The Honeymooners, continues to be celebrated for its humor, relatable characters and the genuine chemistry of its cast. For a show that takes up such a big place in television history, many people are surprised that it only ran from 1955 to 1956 on CBS. It was one of the first TV shows to portray blue-collar married couples in a realistic manner, who had relatable struggles, arguments and tender moments.
Created by and starring the great Jackie Gleason, the show followed the lives of Ralph Kramden (played by Gleason), a boisterous bus driver, and his best friend, Ed Norton (played by Art Carney), who both had jobs working in the local sewer system.
The show is set in a working-class neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York, and follows the humorous misadventures and domestic struggles of Ralph, his wife Alice (played by Audrey Meadows), and their friends, Ed and his wife Trixie (played by Joyce Randolph). Ralph was full of get-rich-quick schemes and big dreams, most of which fail hilariously, leading to laugh-out-loud situations.
After its initial run on CBS in the mid-1950s, The Honeymooners never really faded into obscurity. The show continued to enjoy a cult following through reruns and syndication, and it remains a staple of classic television.
In the 1970s, Gleason revived the characters of Ralph and Ed for a series of specials, which added a new chapter to the lives of the Kramdens and Nortons, continuing the comedic legacy of the characters.
Did you know? The 1955 show was not the first time The Honeymooners aired on television. In fact, it aired on the DuMont Network’s WABD channel (channel 5) in New York City from 1951 to 1952, and then was picked up by CBS and aired from October 1, 1955, to September 22, 1956. A musical version of The Honeymooners also premiered on Broadway in 2017. The stage adaptation introduced the beloved characters to a new generation of theater goers and showcased the enduring appeal of the show.
The Honeymooners cast
Here, we take a look back at the Honeymooners cast and reveal surprising facts about the beloved stars and the show.
Jackie Gleason as Ralph Kramden
At the heart of The Honeymooners is the iconic character of Ralph Kramden, portrayed by the larger-than-life Jackie Gleason. Gleason was already a respected comedian and actor before taking on the role, and his performance in The Honeymooners cemented his status as a comedy legend.
With his blustery demeanor, ever-present bus driver’s uniform, and frequent use of catchphrases like “To the moon, Alice,” Gleason brought Ralph Kramden to life in a way that made the character unforgettable.
Gleason’s portrayal of Ralph Kramden is not just memorable for its humor but also for its depth. He brought a certain vulnerability to the character, making Ralph endearing even when he was at his most bombastic. Gleason’s skill in combining humor and pathos created a well-rounded character who felt real and relatable to the audience.
Gleason had many accomplishments during his long and lustrous career. He won a Tony for his Broadway performance as Uncle Sid in Take Me Along (1959), he garnered an Oscar nomination for The Hustler (1961), he starred in the highly-rated The Jackie Gleason Show (1966-1970) and hosted and performed in over 30 television specials.
Sadly, Gleason passed away on June 24, 1987 from colon cancer.
Did you know? Jackie Gleason initially introduced the character of Ralph Kramden on the variety show Cavalcade of Stars in the early 1950s. The character was so popular that it led to the creation of The Honeymooners as a standalone show.
Art Carney as Ed Norton
Art Carney played the lovable and quirky Ed Norton, Ralph’s best friend and upstairs neighbor. Norton worked as a sewer worker and was known for his distinctive bowler hat and unique mannerisms. Carney’s portrayal of Ed was spot-on, and he brought a sense of innocence and charm to the character, making him an integral part of the show’s success. His friendship with Ralph Kramden was the beating heart of the show, and their interactions provided some of the series’ most memorable moments.
During his celebrated life, Carney appeared in a variety of films including 1957’s The Fabulous Irishman, 1960’s Call Me Back and in 1974 he won an Oscar for his role in Harry and Tonto. While he’s best known for his work on The Honeymooners, he also made guest appearances on several TV shows including Star Trek, The Defenders and All in the Family.
He was also no stranger to Broadway. Among his most notable roles, was the 1965 Neil Simon comedy The Odd Couple, where he played the role of the obsessively neat Felix Unger to Walter Matthau’s slovenly Oscar Madison.
Norton passed away in 2003 at the age of 85.
Did you know? Art Carney’s portrayal of Ed Norton won him an Emmy Award in 1954 for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Regular Series.
Audrey Meadows as Alice Kramden
Audrey Meadows portrayed Alice Kramden, Ralph’s no-nonsense, patient and quick-witted wife. Alice was known for her sharp comebacks and she had the ability to hold her own in verbal sparring matches with her husband. Her chemistry with Jackie Gleason was palpable, and their exchanges added depth and authenticity to the Kramden marriage.
Meadows’ portrayal of Alice was a significant departure from the typical portrayal of women in 1950s sitcoms and groundbreaking for the time. She presented a strong, independent female character who wasn’t afraid to challenge her husband when necessary and paved the way for more complex and empowered female characters on television.
Meadows was most famous for her role in the Honeymooners and only acted sporadically after that. Most notably, she starred as Ted Knight’s mother-in-law on the 1980’s sitcom Too Close for Comfort. In 1994 she wrote her memoir, Love, Alice: My Life as a Honeymooner as a tribute to her TV husband. Meadows passed away at the age of 71 in 1996.
Did you know? Fans may be surprised to learn that Meadows was the only cast member to receive residual payments for the show. Her shrewd manager predicted the prospect of a “rerun” in the early stages of television and she was one of the first actors to stipulate that if the show were to air in subsequent time slots in the future, she would be paid royalties. Today, it’s now a standard contract condition for all television work.
Also fascinating is that Audrey Meadows was not the original choice for the role of Alice. It was originally played by Pert Kelton when the character was introduced on Cavalcade of Stars. However, Kelton’s career was affected by the Hollywood blacklist during the Red Scare. This lead to her replacement by Audrey Meadows when the show became a series. Meadows brought a different energy to the character and made it her own. Ultimately she became an iconic part of the show’s legacy.
Joyce Randolph as Trixie Norton
Joyce Randolph played Trixie Norton, Ed’s wife and Alice’s best friend in The Honeymooners cast. Trixie worked as a dancer in a nightclub. Her character brought a sense of glamour and charm to the show.
Outside The Honeymooners, Randolph only appeared sporadically in other performances. She did have a role in the 1950’s Broadway show Ladies Night in a Turkish Bath. She also appeared in a few commercials and TV shows including the 1991 sitcom, Hi Honey, I’m Home!
Randolph is the only The Honeymooners cast member still alive. She’s currently 99.
Did you know? Joyce Randolph was a professional actress and dancer before landing the role of Trixie Norton.
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