By CBS Television - eBay, Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons

By CBS Television - eBay, Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons

10 Bang, Zoom Facts About The Honeymooners

By CBS Television - eBay, Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons

By CBS Television - eBay, Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons

The Honeymooners is not only widely considered to be the first official TV spin-off series, it also served as the inspiration for the many blue-collar sitcoms that have since become syndication staples, including All in the Family, Roseanne, and The King of Queens. The series occasionally comes under fire in retrospect by folks who objected to Ralph Kramden’s occasional threats to send his wife, Alice, “to the Moon!,” but Alice was a strong woman who was never intimidated by Ralph’s bluster. In fact, her tongue was far sharper than his, and she regularly cut him down to size in most of their arguments, which is why he always ended up confessing to her, “Baby, you’re the greatest.” And away we go …

1. IN THE BEGINNING, THERE WAS A DIFFERENT ALICE.

The Honeymooners began as a semi-regular sketch on Gleason’s 1951 variety series Cavalcade of Stars. Most of the same elements that appeared on the later CBS series were already in place, except that Gleason’s waistline was noticeably smaller and “Alice” was played by a different actress.

Veteran vaudevillian Pert Kelton originated the role and would have remained on board had her husband, Ralph Bell, not sponsored an ad in The Daily Worker in 1948. Bell was branded a Communist and his name was published in the Red Channels pamphlet that served as an unofficial blacklist for potential employers. Kelton was guilty of fascism by association so, despite Gleason’s protests, the network terminated her while telling the viewing public that she’d left for health reasons due to a heart condition. Audrey Meadows took over the role for the CBS series.

2. JACKIE GLEASON ORIGINALLY REJECTED AUDREY MEADOWS FOR BEING “TOO YOUNG AND TOO PRETTY.”

When Meadows arrived to audition for the role of Alice, Jackie Gleason immediately rejected her, reportedly stating that she was “too young and too pretty” to play his working-class wife. Meadows went home, removed her makeup, changed her hairstyle and donned a plain house dress. She hired a photographer to take some de-glamorized shots of her and messengered them to Gleason. “That’s Alice!” Gleason declared, without realizing that it was the same actress he’d rejected the previous day.

3. ONLY ONE OF THE SHOW’S STARS EARNED A LIFETIME OF RESIDUALS FROM THE SERIES.

Meadows had two brothers, both of whom were attorneys. When it came time for her to sign her Honeymooners contract in 1952, they accompanied her to the bargaining table and insisted that a clause be inserted regarding residuals for any episodes that were re-broadcast. The network agreed, never imagining that the show would become every UHF station’s late-night filler fodder and that they would still be sending the actress checks 40 years later.

4. ART CARNEY’S DAD WAS THE INSPIRATION FOR MANY OF ED NORTON’S MANNERISMS.

Art Carney’s Ed Norton was famous for exasperating “Ralphie boy” with the elaborate gestures and flourishes he performed before the most mundane of tasks, whether it was signing a letter or playing the piano. Carney was simply imitating his father, who couldn’t perform the simplest of tasks—like signing his son’s report card—without going through a litany of routines, like adjusting the desk lamp just so, aligning the paper, moving other items on the desk, flexing his arms, and double-checking his pen. As much as Norton’s rituals exasperating Ralph, they delighted the audience, which prompted Gleason to encourage Carney to exaggerate and prolong his obsessive-compulsive motions.

5. NORTON’S SIGNATURE HAT BELONGED TO CARNEY.

The felt porkpie hat that Ed Norton wore was from Carney’s own wardrobe. He purchased the chapeau in 1935 when he was still in high school. It was the first hat he ever bought and cost him a whopping $5. In a 1985 interview with People magazine, Carney said that he still had the hat stashed in the closet of his home in Westbrook, Connecticut.

6. THE KRAMDENS’ APARTMENT WAS INTENTIONALLY DEPRESSING. 

By CBS Television - eBay itemphoto frontphoto back, Public Domain

Gleason designed the sparsely furnished Kramden apartment set to resemble the Chauncey Street tenement he grew up in in Bedford–Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. Theoretically the Kramdens could have outfitted their flat with a few luxuries like the Nortons did, since Ralph and Ed made the same $62 per week salary (approximately $549 in today’s dollars). But Ed bought a lot of his furnishings on credit, which Ralph was dead set against.

Meadows received sacks of mail every week from concerned viewers containing decorative aprons, curtains, and knick-knacks so that she could spruce up her dreary living quarters.

