The Honeymooners

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. 16) 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.

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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 times to receive a promotion at the bus depot.

He even attempted to work a second job as janitor of his building! Despite facing all of these challenges, Ralph continued to fail. He never received a promotion at work. He was fired from his second job as janitor. After all the failures that audiences witnessed when it came to Ralph and his ‘get rich quick schemes, you always thought the next attempt might be the one. Although Ralph never had much, he was a very sweet and generous man. There were several episodes where he gave to different charities. He was always willing to help others out, even though he wasn’t a rich man.

His willingness to help others is an example of a Benevolent Community. This refers to the goodness of people and their willingness to help out the other guy. When Ed lost his job, Ralph offered him money, fed him and his wife Trixie every night, and even offered to move them in. (nevermind the fact that Ralph was the reason Ed lost his job) Interestingly, his failed schemes and losses to various oppositions, goes directly against the cultural pattern we call ‘The Wisdom of the Rustic. ’ This states that no matter how devious the opposition, the simple common sense wisdom of the backwoods hero or heroine wins out.

Ralph Kramden never ‘won out. ’ His schemes always failed. He never defeated the opposition. There were episodes where Ralph faced devious opponents, and he himself, (the hero) always lost in the end. It is possible that Ralphs constant get rich schemes could have somehow made him a part of the devious society. Looking at it that way would negate him being the hero, and make some sense as to why he never succeeded. Another reason that Ralph may have never succeeded could be the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy. This simply states that we believe what others say about ourselves.

Ralph often referred to himself as a ‘loser,’ and a ‘failure. ’ In episode 26 entitled ‘Young Man With A Horn,’ Ed brought him an application for a new higher paying job and Ralph said: “What’s the sense in trying? ” Ed Norton Ed Norton was Ralphs best friend. He lived happily upstairs with his wife Trixie. Ed worked in the sewer. Although he had a fun loving personality, one could tell that he was somewhat ashamed of what he did for a living. In episode 27 entitled: ‘Head of the House,’ during an interview with a reporter, Ed said he was: “An engineer, in subterranean sanitation.

An interesting character, Ed had a vivid imagination. He would talk about his favorite television character, ‘Captain Video,’ as if he were a real person. This is a form of reification. Reification is defined as a process where you take a sign or symbol that has no grounding in society, and make it real. Ed practiced this often. In episode 14 entitled: ‘The Man From Space,’ Ed rented a costume of his favorite person, Pierre Franscois De La Brioski. He claimed that Brioski designed and built the sewers of Paris. One of the things that made this character funny to audiences was his kinesics, or bodily movements.

He was always dancing, jumping around, or making some sort of funny movements. Physical comedy was a big thing during this particular time period, and Art Carney,(the actor who played Ed Norton) was considered one of the best of his time. “Art Carney, as upstairs neighbor Ed Norton, provides Gleason with the perfect foil. Sewer worker Norton possessed the patience of the dull, which the manic, irritable, hyperactive Ralph simply could not bear. Another supreme Gleason moment is his slow burn as Norton takes impossible seconds to remove gloves, shuffle cards, or limber his fingers to play the piano. (Demographic Vistas, p. 114) The talented Art Carney actually originated the role of Felix Unger, opposite Walter Matthau in the original Broadway production of “The Odd Couple. ” Also, it helped that neither Ed or Ralph had Logos, or Logic. They would get into situations and do things that would boggle the mind of a rational thinking person. What made Edward Lily-White Norton such an interesting character was that he was better off than Ralph. He made the same money Ralph did, and yet he had a television set, a vacuum cleaner, even an electric stove. (Episode 1, T. V Or Not T.

V) Despite doing a better job with the money he made than Ralph did, Ed had no common sense. He once told Ralph that to prepare for his job in the sewer he practices in the bathtub. Ed Norton is also a member of the Benevolent Community. Although he constantly teases Ralph about his weight, his love for his best friend is unconditional. Ed’s always loaning Ralph money, and going in on his ‘get rich schemes’ with him. The Honeymooners wasn’t just Gleasons creation, it was a reflection of many facets of his life. Gleason grew up in Brooklyn, with very little money, just like Ralph Kramden.

He grew up at 528 Chauncey Street, while Ralph Kramden grew up at 328 Chauncey Street. “The compelling pathos of Ralph Kramden, Gleason’s greatest mask, derives in large part from the painful spectacle of a Jackie Gleason rendered impotent by a lack of money. ”(Demographic Vistas, p. 102) With that being said, The Honeymooners was a lot more than just a show, it was a large percentage of Gleasons life. He lost his mother when he was nineteen years old. Ralph Kramdens Mom made one appearance on the show, and other than that was never mentioned. Gleason’s father left one morning to go to work and never came home when he was a boy.

Ironically, Ralph Kramden’s father was never mentioned on the show. Ralph spent most episodes trying to strike it rich and get out of Brooklyn. Jackie Gleason spent most of his young adult years hosting local shows and doing whatever he could to get out of Brooklyn. Strangely, while Jackie Gleason is what one could term, a ‘Triumphant Individual,’ his character Ralph Kramden was never able to succeed in his mission to escape Brooklyn. A triumphant individual is defined as the individual who works hard and manages to achieve all of his goals as a direct result of that hard work.

Gleason epitomizes this, as he went from making twenty dollars a week hosting shows in Brooklyn, to making a hundred thousand dollars an episode for “The Honeymooners. ” “Ralph Kramden wasn’t the mask that Jackie Gleason wore, Gleason was the mask that Ralph Kramden wore. ” (The Honeymooners Companion, p. 16) Composition refers to non-verbal communication. During the show, Ralph, a serious hothead would always get angry. The two main targets of his anger were Alice and Ed. Although he was always yelling, he also had a knack for expressing himself by simply changing his facial expression, or affect display.

