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The Honeymooners: 1955

The Honeymooners: 1955

April 1955. "Art Carney, Jackie Gleason, Audrey Meadows, and Joyce Randolph performing skit on television sound stage for The Honeymooners." Color transparency from unpublished photos by Arthur Rothstein and Douglas Jones for the Look magazine assignment "Gleason's Pal Carney." View full size.


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Camera operators

…haven't worn suits for a couple of decades. I've been behind the camera and in the booth for 40+ years at local TV stations and I only wore a suit once. A tux, actually. It was a live broadcast of that season's opening night of the local symphony orchestra. We had to set up and tear down in our usual jeans and t-shirts. But we changed into formal wear for when we'd be in view of the patrons.

Yes, there are still occasions when we have to dress up. Awards shows and the like. But in our own studio and on location for sports and reality shows and other production, it's strictly casual.

Color to B&W...

I sent a link to this posting to some friends who work/worked in television. Here is an interesting reply that I received back from one of them...

I do remember working in a b&w studio at a TV Station in the Midwest. We in the production crew had to be very conscious of what colors would work for b&w. We had to be aware of the gray scale. It wasn't just used on a board for charting cameras. We also had to know how a set or clothing would read on camera. It was very confusing when our station converted to color. We wanted to go crazy and use vivid colors on everything, but we couldn't do that because many people still did not have color TV sets. It was kind of a neat time period to go through.

Homina homina homina

I've laughed at All in the Family, I've laughed at Seinfeld and I've laughed at The Office. They all pale in comparison to The Honeymooners. Call me a blabbermouth, but I'm certain it's the funniest sitcom of all time.

To the moon Alice

Well, I snorted when I saw this, maybe it's just me.

TV cameras

A long web page with more than you ever wanted to know about early Image Orthicon TV cameras of the forties and fifties is here.

They even have a shot of Jackie Gleason, possibly on the same stage.

Bang Zoom

I love this show and this is one of my favorite Shorpy posts too for all the right reasons: A very cool photo showing us something we probably never saw before, and insightful commentary from the community.

I never knew about the way color translated to black and white and would never would have guessed the pale, chalky walls on TV were such a deep, rich tone of blue, or that the color even mattered in the production anyway. Thanks!

A note to Audrey Meadows, wherever she is

Baby, you're the greatest.

[Have you checked the moon? -tterrace]


Actually, Ms. Randolph is not the only remaining Trixie. Elaine Stritch was the original Trixie Norton and she is still with us.

The Honeymooners 1955 show credits "the Dumont Electronicam T-V Film System" which made me question the CBS camera in this photo. tterrace's comment explains it. The Dumont system captured live action for later broadcast; this scene is an actual live broadcast.

Is the kinescope available online somewhere?

[The Dumont Electronicam’s 35mm film camera component is the reason the "classic 39" Honeymooners episodes look so good in comparison to the kinescopes of the live shows. The latter are collected in the "60th Anniversary Lost Episodes 1951-1957" DVD set, from which I made the frame grab in my comment below. -tterrace]


Vintage microphone buffs, that looks to be an Altec 638/639, of which more info here:

My hat's off to sound-boom operators, then and now. Somehow, they keep the mic out of the cameras' "sight," while staying close to the source and constantly adjusting the mic's orientation for best pickup.

That said, it's a delight to see this color image, and I'm grateful for the reminder about how color values would/wouldn't register in B&W broadcasts.

The Golden Four

These are the quartet everyone remembers. In fact, over the years there were three other Alices (everyone forgets Sue Ane Langdon) and two other Trixies.
Of the four pictured here, only Joyce Randolph remains.

The Honeymooners skit

This is from the live CBS broadcast of The Jackie Gleason Show on April 9, 1955. The 38-minute Honeymooners skit was titled "One Big Happy Family." Ralph and Ed decide rent an apartment for both families in order to pool expenses. This set was used just for this broadcast. Here's what this scene looked like in a kinescope recording made for broadcast in other time zones.

Another sign of the times

The gentleman behind the camera appears to be wearing a suit (or at least a sports coat). I'm thinking that the modern TV studio has a much more relaxed dress code for the crew. Or maybe that's the director framing a shot, but I'll bet directors don't dress up like this these days, either.

[That's a cameraman, one of at least three covering this segment. This photograph was taken during a live broadcast; the director is calling the shots in a booth somewhere off-stage. -tterrace]

Blue room

Experiments going back to the 1930s tried to nail down what colors looked good to the B&W cameras, and what colors gave weird results.

Several generations of pickup tubes had trouble with red, which washed out and appeared almost white. White, meanwhile, caused glare. Even gray shades were not reliable at first - they might look lighter or darker than they did to the eye.

The blue-green family gave B&W cameras the least trouble, so it's not surprising blue takes up most of the set - as well as Art Carney's t-shirt.

Where are they?

I wonder where they are in this scene. Certainly not the look of either Ralph or Norton's apartments.

[You are perhaps confusing the Honeymooners sitcom (1955-56) with the sketch (shown here) that was part of The Jackie Gleason Show. UPDATE: You are right, it is actually a combined Kramden-Norton apartment. Scroll up to tterrace's comment. - Dave]

Saturday Night

Would not have been complete without my "The Honeymooners" fix! It came between "The Lawrence Welk Show" and "Gunsmoke". I spent virtually every Saturday night between 1955 and 1961 at my paternal grandfathter's (1867-1961) and we'd watch it on his metal Firestone TV and he loved it too. I don't know if it was broadcast in color on the early color sets, but of course his was black and white. Somehow black and white fit the grittiness of their little apartment better than color would have. I can still watch these shows on YouTube and laugh 'till I cry. The humor is timeless and understandable in any era, even 57 years later. We also enjoyed the one hour "Jackie Gleason Show" with the June Taylor Dancers and Jackie's character Joe the Bartender with "Crazy Guggenheim".

[None of the Gleason shows from the 1950s were broadcast in color. -tterrace]

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