7. THERE WERE NO DRESS REHEARSALS.

Gleason didn’t believe in rehearsals, mainly because he preferred his performance to be fresh and spontaneous, and partially because he preferred to spend his afternoons relaxing with friends at Toots Shor’s famous Manhattan watering hole. He usually did one run-through per script, with a minimal amount of crew on hand since he also wanted the cameramen and stage hands to hear and react to the jokes for the first time on filming nights.

Meadows, Carney, and Joyce Randolph preferred to go into each performance more prepared, so they would rehearse on their own with someone else reading Ralph’s lines. Gleason would occasionally forget some dialogue and would signal his distress by patting his stomach. That was a signal his co-stars (usually Carney) to ad lib enough to allow Gleason to regain his composure and continue on with the scene. Meadows also used body language—side-long glances, a jutting elbow from a hand on her hip—to discretely guide Gleason to his onstage “mark” when necessary.

The Great One also didn’t believe in retakes, so most bloopers were left in and papered over, like when the Handy Housewife Helper fell apart while Ralph and Norton were preparing for their infomercial in “Better Living through Television.”

8. THE SERIES HAD SOME A-LIST FANS.

Cary Grant, the very definition of a dashing and debonair Hollywood leading man, made a point of approaching Meadows on the Paramount lot one afternoon during The Honeymooners’s summer hiatus. As she recalled in her 1994 autobiography, Love, Alice, Meadows was flattered to have one of filmdom’s biggest stars so anxious to meet her and was just slightly crestfallen moments later to find out it was because he was a Honeymooners fan and wanted her to talk to Jackie Gleason about allowing him do a guest spot.

“I could be Ed Norton’s assistant in the sewer,” he suggested. Meadows couldn’t picture the dapper Grant wallowing in muck and replied, “But those sewer workers are exposed to all those rats and all that filth!” No worries, Grant assured her: “I’ve worked in Hollywood for years. I’ve seen worse filth and worked with bigger rats.” (Meadows would later co-star with Grant in That Touch of Mink, which was the beginning of a lifelong friendship between the two.)

9. JACKIE GLEASON BRIEFLY CONSIDERED SUING THE FLINTSTONES.

There’s no denying that Hanna-Barbera’s The Flintstones was heavily “influenced” by The Honeymooners: the primetime cartoon series focused on two couples who were neighbors, the main character was heavy-set and his nasal-voiced wife could be counted on to deflate his dreams of getting rich quick. Fred Flintstone and best friend/next door neighbor Barney Rubble were both members of the same lodge and bowling team, à la Ralph and Ed. Gleason noticed the similarities between the two shows and very briefly considered suing Hanna-Barbera, but decided against any legal action when his publicist asked him, “Do you want to go down in history as The Man Who Killed Fred Flintstone?”

While The Flintstones simply hinted at The Honeymooners, Warner Bros. was more blatant with their cartoon tribute. Their 1956 animated short was not only entitled The Honey-Mousers, but its main characters were named Ralph Krumden and Ned Morton. Somehow, Gleason got wind of the project after it was completed but before it was released to theaters and insisted on taking a look at it.

Director Robert McKimson dutifully sent him a print and shortly thereafter was told by Gleason (who, according to staff who’d been there for the viewing, had laughed himself silly throughout the episode) to “go ahead and make as many of ‘em as you want.”

10. GLEASON CALLED IT QUITS AFTER JUST ONE SEASON.

For several months after it premiered, The Honeymooners was second only to I Love Lucy in popularity and Gleason was dubbed the “king of Saturday night television.” But in the fall of 1955, rival network NBC moved its popular variety series The Perry Como Show to the 8 p.m. time slot on Saturday nights, and The Honeymooners started losing momentum. By September 1956, the show had dropped down to number 19 in the Nielsen ratings, and CBS was considering cancellation. Gleason, however, pulled the plug himself after 39 episodes, stating that the writers had exhausted all the possible plots for a half-hour sitcom and he wanted to go out on a high note, before the writing suffered.

The Honeymooners would return once again as a recurring skit on The Jackie Gleason Show (1966-1970), whenever Carney was available. According to Gleason, Carney was “90 percent” responsible for the success of The Honeymooners.

Additional Sources:
Art Carney: A Biography, by Michael Seth Starr
Love, Alice: My Life as a Honeymooner, by Audrey Meadows
The Official Honeymooners Treasury, by Peter Crescenti and Bob Columbe

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Twentieth Century Fox
Big Is Coming Back to Theaters for Its 30th Anniversary
Twentieth Century Fox
Twentieth Century Fox

Break out your giant piano: Big is coming back to theaters! As Entertainment Weekly reports, the hit Tom Hanks-starring comedy will be making its triumphant return to the big screen to celebrate the film’s 30th anniversary, courtesy of Turner Classic Movies and 20th Century Fox.

