Narrated by David Bushman, Television and Mass Media Curator for The Paley Center
The so-called “Classic 39” episodes of The Honeymooners aired on CBS from September 1955 to October 1956 and have become familiar to generations of viewers ever since thanks to the magic of reruns. The Honeymooners’ antecedents, sketches that aired on the Jackie Gleason-hosted Cavalcade of Stars on DuMont and later on The Jackie Gleason Show on CBS, were jarringly darker and starred Pert Kelton in the role of Ralph’s jove-like wife Alice until its move to CBS, when she was blacklisted and shunted aside for Audrey Meadows. The classics were filmed in front of an audience at the Adelphi Theater in Upper Manhattan. Gleason famously balked at rehearsals, saying he valued spontaneity, or perhaps he was just lazy. As a result, mistakes were made, and if you watch closely, you’ll spot the actors giving visual clues to each other to help them remember their lines.