Appellate Judge James A. Stewart wants one of those modern 1928 iceboxes in his next apartment.
Our reviews of The Color Honeymooners: Collection 1 (published June 27th, 2006), The Color Honeymooners: Collection 3 (published May 21st, 2008), The Color Honeymooners: Collection 4 (published August 20th, 2008), The Honeymooners (published December 8th, 2005), The Honeymooners: The Classic 39 Episodes (published November 25th, 2003), and The Honeymooners: The Lost Episodes (The Complete Restored Series 1951-1957) (published November 8th, 2011) are also available.
Ralph: If I make so many mistakes, Alice, why did you marry me in the first
The Honeymooners—as a musical? Not quite, but The Jackie Gleason Show put song-and-dance numbers into the lives of the Kramdens and the Nortons when it revived the characters for hour-long sketches. The Color Honeymooners: Collection 2 presents eight more of those tune-filled slices of Brooklyn life, starting with a 1966 Christmas episode. Could Honeymooners on Ice be far behind?
And awaaaay we gooooo…
Facts of the Case
The Color Honeymooners: Collection 2 features eight Jackie Gleason Show episodes centered around Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton, and their wives, on three discs:
• "King of the Castle"
• "Movies Are Better Than Ever"
• "Rififi, Brooklyn Style"
• "Flushing Ho"
• "Sees All—Knows All"
When a well-crafted line in a song (like Ed's "Once before I did everything you told me. Would you like to take a look at the scar?") hits the mark perfectly, it reminds me that Jackie Gleason and company put a lot of work into this Honeymooners reworking. They weren't just phoning it in. Some of it's strange—as when Ralph and Ed wind up at the police station, backed up by a barbershop quartet of rough characters—but a lot of it's inspired, and the music manages to fit the characters of the Kramdens and Nortons.
Fans of Jackie Gleason and The Honeymooners should get a kick out of the colorful, musical version. I'd recommend this volume over the first as a starting point. The plots are a bit more down to earth than in the first, which followed the Kramdens and Nortons on a multi-episode around-the-world cruise; that makes the music and opening dance numbers a little more surreal, but makes for more laughs with Ralph and Ed back in their element. This one also includes an appearance by Pert Kelton and a rousing chorus of the "Raccoon Lodge Song" (in "Ralph Kramden Presents") with some funny flourishes on the piano by Ed Norton.
How do the performers fare? Jackie Gleason's slow burns and Art Carney's non-sequiturs and rubber-limbed motions are as funny as ever. By 1966, the shift in emphasis from the Kramdens' arguments to Ralph's and Ed's misadventures was complete, but Sheila MacRae holds her own as an Alice Kramden who's always in control of the situation, even if Ralph thinks he's "King of the Castle." Jane Kean doesn't get too much to do as Trixie Norton, but there's a hilarious bit with her showing off at playing pool in "Movies Are Better Than Ever." Pert Kelton plays the typical clichéd mother-in-law, but she shows she can still keep up with Gleason.
Overall, the picture quality's good, but "King of the Castle" has a lot of bleeding and flaring with the color, and "Without Reservations" had some glitches in the video. Those appear to be problems with the source material. The sound's crisp enough to catch all those clever lines in the songs.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The drab milieu of The Honeymooners seems made for black-and-white TV, with its tiny apartment complete with 1928 icebox, the bickering Kramdens, and Ralph's constant schemes and dreams of a better life.
Think it's a little weird to see Pert Kelton, the original Alice, as Alice's mother? Yeah, it is, a little—but not as much as you think. Jackie Gleason was born in 1916, Pert Kelton was born in 1907 (although one source puts it at 1909), and Sheila MacRae was born in 1924. Kelton may not have been old enough to be MacRae's mother, but—unlike what the cynics among you were thinking—Gleason wasn't old enough to be MacRae's father.
"He's walked out of my life forever seventeen times," Alice Kramden says at one point after a fight with Ralph. She sits back and listens to Ralph bluster, laughing hilariously even as she predicts each line. You'll probably be able to predict each line yourself as you watch The Color Honeymooners: Collection 2. You'll laugh, though.
If Art Carney's face isn't the one you picture first when you hear the name Ed Norton, you aren't likely to be impressed, but this one-of-a-kind (hopefully) TV production has a lot of style. It probably won't impress you if you've never seen The Honeymooners, but fans of Jackie Gleason and his blustering bus driver should check it out.
How sweet it is. Not guilty.
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