||RCA Victor LSO1050||-|
|27||1960||Aphrodisia||Capitol SW/W1250||No. 49|
|28||1960||The Actor's Prayer (spoken by Gleason)||The Marsalin Institute||-|
|29||1960||Opiate D'Amour||Capitol SW/W1314||No. 53|
|30||1961||Lazy Lively Love||Capitol SW/W1439||No. 57|
|31||1961||The Gentle Touch||Capitol SW/W1519||No. 62|
|32||1962||A Lover's Portfolio (two records in a "briefcase")||Capitol SWBO/SBO1619||No. 135|
|33||1962||Love, Embers and Flame||Capitol SW/W1689||No. 103|
|34||1963||Gigot (soundtrack)||Capitol SW/W1754||-|
|35||1963||Champagne, Candlelight & Kisses||Capitol SW/W1830||No. 97|
|36||1963||Movie Themes For Lovers Only||Capitol SW/W1877||No. 82|
|37||1963||Today's Romantic Hits/For Lovers Only||Capitol SW/W1978||No. 115|
|38||1964||A Lover's Portfolio Vol. 1 (Music for Sippin' & Dancin')||Capitol SW/W1979||No. 128|
|39||1964||A Lover's Portfolio Vol. 2 (Music for Listenin' & Lovin')||Capitol SW/W1980||No. 137|
|40||1964||Today's Romantic Hits/For Lovers Only Vol. 2||Capitol SW/W2056||No. 82|
|41||1965||Last Dance For Lover's Only||Capitol SW/W2144||No. 131|
|42||1965||Silk 'N' Brass||Capitol SW/W2409||No. 141|
|43||1966||Music from Around the World – For Lovers Only||Capitol SW/W2471||No. 102|
|44||1966||How Sweet It Is For Lovers||Capitol SW/W2582||No. 71|
|45||1967||A Taste of Brass For Lovers Only||Capitol SW/W2684||No. 200|
|46||1967||'Tis the Season||Capitol ST/T2791||No. 37|
|47||1967||The Best of Jackie Gleason||Capitol SW/W2796||-|
|48||1967||The Best of Jackie Gleason||Capitol Record Club SWAO-90601||-|
|49||1968||Doublin' In Brass||Capitol SW/W2880||No. 165|
|50||1969||The Best of Jackie Gleason, vol. 2||Capitol SKAO-146||-|
|51||1969||The Now Sound||Capitol SW/W2935||No. 200|
|52||1969||Irving Berlin's Music For Lovers Only||Capitol SW106||-|
|53||1969||Close Up||Capitol SW255||No. 192|
|54||1969||All I Want for Christmas||Capitol ST346||No. 13|
|56||1970||Romeo & Juliet||Capitol ST398||-|
|57||1971||Come Saturday Morning||Capitol ST480||-|
|58||1972||Words of Love||Capitol ST693||-|
- Discography courtesy of Tom Lowery (from his personal collection).
Compact disc discography
|1987||Music, Martinis and Memories||Capitol|
|1991||Night Winds & Music to Make You Misty||Capitol|
|1993||The Best of Jackie Gleason||Curb|
|1994||Intimate Music for Lovers||CEMA Special Markets|
|1995||Merry Christmas||Razor & Tie|
|1995||Body & Soul||Pair|
|1995||22 Melancholy Serenades||CEMA Special Markets|
|1996||And Awaaay We Go||Scamp|
|1996||How Sweet It Is! The Velvet Brass Collection||Razor & Tie|
|1996||Romantic Moods of Jackie Gleason (Two Disc Set)||EMI Capitol|
|1996||Thinking of You||CEMA Special Markets|
|1996||‘Tis the Season||Capitol|
|1996||The Best of Jackie Gleason||Collectibles|
|1999||Music for Lovers Only & Music to Make You Misty||Collector's Choice|
|2000||Best of Jackie Gleason||EMI Special Products|
|2000||Tawny & Music, Martinis and Memories||Collector's Choice|
|2000||Music, Moonlight and Memories (Three Disc Set)||Reader's Digest|
|2001||Lonesome Echo||Collector's Choice|
|2001||Music to Remember Her||Collector's Choice|
|2001||Lover's Rhapsody & And Awaaay We Go||Collector's Choice|
|2002||For Lovers Only: 36 All Time Greatest Hits (Three disc set)||Timeless Media Group|
|2003||Plays Romantic Jazz||Collector's Choice|
|2004||Music to Change Her Mind||Collector's Choice|
|2005||Night Winds||Collector's Choice|
|2006||A Taste of Brass & Doublin' in Brass||Capitol|
|2007||Complete Bobby Hackett Sessions (Four Disc Set)||Fine & Mellow|
|2009||Take Me Along (1959 Original Broadway Cast)||DRG|
|2009||'Tis The Season||Capitol|
|2011||That Moment/Opiate D'Amour||Dutton Vocalion|
|2011||Torch with the Blue Flame; Best of 'Oooo!'||Dutton Vocalion|
|2012||Movie Themes - For Lovers Only; The Last Dance - For Lovers Only||Dutton Vocalion|
|2012||Romeo and Juliet - A Theme for Lovers; Music Around the World - For Lovers Only||Dutton Vocalion|
|2012||Champagne, Candlelight, Love Embers and Flame||Dutton Vocalion|
|2012||Tis The Season/Merry Christmas||Relayer Records|
- "Squabble Erupts In Hospital Room For Bedridden Gleason's Affections". The Miami News. February 9, 1954. Retrieved May 15, 2014.