Though the movie itself was released on June 3, 1988, these special anniversary screenings will take place next month. More than 700 theaters across the country will welcome Big back into cinemas on July 15 and July 18, with 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. screenings on both days.

Though the role of Josh Baskin—a teenager who magically gets his wish to be a grown-up, with both hilarious and dramatic complications—seemed tailor-made for Hanks and his talents, the production wasn’t all smooth sailing. Originally, Steven Spielberg (whose sister co-wrote the script with Gary Ross) was attached to direct, with Harrison Ford in the lead. When Penny Marshall came on board, Hanks was her first choice, but he passed on the part (as did Kevin Costner, Warren Beatty, Albert Brooks, and a string of other in-demand actors). Robert De Niro was attached for a time, but that eventually fell apart, too.

Fortunately, the project came full circle and Hanks was eventually convinced to come aboard. He earned his first of five (and counting) Best Actor Oscar nominations for the role.

Visit the Fathom Events website to find out if Big is coming (back) to a theater near you

[h/t: Entertainment Weekly]

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Columbia Pictures
10 Fun Facts About Can’t Hardly Wait
Columbia Pictures
Columbia Pictures

When the teen film Can’t Hardly Wait—which was named after the Replacements song of the same name—arrived in theaters on June 12, 1998, it grossed $25,605,015 on a $10 million budget. In the 20 years since, the movie has found an even larger audience through DVD and cable. The premise follows Preston Meyers (Empire Records’s Ethan Embry) trying to connect with his dream girl, Amanda Beckett (Jennifer Love Hewitt), all the while seeking advice from his best friend, Denise Fleming (a pre-Six Feet Under Lauren Ambrose).

Originally called The Party, most of the movie takes place during a rambunctious graduation party, featuring a before-they-were-famous cast, and Jenna Elfman as a stripper dressed as an angel. The movie culminates with Preston and Amanda sealing their romance and living happily ever after. Written and directed by Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan, the two would later team up for Josie and the Pussycats. Here are 10 fun-filled facts about the ’90s teen comedy.

1. THE PLOT WAS BASED ON LOGISTICS.

Can't Hardly Wait was Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan’s directorial debut, so they liked the idea of having a self-contained and low-budget story to direct. “It was all practical,” Elfont told TIME. “The idea of doing a movie set at a party came first, because it seemed like it would be really cheap to shoot a movie in one location. Then we thought, what hasn’t been done? Nobody’s really done a high-school movie in a while. So we kind of fell into it that way. It was kind of an accident.”

2. SEVERAL SCENES IN THE FILM WERE CHANGED TO AVOID AN R RATING.

A year before the raunchy American Pie was released and jumpstarted R-rated teen films, Can’t Hardly Wait got watered down to get a PG-13 rating. Sony had issues with the underage drinking, and the fact there was no parental supervision at the party. “Well, who would have a high school party and have your parents there?!” Hewitt asked the Los Angeles Times. Seth Green, who played the virginal Kenny Fisher in the movie, gave a rundown of deleted or altered scenes, to Vulture.

“When [Jennifer] Love [Hewitt] first walks into the party, there’s a kid behind her holding a balloon and covering his mouth,” he said. “That used to be a beer bong, but the most expensive CG in the movie was [used] to make it [look] like that kid was smiling and holding a balloon. And then, there’s a scene where Charlie [Korsmo] and Peter [Facinelli] are at the piano. They toast, and then they cut to a wide shot where neither of them are drinking and then cut back to a close-up of them putting their glasses down because you can’t show the kids drinking.”

3. ETHAN EMBRY FORCED HIS WAY INTO PLAYING THE LEAD.

“It had been a while that I had the opportunity to play the ‘guy that gets the girl,’” Embry told VH1. “I had done those roles when I was a lot younger and this was the first time that someone would see me as a lead.” After Embry auditioned for the movie, he got offered the William Lichter part, which eventually went to Charlie Korsmo. But Embry turned the supporting part down. “I wanted to play the guy who gets the girl. That was sort of the driving thing.”

