On October 1, 1955 “The Honeymooners” began on the CBS network. Their run only lasted one season, and even though they were the number two show at one point, they could never overtake “The Perry Como Show.” Perry Como had a variety/music show that the country loved. Unfortunately for Gleason, no one could compete with Como’s show. “Como, an old friend of Gleasons who had shared nightclub stages with him at Jersey Shore resorts, was a huge success. Apparently, many viewers were unwilling to crossover from Como to Gleason at the midway point of the singers show.” (Demographic Vistas, p. 116) When their one year run ended, they had dropped from second to nineteenth. Interestingly enough, the show became a cult classic with their original thirty nine episodes still being aired to this day. What many people don’t know is that the Honeymooners began much earlier than this. The show began as a skit within “Dumont’s Cavalcade of Stars” back in 1951. The initial six minute sketch featured Art Carney as a police officer. Although the original was considered more serious in terms of Ralphs anger over his marriage and money situation, it quickly became the most popular sketch on the show. As its fame grew, The Honeymooners would have more and more skit time on the show until their big break on CBS in 1955. The show is centered around its four main characters; Ralph and Alice Kramden, and Ed and Trixie Norton. Ralph is a bus driver who struggles to make it through life with very little money. He constantly comes up with get rich quick schemes that always fail and leave him worst off than he was in the beginning of the episode. Alice, his wife, is always against these schemes, but as a housewife in that era would, she always gives in, knowing he’s going to fail. Ed Norton is a fun loving character that always gets caught up in Ralphs crazy schemes, and Trixie is Ed’s bossy wife, who seemed prudish. Originally, the role of Alice Kramden was played by actress Pert Kelton. She was older than Gleason, and not considered an attractive woman. When the show was moving to CBS, she was replaced by actress Audrey Meadows. The reason that was officially given was that Kelton was having heart problems. The actual reason however, was that her husband, Ralph Bell, was blacklisted, which inevitably meant, she was blacklisted. Blacklisted referred to actors, writers, even musicians who were believed to be in support of the communist party. Once you were on this list, you could not get work in Hollywood. The interesting thing is, many people made this list for no reason. You simply had to be suspected of being either a member or in support of the communist party to make the list. Ironically, in an episode that aired after the original run, Kelton returned to play Alice’s mother. In the original pilot of “The Honeymooners,” Trixie Norton was played by actress Elaine Stritch. The role was originally for a burlesque dancer who was also Ed Norton’s wife. After the pilot, the role of Trixie changed to a stay at home wife, and the sexy Stritch was replaced by Joyce Randolph. It’s rumored that Gleason hated Randolph, and although there were many revivals and reunions, she was never invited back after the original 39 episodes. Ralph Kramden
Ralph was the main character of the show. A bus driver born and raised in Brooklyn New York, his stubborn ways and money schemes kept him and his wife Alice constantly broke. Although he never managed to ‘hit it big’ financially, his character had a way of getting audiences to root for him. After all of his failed schemes, each episode would make you feel as if The Value of Challenge would spell victory finally. The Value of Challenge suggests that a kind of wisdom can be gained only through rigorous testing and suffering. Also, that some right of passage or initiation gives us power, character, and knowledge. Ralph faced many challenges: He tried to land a new job, he tried several...
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