Copyright ©2011 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

GUY RAZ, Host:

And I'm Guy Raz.

TV: The Lost Episodes."

BOB MONDELLO: Thirty-nine "Honeymooners" half-hours played in syndication for decades, but before it was a sitcom, "The Honeymooners" was a sketch. And this collection goes back to the very beginning, October 5, 1951, on a variety show called "Cavalcade of Stars."

(SOUNDBITE OF SHOW, "CAVALCADE OF STARS")

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: This evening, Jackie Gleason introduces two brand new characters, Ralph and Alice Kramden. As the curtain opens, we find Alice preparing dinner for Ralph, who is due home from a hard day driving a bus.

MONDELLO: Their rundown New York tenement looks just like it would later, but Alice doesn't. She's played not by Audrey Meadows, but by Pert Kelton, who lost the part after just a few sketches when her husband was blacklisted.

(SOUNDBITE OF SHOW, "THE HONEYMOONERS")

PERT KELTON: (as Alice Kramden) (Singing) They say I'm much too young to learn.

MONDELLO: Kelton's tougher, raspier Alice does serious battle with Gleason's Ralph, hurling stuff out the window that hits actor Art Carney on the head, only he's not playing sewer rat Ed Norton yet, just a passing policeman.

(SOUNDBITE OF SHOW, "THE HONEYMOONERS")

ART CARNEY: (as Policeman) Don't let it happen again. Sheesh.

MONDELLO: If the characters aren't always familiar early on, the plots often are, shorter versions of what would later be half hour episodes and those catchphrases that both Alice and the audience knew were empty threats.

(SOUNDBITE OF SHOW, "THE HONEYMOONERS")

JACKIE GLEASON: (as Ralph Kramden) One of these days, Alice, one of these days. Pow. Right in the kisser.

MONDELLO: Gleason kept the original kinescopes in a private vault for decades and though some of these 100 or so lost episodes have been seen since, this 60th anniversary collection still has fresh treats, including the home video debut of eight musical "Honeymooners" when the Kramdens won a trip to Europe.

(SOUNDBITE OF SHOW, "THE HONEYMOONERS")

GLEASON: (as Ralph Kramden) (Singing) I'll visit all the suave cafes and have a round of drinks and while I'm there in Paris, I may stop to see the Sphinx.

AUDREY MEADOWS: (Singing) The Sphinx?

GLEASON: (Singing) The Sphinx.

MONDELLO: Other curiosities include a Jack Benny honeymooners' parody, scripts from missing episodes and some Cold War sarcasm when Ralph is mistaken for a Soviet commissar and asked to comment on the sad plight of the American worker. Who better than TV's proletarian to set that record straight? A proletarian who's blustery, but can always be tamed in the final scene by his wife.

I'm Bob Mondello.

(SOUNDBITE OF SHOW, "THE HONEYMOONERS")

GLEASON: I start screaming and ranting and raving and I don't even know why I'm yelling.

MEADOWS: You'd better hurry up, champ. We'll be late.

GLEASON: Baby, you're the greatest.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.