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Prelude: Upon greeting both the studio and home audiences at his first regular program in three years, Mr. Gleason (apparently spontaneously) erupted with: "HOW SWEET IT IS!"; which became his tag-line.
FOR WHATEVER THE reason, our TV sets were minus "the Great One" for about three years. Having started his run with his own comedy/variety show on the old Dumont Television Network's CAVELCADE OF STARS, Jackie Gleason quickly moved his act to the Columbia Broadcasting System and a much more lucrative $ituation for the newly rechristened "THE JACKIE GLEASON SHOW."
HIS ABSENCE WOULD seem to be a puzzler for us to understand; but of course what seemed like an eternity to a child then (only 3 years), is a very short period of time to those of us former "boomers". Now of course, we are graybeards who are definitely "long in the tooth!"
THERE WAS EVEN some talk that Gleason and Art Carney had a falling out and parting of the ways. Although later developments would certainly seem to disprove this story, Jackie's return without his former comic foil appeared to support this in our minds then.
UPON THE INAUGRAL of this new series dubbed JACKIE GLEASON'S American SCENE MAGAZINE it was obvious that there was a definite attempt to make his new show more "hip" and even "relevant." There seemed to be a greater influx of guest starring singers, movie actors and comedians of both the veteran and green rookie varieties.
THERE WAS INCREASED inclusion of non continuity comic sketches. Ralph, Norton & the wives were nowhere to be found. Of the "old crowd" of characters, REGINALD VAN GLEASON, JOE THE BARTENDER and THE POOR SOUL fared the best. Instead, a large portion of the typical show featured short, musically accompanied, non verbal "blackouts" that most often had the old sight gag; which had been resurrected from the Days of the Silent Screen.
THE USE OF video taped sequences allowed a greater latitude in constructing and (now) editing a show. Many a sketch would begin with Gleason (as Joe the Bartender) reading from some article in the fictional American Scene Magazine. A favourite ploy was a reference to an advice column entitled "DEAR MISS BARE FACTS"; which would seem to be a sort of titillating double meaning.
IN MAKING UP for the absence of Art Carney (who was doing well on the legitimate stages of Broadway), Jackie Gleason brought in Frank Fontaine and practically turned over the JOE THE BARTENDER sketch to him. He also made good use of veteran comics such as Sid Fields and Stan Ross (he of the "I'm with you!" tag-line); as well as newcomers such as a very young Rip Taylor.
HE NEVER DID abandon such trademark elements as the gallery of beauties doing the informing at show's introduction and opening production numbers by the now famous JUNE TAYLOR DANCERS.
GLEASON'S GREAT LOVE for music was still much in evidence with the use of "Alley Cat" and some such similar instrumental in his short blackout sketches; as swell as some of his own original compositions. Although Jackie lacked formal musical training and reportedly could not read music, he did compose some instrumental pieces. Both "THE HONEYMOONERS THEME" and the show's long used opening with "MELANCHOLY SERENADE" were done by "Irisher" from Brooklyn.*
NOTE: * Jackie Gleason was in good company here; as others who had great successes with musical composition and selection were: Charlie Chaplin, Walt Disney and Ernie Kovacs.
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