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Feature: 'Honeymooners' back, in color

By PAT NASON, UPI Hollywood Reporter   |   July 7, 2003 at 6:07 PM   |   Comments

LOS ANGELES, July 3 (UPI) -- After an absence of more than 30 years, color episodes of the late Jackie Gleason's classic "The Honeymooners" are coming back to America's living rooms.

Since June 28, the GoodLife TV Network has been airing the one-hour shows, which originally appeared on CBS from 1966-70. The cable channel will air 42 episodes on Saturday nights at 9 p.m.

Like the 39 classic, half-hour, black-and-white "Honeymooners" episodes, the color versions feature Gleason and his long-time partner Art Carney as Ralph Kramden and his slightly dim buddy Ed Norton. The later episodes starred Sheila MacRae as Alice Kramden and Jane Kean as Trixie Norton.

Marilyn Gleason -- who married Jackie Gleason in 1975 -- appeared with GoodLife executives recently at the Great One's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame to announce the revival.

"Jackie and I were a bit like Ralph and Alice," she said. "There was a lot of Ralph Kramden in Jackie. He could go off the handle and scream and yell, and not mean any of it."

The color "Honeymooners" evoke a long gone era in TV production, when a prime time network show was taped in front of a live audience with no stops to cover mistakes.

"There was maybe once or twice that maybe a little piece of business that Art Carney wasn't happy with, that they redid the piece," said Marilyn Gleason.

Actually, she said, the live-on-tape approach preferred by Jackie Gleason in the late '60s was relatively rare soon after "The Honeymooners" ended its prime time run in 1970.

"Nobody else did that in the '70s when Jackie was off the air but doing guest shots on shows," she said. "He showed up, did rehearsals, and come time for the show, there would be a half-hour between scenery changes. Jackie couldn't get over it. He said this was absolutely ridiculous."

Marilyn Gleason said her husband regarded TV shows as something like an opportunity to have a Broadway opening with every show.

"He rehearsed and he loved the show, and opening night, and after three more performances he was ready to go home," she said. "Of course, with comedy he had a new audience every night. A comedic actor such as Jackie thrived on that. To him TV was opening night every day, rather than doing the same thing night after night after night."

Marilyn Gleason said several members of the writing staff from the original "Honeymooners" also worked on the color episodes. To a lesser extent, some of the stories from the original show were adapted for the '60s incarnation.

Gleason and Carney last worked together in the 1985 TV series "Izzy and Moe," as a couple of retired vaudeville performers who find success as Prohibition agents.

"The three of us would sit in the trailer waiting to be called -- knitting, reading, sitting back," said Marilyn Gleason. "I'd look at my watch and say, whoops, 4 o'clock -- pill time. We were all taking diabetes and heart pills."

Carney -- a seven-time Emmy winner who took the prize for supporting actor in a comedy series for "The Honeymooners" in 1954-56 -- is "very, very retired," according to Marilyn Gleason. Now 84, he has not performed since the 1993 movie "Last Action Hero."

Jackie Gleason died in 1987 of cancer at 71.

© 2003 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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