Birthday: February 26, 1916
Died At Age: 71
Sun Sign: Pisces
Also Known As: John Herbert Gleason
Born in: Bushwick, Brooklyn, New York, U.S
Famous as: Comedian
Spouse/Ex-: Beverly McKittrick (1970–1975), Genevieve Halford (1936–1970), Marilyn Taylor (1975–1987)
father: Herbert Walton
children: Geraldine Gleason, Linda Miller
Died on: June 24, 1987
place of death: Lauderhill, Florida, United States
Cause of Death: Cancer
U.S. State: New Yorkers
epitaphs: And away we go!
education: John Adams High School, Bushwick High School
The famous American actor and comedian Jackie Gleason was known for his brazen comedy style. After the death of his mother, he moved to New York City and found his first professional gigs as a comedian. He was spotted by film studio executive Jack L. Warner, who signed him to a contract with Warner Bros. When Warner Bros chose not to renew his contract, he returned to New York from Hollywood, and made a name for himself as a Broadway performer, appearing in productions including, “Follow the Girls”. Taking advantage of the rising television media, he signed to star in, “The Life of Riley”, as the titular husband and father, bumbling his way through daily events. He began hosting and performing in his, “Cavalcade of Stars”, and later, “The Jackie Gleason Show”, on CBC. Among the skits regularly featured on the show was an ongoing routine focusing on bus driver Ralph Kramden, his wife Alice, and their neighbors Ed and Trixie Norton. This became an hour long sitcom called, “The Honeymooners”. He acted in several movies such as, “The Hustler”, “Smokey and the Bandit” and its two sequels, and “The Toy”. Apart from these, he shone in Broadway winning a Tony Award for “Take Me Along”. He also made his mark in the music industry with a series of best-selling “mood music”.
Childhood & Early Life
Gleason was born on February 26, 1916 in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn to Mae “Maisie”, a subway change-booth attendant, and Herbert Walton “Herb” Gleason, an insurance auditor. His only sibling, Clemence, died of meningitis at age 14.
He was raised by his mother after his father abandoned the family in 1925. He attended John Adams High School in Queens and Bushwick High School in Brooklyn, but did not graduate from either.
Continue Reading Below
You May Like
Career and Later Life
Gleason’s mother died in 1935, leaving him homeless and penniless. His friend, Sammy Birch, shared a city hotel room with him, and informed him of a one-week job in Reading, Pennsylvania.
The young comedian’s career picked up in 1938, when he won several bookings at Manhattan nightspots. This exposure brought a role in the Broadway musical, “Keep Off the Grass”.
In 1941, film mogul Jack Warner saw his act at the Club 18, liked the comedian’s loudmouthed, off-color performance, and signed him to a contract on the spot.
Though cast in minor roles films between 1941 and 1942, including “Navy Blues”, “Larceny, Inc.”, “All Through the Night”, “Springtime in the Rockies”, and “Orchestra Wives”, production banners were reluctant to renew his contract.
He appeared in the hit Broadway musical, “Follow the Girls”, in 1944, about a striptease queen who becomes the star attraction at a servicemen’s club, and gained some recognition.
In 1949, he played the blunt soft-hearted aircraft-worker Chester A. Riley for the first television version of the radio comedy, “The Life of Riley”, which received modest ratings, but was cancelled after one year.
He was hired to host DuMont’s “Cavalcade of Stars” variety hour in 1950. He framed the show with splashy dance numbers, developed sketch characters, and soon the CBS invited him to its network.
“The Jackie Gleason Show” became the second-highest-rated television show between 1954 and 1955 with dances, monologues and comic characters including Reginald Van Gleason III, Rudy the Repairman, Joe the Bartender and The Poor Soul.
He enjoyed a parallel music career. His first album, “Music for Lovers Only”, still holds the record for the album longest in the Billboard Top Ten Charts with 153 weeks.
Continue Reading Below
In 1962, he came back to television with “Jackie Gleason’s American Scene Magazine”. However its promised innovative satire never materialized, and he returned to his comedy-variety formula.
In 1966, the new hour-long episodes of “The Honeymooners” had little of the verve of the originals, but their nostalgic appeal to older viewers kept the show on the air for four years.
He played the role of the fictional character Sheriff Buford T. Justice, a determined, foul-mouthed Texas county sheriff, in the movie “Smokey and the Bandit” in 1977 and its sequels.
During the 1980s, he earned positive reviews playing opposite Laurence Olivier in the HBO dramatic two-man special, Mr. Halpern and Mr. Johnson, and essayed the wealthy businessman U.S. Bates in the comedy, “The Toy”.
“The Jackie Gleason Show” is the name of a series of popular American network television shows that starred Jackie Gleason, which ran from 1952 to 1970, in various forms.
Gleason’s most popular character was blustery bus driver, Ralph Kramden, in sitcom, “The Honeymooners” that centered on Ralph’s many get-rich-quick schemes becoming the No. 2 show in the United States in its first season.
In the 1961 classic “The Hustler”, he was nominated for the National Board of Review Award, Golden Globe Award and an Academy Award.
Awards & Achievements
Gleason’s role as Sid Davis won him a Tony Award for “Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical” in “Take Me Along”, based on Eugene O’Neill’s play, “Ah, Wilderness”, in 1960.
Gleason was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for his series “Jackie Gleason and His American Scene Magazine” in 1963. “The Jackie Gleason Show” was nominated thrice for Emmies in various categories.
Personal Life & Legacy
Gleason married Genevieve in 1936, and they had two daughters, Geraldine and Linda. He married two more times: to Beverly McKittrick, and then to Marilyn, June Taylor’s sister.
This American actor and comedian would only travel by train as he developed a fear of flying after his flight made an emergency landing.
This famous American comedian was a voracious reader of books on the paranormal parapsychology and UFOs.
The popular Hanna-Barbera character Fred Flintstone was based on him. He did not file a legal suit against Hanna-Barbera as he did not want to be known as “the man who killed Fred Flintstone”.