4. MELISSA JOAN HART AND JENNIFER LOVE HEWITT GOT “HIGH” ON B12 VITAMINS.

Hart purposefully chose the small role of the manic Yearbook Girl, as she was working full-time on Sabrina the Teenage Witch and couldn’t fit in a bigger part. While filming a night scene with Hewitt, Hart took B12 vitamins to stay energized, and offered them to a skeptical Hewitt, who thought the vitamins were drugs. “I finally convinced her it’s a vitamin, you can do it,” Hart told TV Guide. “So we took B12 vitamins, and then there was an owl in the tree. [Hewitt] was like, ‘See I’m high now, because there’s not really an owl in the tree.’ We were having these silly night giggles and just attributing it to B12 vitamins.”

5. JASON SEGEL HAD A CAMEO.

The actor was a year away from starring on Freaks and Geeks and seven from How I Met Your Mother when he signed on to play Watermelon Guy. Kaplan and Elfont recognized his talent immediately. “We knew how funny Jason was but there wasn’t a bigger part for him, so we were, like, let’s cast him as this watermelon guy,” Elfont told TIME.

Many other actors either got their start in the movie or became more famous as a result, including Lauren Ambrose and Freddy Rodriguez (both from Six Feet Under), Clea DuVall, Selma Blair, and Sean Patrick Thomas. “Everyone in that age range came in to read because there were no other jobs,” Kaplan told TIME. “That whole crop of people who turned out to be so talented and do so well for themselves afterward were in our movie literally, I think, because there was nothing else for them to do.”

6. EMBRY DOESN’T REMEMBER MUCH ABOUT THE SHOOT.

Embry admitted to VH1 to being “the world’s biggest stoner” while making the film. “Nothing sticks out because I was so stoned the entire time,” he said. He also confessed, “I haven’t seen the movie all the way through ... I never read the script.”

One thing he did remember, though, was the only scene he filmed with Hewitt, at the end of the movie. Before their characters kissed at the train station, Hewitt—knowing he smoked—had a basket of breath mints sent to Embry’s trailer. “And there was a basket of breath mints, you know? Like real pretty,” he said. “Like almost you give somebody flowers or a fruit basket but she gave me 50 breath mints. And it’s all different types. It was all very sweet. And that always makes me laugh thinking of that. Aww, Jennifer wanted me to smell good.” Embry took advantage of the gift and popped some breath mints into his mouth before filming. “They were rather nice cottonmouth alleviators,” he said during a Reddit AMA.

7. EMBRY DOESN’T KNOW—OR CARE—WHAT HIS CHARACTER'S LETTER SAID.

Early on at the party, Amanda finds and reads Preston’s letter and spends the rest of the film trying to find him. It must’ve been a powerful letter, because it finally brings them together at the end. “It was a prop! It was an envelope,” he told VH1. “I think I remember the directors asking me if I knew what was in there. It was a prop. It doesn’t matter. Like I know what’s in there? It’s called acting.”

8. THE CAST WOULD LOVE TO DO A SEQUEL.

In 2015, some of the cast reunited at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery for a screening of the film. Hewitt tweeted: “Can’t Hardly Wait reunion movie anyone? Let’s get them to make it!” In a 2013 interview with VH1, Embry was tepid about a sequel. “Maybe if they paid me more than last time,” he said about a second one. “[He and Amanda] would have to not be together anymore. Amanda and him had a horrible breakup and there were kids involved. He drinks himself silly over a typewriter. I’d make that sequel.” But in a 2015 interview with The Huffington Post, Embry changed his tune. “Of course I would be thrilled to work with any of the players involved again,” he said. “If all the stars aligned, I would be happy to entertain that possibility.”

Peter Facinelli, who played Amanda’s ex-boyfriend Mike Dexter, told IFC his thoughts on a sequel. “You know how the whole movie takes place at the high school party? We could have the whole movie take place at the reunion. I thought it’d be a fun movie.”

9. PETER FACINELLI THINKS MIKE DEXTER TURNED INTO A LOSER.

If a sequel did occur, Facinelli has an idea about what happened to Mike. “Now he’s basically the loser,” he told IFC. “The nerd was the loser in the first movie. Now he’s like the loser and then he kind of climbs back and gets back on his horse. And the nerdy kid is now the Bill Gates who is kind of like the Mike Dexter, bossing everyone around. I think [Dexter’s] just literally a loser. He’s filled with self-doubt and he would basically rise to self-confidence again and come back on top.”

10. EMBRY THINKS PRESTON AND AMANDA ENDED UP WITH WEIRD JOBS.

VH1 asked Embry where he thinks the characters would be today, and he said: “She’s j*rking off dudes in Vancouver, and he’s making horror movies in upstate New York.”

Elfont took a more serious approach to the question, for TIME. “[The on-screen text at the end of the movie] says they’re still together,” Elfont said. “Who am I to argue?”

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