On May 9, 1971, the last original episode of the sitcom The Honeymooners, starring Jackie Gleason as Brooklyn bus driver Ralph Kramden, aired. Try answering these questions about one of the most beloved shows in TV history...
What Did They Almost Name The Show? The Honeymooners made its debut on October 5, 1951, as a six-minute sketch on the variety show Cavalcade of Stars, which was hosted by Jackie Gleason. Original suggestions for the sketch's title were "The Lovers," "The Couple Next Door," and aptly, "The Beast." It was finally decided to call the bit "The Honeymooners." The original "Honeymooners" was much different from the show we all know and love. The first-ever "Honeymooners" was just Jackie as Ralph and his wife Alice. In 1955, The Honeymooners was eventually spun off into its own program, starring Jackie Gleason as Ralph, Art Carney as Norton, Audrey Meadows as Alice, and Joyce Randolph as Trixie.
What Happened to the Original Alice? When The Honeymooners first aired, Alice Kramden was played by Pert Kelton, an experienced vaudeville actress. However, the House Un-American Activities Committee was actively searching out Hollywood names with Communist ties at that time, and Kelton's husband ended up in their cross-hairs. Even though Kelton herself wasn't involved, her association with her husband landed her on the infamous Hollywood blacklist, meaning she had to leave the show. At the same time, she started developing heart problems, so the public excuse for her leaving the show focused on her heart health. Kelton did eventually return to acting, and in fact, in the late 1960s, she returned to The Honeymooners as Alice's mother.
Why Did the Set and Costumes Look So Drab?
Despite the tendency of black and white film to make anything look
drab, many shows managed to create nice, clean environments with plenty
of light for their characters. The Honeymooners went in the
opposite direction, though, and Gleason purposefully made the apartment
and other set pieces shabby. This was because he wanted to model the set
on the tenement in which he grew up. The drabness also mirrored the
frugality of the Kramdens, who did not buy things on credit, unlike
other neighbors on the show.
Another factor in how the show looked was the fact that Gleason really didn't like doing a lot of takes. As a result, a lot of mistakes, including more than a few set mishaps, landed in the broadcast episodes. That no doubt contributed to the inexpensive look.
Just for Fun, Do You Know What Audrey Meadows' First Language Was?
Audrey Meadows played Alice Kramden for the majority of the show's run,
and she was always able to out-talk and outwit the blustering Ralph. But
her language ability extended beyond English; in fact, her first
language, by all accounts, is listed as Chinese. Meadows' parents were
missionaries who had been living in China. Many sources claim Meadows
herself was born in China, but at the time of her death, her family said
she had been born in New York. However, after her birth, her family
returned to China, where they remained until Meadows was about five
years old. When they returned to the U.S., apparently little Audrey
spoke only Chinese.