Contents of Issue#2 [Welcome] [Features] [In Focus] [Reviews] [Info]
"Kissville": A Meditation on The Honeymooners
by Grant Tracey

Go to:
3 Choice


I don't ever remember seeing my parents kiss.

Yet throughout childhood, I saw TV couples always kissing: Rob and Laura, Mr. and Mrs. C, Ralph and Alice. My household was a violent one--parents yelling as a marriage fell apart. My father drank excessively while my mother tried to convert him into something he wasn't. I remember chipped plaster (from a radio hitting the wall), myself pouring Scotch down the drain because I'd seen enough, and all of us sitting around the table, tense laughter, as I got off a few good one liners at my father's expense.

Compared to my working class home, the people on television were happy, an electronic utopia. When we visited Dedo (Grandpa) for a Macedonian get together, which coincided with Christmases and whenever CBC covered an important hockey game (he owned a color television, we didn't), we all sat around eating zilnic while my Aunts, charmed by my father, said how much he looked like Jackie Gleason. I guess the Great One and my dad had the same big build, dark hair, and eyes full of an explosive sensitivity.

Carney and Gleason do the huckle-buck.

In the early 1970s, The Honeymooners were made available in my area of Toronto, courtesy of an independent station out of Buffalo, New York. And I watched and rewatched the "Classic 39" episodes every morning before going to school, trying to see connections between Gleason and Dad. School friends preferred the loose-limbed Art Carney as Ed Norton because of his infectious goofiness. Carney, in the "Golfer," mixes slapstick with grace. He steps forward, addresses the ball, "Hello ball," takes an imaginary swing and in the torquing follow through nearly catches his wayward hat with a stabbing right hand.

In "Young at Heart" Carney does the huckle-buck, a wonderful hip swivel and hop, as he teaches Gleason to dance, to be hep. His advice illustrates the centrality of his character: he's a great friend, unconditionally devoted to Ralph Kramden, like a puppy dog. Although at times Ralph and Norton might compete against one another ("The Deciding Vote," "Opportunity Knocks, But" and "The Man from Space"), Carney winds up being supportive and never malicious. Sure he gets off a lot of fat jokes, but in several story lines Carney reconciliates Ralph with Alice, Ralph with his boss and Ralph with his own conscience. Although I prefer Gleason's physical comedy--the bellowing voice mixed with bulging eyes, the humma-humma-humma stutter, and the hilarious beached-whale faint--my friends and my father still claim that Carney is the funniest.

page 1 of 2

Photo credits: Fox Video

Top Welcome Features In Focus Reviews Info