Whenever Alice would talk about his weight, his would look at her with a mean face, and stare at her for several seconds without saying a word. Association is defined as “Linking someone to a brand or label. ” Ralph was the treasurer of the Fraternal Order of Raccoons, a lodge group in which he was also the chairman of the dance committee. He and Ed never missed a Friday night meeting. They were also members of a bowling team, “The Hurricanes. ” Ralph was a master of omission, which is defined as purposely leaving out information that could damage your character.

In episode 16 entitled: “Oh My Aching Back, Ralph went out and bowled in his teams championship game even though he had a company physical the next morning. He told Alice he wasn’t going, after she found out his plans. He never told her he went, although she eventually found out when his friends dropped his trophy off. They had a great plan. Trixie was out of town, so Ralph could come upstairs and spend the night with Ed, where he could use a heating pad all night. The problem was, Ralph needed a reason to go upstairs for the night. He created a diversion.

A diversion gets the attention off of you by sending false information out. Ralph had Ed pretend to walk in his sleep, causing him to have to go upstairs all night and keep an eye on him. The terms discussed, composition, association, omission, and diversion are all part of “Ranks Model. ” “The basic premise of the model stresses that people will either intensify or downplay certain aspects of their own product, candidate, or ideology, or those of their receivers. The persuader will do this in one of four methods:” (www. uky. edu) Those four methods are: * Intensifying your own good points Intensifying your opponents weak points * Downplaying your own weak points * Downplaying your oppositions good points A direct example of this could be taken from episode 14 entitled: “The Man From Space. ” There was a fifty dollar prize to be awarded to the winner with the most original costume. While the judges were making their decision, Ralph came up and bad-mouthed all of the other participants. He pointed out that everyone had the same costumes as they did last year. He then reminded the judges of his original costume, and did a 360 degree turn for them.

Although this show only made it one season on CBS, Gleason was determined to keep it going. After they were cancelled, he brought “Honeymooners” sketches back on “The Jackie Gleason Show. ” Art Carney left in 1957, but returned in 1962. The shows production studio moved from New York to Miami, and unfortunately, Audrey Meadows and Joyce Randolph weren’t interested in moving. They were replaced by actresses Sue Ann Langdon, and Patricia Wilson. Gleason was determined to keep the show afloat, and tried several different ideas.

Almost like his character Ralph Kramden, Gleason had many wild ideas on keeping audiences interested in the show. By 1966, “The Honeymooners were in color. Instead of ordinary shows, they were elaborate musicals. They chronicled the adventures of the Kramdens and Nortons as they traveled across Europe. Supposedly, Ralph won a contest that awarded them all with the trip. This was a direct contrast to the Ralph Kramden audiences were accustomed to. Ralph never won anything. These “musicals” received horrible reviews. “The Color Honeymooners” as they’re referred to are hardly ever seen.

Many consider them a black eye on the franchise. Why did Gleason do it? It could’ve been just another gimmick to get people to watch, or it could’ve been the culmination of his accomplishments. Jackie Gleason has made it out of Brooklyn, why shouldn’t Ralph Kramden? It’s possible that since he obviously identifies with his character a great deal he felt the need to give him something. Maybe Ralph Kramden didn’t need to lose every time. Maybe he finally deserved a win. “Gleason was like a lot of guys in the business at that time. He didn’t know when to call it quits. (Honeymooners Trivia, page 41) The Jackie Gleason Show was canceled in 1970, but Gleason didn’t want to end “The Honeymooners. ” He didn’t have a choice. In 1976 ABC aired four hour long episodes. These were the last of the originals. Surprisingly, Audrey Meadows returned for the final four episodes. “The Honeymooners have done more for television than most people know. William Hanna admitted that he based his hit cartoon “The Flintstones” on “The Honeymooners. If you’ve ever seen the show, Fred Flintstone is definitely similar to Ralph Kramden. He yells all the time.

He bowls, belongs to a lodge, and is best friends with his neighbor. This is what is termed a “Rhetorical Persona. ” Rhetorical persona is defined as someone in the present who mirrors someone from the past. Fulfilling a need for personality types. Getting your audience to think of you as a haloed predecessor. Fred Flintstone is tailored after Ralph Kramden in almost every way. Why did William Hanna do that? Because of the success of “The Honeymooners. ” Fred Flinstone went on to become one of the most popular cartoon characters of all time. Even today, shows like “The King of Queens” are based on “The Honeymooners. You’ll never see an improved phenom like the original again, as they rarely rehearsed. Gleason didn’t believe in rehearsing. He used kinesics if he forgot a line. He would simply rub his belly. As television has moved on we continue to see shows based on “The Honeymooners” and it characters. Due to its success and popularity even to this day, we probably always will. Bibliography David, Marc. , foreword by Horace Newcomb. Demographic Vistas, Television In American Culture. Pages 116, 114, 102, McCrohan, Donna. The Honeymooners Companion, The Kramdens and Nortons Revisited. Pages 16-24 Phillips, Mark.

Honeymooners Trivia. Pages 41, 96, 97, 99,105 Bacon, James. “How Sweet It Is. ” (The Jackie Gleason Story) Pages 20-25 Crescenti, Peter. Columbe Bob. “The Official Honeymooners Treasury” Pages 31-39 The University Of Kentucky official website. www. uky. edu Episodes of “The Honeymooners” referenced: * Episode 26 – Young Man With A Horn * Episode 27 – Head Of The House * Episode 14 – The Man From Space * Episode 1 – T. V. Or Not T. V. * Episode 16 – Oh My Aching Back * Episode 14 – The Man From Space The Honeymooners Quashon Davis Persuasive Communication