By John Larrabee and John V. Brennan


with commentary from other emails.

JL: 1.  THE ADOPTION  (Lost episodes) Weepy and saccharine, qualities I usually abhor, but somehow just right in the context of the Honeymooners. One of Gleason's all-time great performances.  Ignore the fact that the premise -- and some of the dialogue! -- are lifted from the Cary Grant-Irene Dunne sudser PENNY SERENADE.

JB: Excellent all around, one of the finest hours of television I've ever seen. Very interesting how, decades before the "Very Special Episode of FULL HOUSE" syndrome so prevalent today, Gleason and Co. tackled a very serious subject, and did it with great humor and tremendous acting, esp. from Gleason and Meadows. (Of course, the following week's episode was probably about Ralph getting his head stuck in the ice-box or something.) And the end, Ralph and Alice make a moral choice (whether it is correct or not is not going to be debated here), decide to give the baby back, and that's that. 

JL: 2.  BETTER LIVING THROUGH TV (Classic 39) My single favorite half-hour of TV comedy by anyone, anytime, anywhere, ever. And then some. The greatness of the last scene overshadows the fact that the Ralph-Alice confrontation is one of their best exchanges. Oooohhhh, it can core a apple!

3.  'TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS (39)  "Oh, I see. The mousetrap was just a clever ruse in case some dope was dumb enough to stick his hand under the icebox..."

4.  THE $99,000 ANSWER (39) "There ya are, loudmouth, now you woke up my wife!"

5.  GOOD BUY AUNT ETHEL (Lost) Ethel Owen, who usually played Alice's mother, here (almost) steals the show as Alice's aunt, the former sausage-stuffer. (I mean that in only the nicest way.)

JB: Oh, my favorite Gleason reaction ever in "Good Buy Aunt Ethel" (why the hell was it titled like that, with the word "Buy"? A typo from SHOWTIME, p'raps?). When Ethel tells him that Freddie lives at the YMCA so he AND Aunt Ethel will be living at the Kramden residence... need I describe it to you? So unlike the usual Ralph reactions ("Oh, the YMCA?" --- goes off into room, a second later comes out with bugged out eyes, screaming "THE YMCA?!?!?"). This time, just a tiny look of horror for about a nanosecond, then he just goes quickly into his room to pack his bags and move out himself.

JL: 5.  ALICE AND THE BLONDE (39) "Tubby!  That's a perfectly charming name!"
"Do YOU think so, Mrs. Weedemeyer?"

6.  HEAD OF THE HOUSE (39) "Either that's wine on the table or somebody was just stabbed upstairs!"

JB: My favorite Gleason moment from The Classic 39 is in HEAD OF THE HOUSE, when Joe Fensterblau is over for dinner, and Alice enters. Ralph is expecting the worst, but Alice covers for him. That look he gets on his face as he stares at Alice --- it is amazing. He's not Jackie Gleason playing Ralph --- he is Ralph right there, totally blown away by the goodness of the woman he still can't believe agreed to marry him.

A friend of mine used to say she couldn't stand the way Ralph always yelled at Alice. I tried so many times to convince her that the only reason he does that is because he has a major inferiority complex. He knows Alice is ten times the human being he is, and he loves her so much it hurts, but he can't just come out and say it all the time.

JL: 7.  A DOG'S LIFE (39) Years ago while in a restaurant with a few friends, the waitress came to our table for drink and appetizer orders.  "I'll have Kram-Mar's Delicious Mystery Appetizer", I said, to which the waitress replied, "With or without horsemeat?" I liked her immediately, but she was married.

8.  KRAMDEN VS. NORTON (Lost) In which Ralph and Ed wind up in small claims court, battling over ownership of a TV set, and Norton is shocked to learn Trixie's real name (Thelma).

9.  A MAN'S PRIDE (39) Gleason's face as he gets stuck with the dinner check..

10. UNCONVENTIONAL BEHAVIOR (39)  "Okay, Norton, I'm gonna give you one more boomph!"


Note: It only took two decades to reply, and not in an email - exclusively for this page. List in no particular order.

'TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS - The greatest Christmas episode of any show I've ever seen. This, GOING MY WAY and at least two versions of A CHRISTMAS CAROL are staples of my Christmas season.

THE ADOPTION - My thoughts are in a reply above.  A softly-murmured "wow".

BETTER LIVING THROUGH TV - You wanna know what great TV comedy is? The last five minutes of this episode. ("It does all of it.") The first twenty minutes are pure gold too.

LETTER TO THE BOSS - My favorite of the Lost Episodes. "Dear Mr. Marshall... you dirty bum!". There are two versions of this; both are outstanding.

GOOD BUY, AUNT ETHEL - the longer version. Incredibly funny from beginning to end with some of the best caustic exchanges of the entire run of the series. (Aunt Ethel and Ralph fighting for the bathroom:  Aunt Ethel: "Do you mind if I brush my teeth first?" Ralph: "Give 'em to me - I'll do 'em for ya!")

A DOG'S LIFE - My buddy and I frequently use "Gotta be DESTROYED!" as a random joke while watching TV.

TV OR NOT TV - The first episode of the "Classic 39" set the tone of the whole season. It's because of episodes like this that some others (a minor handful) are even a little disappointing.

THE GOLFER - It amazes me that no matter how many times I see it, Norton saying "Hello, ball!" is always funny.

THE MAN FROM SPACE - Funny through and through, and contains one of Gleason's greatest ad-libs when a piece of his Spaceman costume falls off: "Let me have that - that's my denaturizer!"

CHRISTMAS PARTY - Too many Classic 39s to choose from, so I thought I would add this Lost Episode instead. While Ralph is out at the deli, Alice, Trixie and Ed are visitied by a parade of Gleason's other famous characters, such as Reginald van Gleason III, Joe the Bartender and The Poor Soul. Not one of the great episodes, but it reminds us of how many different characters Gleason actually created for his variety show, while today, only Ralph Kramden is remembered.



JB: So what are the code words again? Here are our choices:

1) "Get a load of Fatso over there"
2) "Hello there, Fatso"
3) "Get out of the way, Fatso"

Once simple line, and neither one of them could remember what it was.


JB: The only episode I'm slightly disappointed with (in the 39) is "The Safety Award".  Just never laughed too much at this.

JL: Not my least favorite, but a pretty mediocre entry to be sure. Although Ralph striking his poses for the magazine photographer is worth a yuk. My least favorites are "The Deciding Vote" and "Something Fishy".  

Do New York papers still have the cool headlines like "KILLS WIFE, COOKS HER LEGS" and stuff?

JB: They usually don't get that graphic, but I think they have those "MAN KILLS WIFE, SELF" and "1,000 LB. MAN REMOVED FROM APARTEMENT" headline plates handy at all times. Not to mention, "CITY'S SAFEST BUSDRIVER, WHILE ON WAY TO RECEIVING AWARD, HAS ACCIDENT".


JL: Here's tonight's trivia question: The actor who plays Mr. Manicotti in the Honeymooners episode "Mama Loves Mambo" ("My Angelina, she make-a like dis! and like dis!") is probably better known to both of us for playing what role in what film? And what's his name?

JB: I was kind of stunned to realize it was Louis Sorin (who played Roscoe W. Chandler in the Marx Brother's 1931 film ANIMAL CRACKERS) as Mr. Manicotti. And strangely enough, I actually had manicotti for dinner tonight.

JL: Yes, Louis Sorin, apparently reduced to fish-peddler status again by 1956. I ran across his name on a Honeymooners web site and made the connection. He was a good character actor from the two roles I know him from, but his list of credits on IMDB is very short. I'm guessing he did a lot of stage work, especially since the two things he's best known for were done in New York.

JB: You gotta salute a guy who worked with the Marx Brothers and Jackie Gleason and not only lived to tell about it but actually got in a couple of laughs.

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