WORLD-OBITS-L ArchivesArchiver > WORLD-OBITS > 2006-07 > 1153171437
From: "Peter_McCrae" <>
Subject: GLEASON: Jackie Gleason--d.24/6/1987>USA
Date: Mon, 17 Jul 2006 22:23:57 +0100
Jackie Gleason, 1916-1987
Tony winner, Oscar nominee, screen writer, actor, producer, composer and
comedian, Jackie Gleason earned his nickname, "The Great One." A success in
every area of the entertainment industry, Jackie Gleason may be best
remembered for his role as the creator and lead of the series "The
Honeymooners". After defying terminal illness to finish the film, "Nothing
in Common", Jackie Gleason died June 24th, 1987 at the age of 71.
To many, even those born years after its final episode aired, Jackie Gleason
will forever be Ralph Kramden, the blustering Brooklyn bus driver and
Raccoon Lodge brother he portrayed for 39 episodes of "The Honeymooners", a
comedy popular in syndicated reruns after 35 years. In many ways, Gleason's
"Ralph Kramden" may have been created as a tribute to what the comic himself
may have become: A dispirited, struggling urbanite with a 6th-grade
education scheming to defeat his poverty and command a little respect.
Gleason's own humble beginnings were geared more toward a bleak life as a
DOT employee than the future founder of the highest paying golf tournament
in the US, The Jackie Gleason Inverray Classic.
Born Herbert John Gleason on February 26th, 1916 in Brooklyn, New York,
Gleason was the son of an insurance processor who abandoned his family in
1924, when his son was 8 years old. Gleason was raised by his mother, who
worked as a token counter attendant at a New York Transit subway stop, and
had to watch her son, whom she called "Jackie" take a series of odd jobs as
a child to help bolster their income. When Gleason was 15 years old he won a
Halsey Theater amateur show contest with his comedy act, but more important
won a job as the theater's master of ceremonies for $3 a week, big money
during the Depression. Gleason left school to work full time as a host and
comic at theaters all across New York and supplemented that income with a
number of odd show business jobs. By the time he was in his 20s, Gleason's
resume boasted stints as a carnival ringmaster, stunt driver, high diver in
The Water Follies, and as a radio show host and disc jockey.
Gleason's industry and his featured ad lib comedy act at New York's Club 18
brought him to the attention of movie mogul Jack Warner of Warner Brothers
Studios. After catching Jackie's act Warner signed the 25-year old comic to
a 5-picture contract with the studio which kicked off with the 1941 release
"Navy Blues". Between 1941-42, Gleason appeared in 9 motion pictures, and
returned to New York to conquer Broadway in musicals "Hellzapoppin'" and
"Along 5th Avenue". Gleason's next big break came through Ed Sullivan's
variety show, "Toast of the Town", and from there, it was, as Ralph Kramden
would say, "To The Moon!"
Gleason, married to Genevieve Halford (1936) and a father of two daughters
was launched by Sullivan's show into the starring role of Chester Riley in
the series "The Life of Riley". Gleason starred in the show from 1949-50
while continuing his New York nightclub act. The series closed in 1950 with
Gleason's move to the DuMont network's "Calvacade of Stars", where he spent
two years as the series host and starred in sketches and musical numbers,
creating characters including Reggie Van Gleason III, Joe the Bartender, and
a big-mouthed, comic bus driver named Ralph Kramden.
In 1952 Gleason was lured to Sullivan's CBS network with his own self-titled
series, "The Jackie Gleason Show". The show's theme song, "Melancholy
Serenade" was one of Gleason's own compositions, though he never learned to
read a note of music. The variety show took the "Calvacade" format even
further as Gleason honed the characters that in 1955 spun off to a new
comedy series, "The Honeymooners". With Audrey Meadows and Art Carney as the
wife and best friend of bus driver Ralph Kramden, the series was an instant
hit- Gleason even guest starred on Lucille Ball's series in his role of
Ralph Kramden. Syndicated coast to coast, "The Honeymooners" greeted
audiences with the memorable strains of Gleason's "You're My Greatest Love"
and built a loyal following that extended beyond its 39 episodes. Gleason
called an end to the series when he felt the quality of the show's content
could not be maintained, and he bore such affection for his characters he
could not bear to see the series deteriorate.
Dropping "The Honeymooners" from his roster hardly left Gleason with idle
hands. Constantly following his creative and inventive muse, Gleason
designed his own home, a modern design still considered amazingly advanced
in its efficiency and rivaling the ecological designs of Frank Lloyd Wright.
In 1954 Gleason presented the idea of using the new boom in frozen foods to
market dinners for dieters, quick frozen meals packaged with complete
nutrition and calorie information. Gleason's return to Broadway in 1959 as
the star of "Take Me Along" earned him a Tony Award, and paved the way for
his return to film work. An imposing and talented pool player himself,
Gleason portrayed legendary pool hall shark Minnesota Fats in the 1961 film
"The Hustler", a role which earned him a nomination for an Academy Award.
Gleason and Minnesota Fats later engaged in televised pool matches which
showed Gleason as able to match the legend's game as well as his mannerisms.
Gleason's excesses in work and play frequently found him a victim of
exhaustion, but he rarely slowed down. Gleason hosted several more
television series during his career, including "Jackie Gleason and His
American Scene Magazine" and a 1966 reprise of "The Jackie Gleason Show",
which frequently featured Ralph Kramden sketches. Gleason's films (in all,
26) included "Don't Drink The Water", "How To Commit Marriage" and all three
"Smokey and the Bandit" films in which he portrayed Sheriff Buford T.
Justice opposite Burt Reynolds.
Gleason also wrote, directed and starred in the comedy "Gigot", for which he
composed the score. The "Gigot" music was released on Capitol Records as the
18th of 30 albums Gleason recorded for that label between 1953-1969. The
jazz-based instrumental collections featured compositions by Gleason as well
as his orchestrations of popular tunes and sold well right until he chose to
stop recording in 1970. During 1970, Gleason and his wife of 34 years,
Genevieve Halford split, and he soon after married Beverly McKittrick.
Moving ever onward, Gleason founded the 72-hole Jackie Gleason Inverray
Classic golf tournament near his home in Florida.
Through the 1980s Gleason starred in such box-office hits as "The Toy" with
comedian Richard Pryor, "The Sting II" and hosted "The Honeymooners Lost
Episodes". By the mid 1980s, Gleason was married to a 3rd wife, Marilyn
Taylor, and had seen his grandson, Jason Patric, embark upon his own acting
career. Gleason's own career and his life, however, were drawing to a close.
Afflicted with liver and colon cancer, "The Great One" co-starred with young
funny man Tom Hanks in the 1986 release "Nothing In Common", the bittersweet
comedy focusing on a father and son ending their estrangement in the face of
the parents divorce and the father's terminal illness.
On June 24th, 1987, four months after his 71st birthday, Jackie Gleason
surrendered his battle with cancer, leaving behind a volume of works as big
as the man who created it. Interred in St. Mary's Cemetery near Fort
Lauderdale, Florida, Herbert John Gleason's monument is a tasteful, scale
reproduction of a four columned Roman temple or gazebo, which visitors may
enter by ascending four stone steps. The markers are a pair of carved stone
Roman couches bearing the names of Jackie Gleason and his wife, Marilyn, and
the final step is inscribed with a simple phrase familiar to his many fans:
"And Away We Go."
|GLEASON: Jackie Gleason--d.24/6/1987>USA by "Peter_McCrae" <>|