- Staff. "Kid's Talk", News & Record (Greensboro), September 19, 1995. Retrieved June 8, 2009.
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- [dead link]
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- [dead link]
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- "History of Los Angeles-Restaurants that are extinct". LA Time Machines. Retrieved February 3, 2011.
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- Joel Whitburn Presents the Billboard Albums, 6th edition, ISBN 0-89820-166-7
- Gael Fashingbauer Cooper (June 15, 2014). Casey Kasem's 'American Top 40' reached for the stars. 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.
- "Peabody Awards Honor Como and Gleason". Milwaukee Journal. April 11, 1956. Retrieved May 7, 2010.
- Slifka, Adrian M. (July 4, 1957). "Gleason Blasts Ratings As Senseless TV Critics". Youngstown Vindicator. Retrieved November 29, 2010.
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- "Jackie Gleason's Round House". Popular Mechanix. April 1960. Retrieved November 21, 2010.
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- "Here's House For Sale, Jackie Gleason Special". St. Petersburg Times. July 28, 1963. Retrieved November 21, 2010.
- Brooks, Tim and 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 (12 July 2014). "Gleason showed real Hustler skills in Augusta". The Augusta Chronicle. Augusta, Georgia, USA: The Augusta Chronicle. Retrieved 20 December 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.
- Scott, Vernon (November 9, 1983). "Actress seeks place beyond the shadow of her legendary father". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved January 28, 2011.
- "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. Retrieved November 19, 2010.
- 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.
- "TV Funnyman Is Big Spender". Kentucky New Era. April 12, 1954. Retrieved November 19, 2010.
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- "Jackie Gleason Is Granted Divorce". Gettysburg Times. June 24, 1970. Retrieved November 19, 2010.
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- "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.
- Rosenblatt, Andy (May 21, 1978). "Jackie Gleason: Why The Great One Is Great". Lakeland Ledger. Retrieved January 21, 2011.
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- "Jackie Gleason To Marry For Third Time Tuesday". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. December 12, 1975. Retrieved November 19, 2010.
- "People in the News". Lewiston Evening Journal. November 9, 1974. Retrieved January 20, 2011.
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- Bacon, James (1986). How Sweet it Is: The Jackie Gleason Story. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-90229-8.
- Meadows, Audrey; Daley, Joe (1994). "Jackie the Hypnotist". Love, Alice: My Life as a Honeymooner. Crown Publishing Group. ISBN 0-517-59881-7.
- "The Jackie Gleason Collection". University of Miami. Retrieved 2015-08-17.
- Bain, Donald. Long John Nebel: Radio Talk King, Master Salesman, and Magnificent Charlatan. New York: Macmillan. ISBN 0-02-505950-5.
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- Larry Holcombe: The Presidents and UFOs: A Secret History from FDR to Obama. Macmillan, March 2015.
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- Billy Ingram (1995–2011). "Mistakes & Blunders". www.TVParty.com. Billy Ingram. Retrieved August 16, 2012.
- "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. June 1, 1978. Retrieved April 9, 2012.
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- "Future of Former Jackie Gleason Theater Uncertain". Palm Beach Post. June 16, 2010. Retrieved October 1, 2010.
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- "The Quick 10: 10 Billboard 200 Milestones". Mental Floss. 2009-04-23. Retrieved 2015-08-17.
- Joel Whitburn Presents the Billboard Albums, 6th edition, ISBN 0-89820-166-7
- Whitburn, Joel (1991), The Billboard Book of Top 40 Albums (Revised and enlarged 2nd ed.), Billboard Books, ISBN 0-8230-7534-6
- Additional information obtained can be verified within Billboard's online archive services and print editions of the magazine.
- 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 III, 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).
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Jackie Gleason.|
- Jackie Gleason at the Internet Movie Database
- Jackie Gleason at the Internet Broadway Database
- Jackie Gleason Discography at Space Age Pop Music
- Honeymooners at The Fifties Web
- Cavalcade of Stars 1950 episode at Internet Archive
- Jackie Gleason at Find a Grave