The Honeymooners — Ralph, Alice, Ed and Trixie — are one of television’s most beloved foursomes. Although The Honeymooners the sitcom only ran for one season from 1955-1956 (the “Classic 39” episodes), sketches featuring the characters date back to 1951 when they were part of DuMont’s Cavalcade of Stars. When Jackie Gleason jumped to CBS in 1952 with The Jackie Gleason Show, the Honeymooners came with him and sketches were broadcast from 1952 to 1955 and then again from 1956 to 1957. Plus, there were more sketches (many of which were remakes of earlier ones) broadcast during the 1960s in color.
Sketches from the 1952-1959 version of The Jackie Gleason Show (Art Carney left in 1957 and the Honeymooners sketches were dropped) were uncovered in 1984 by Ron Simon, curator for the Museum of Broadcasting (later renamed the Museum of Television & Radio and now the Paley Center for Media) and immediately — and understandably — dubbed “lost episodes” by the media. (Based on the terminology I’ve been using these would be missing, not lost).
Richard F. Shepard reported in The New York Times on August 4th, 1984 that The Museum of Broadcasting in New York City had begun screening four “rediscovered” episodes from Gleason’s 1954 variety series in its auditorium under the museum’s “Discovery” banner . A September 5th Associated Press article by Tom Jory explained that the episodes, each of which contained a roughly 40-minute Honeymooners sketch, were found in a CBS archive in New Jersey . A fifth episode of The Jackie Gleason Show with Robert Q. Lewis guest hosting, was also found.
Said Simon, “the characters seem a little rougher around the edges and the plots are more complicated than they would become in the half-hour show. They were done live, and they didn’t really have a specific amount of time to work with. So they could play around with the audience a bit” . The screenings were held through September 29th and reportedly drew huge crowds three times a day.
Following the recovery of these missing episodes, Jackie Gleason famously announced in early 1985 that he had dozens of other episodes of The Jackie Gleason Show (1952) as well as Cavalcade of Stars complete with Honeymooners sketches. These were cut into half-hour episodes titled “The Honeymooners: The Lost Episodes” and aired on Showtime, in syndication and were later released on VHS and DVD.
I haven’t been able to figure out which four episodes/sketches were presented by the Museum of Broadcasting in 1984 but presumably they’ve since been released on one of the various “lost episodes” collections. I also am not exactly sure which episodes of which shows were released by Gleason in 1985. This list of Honeymooners sketches compiled by Jim Davidson states that eight sketches originally broadcast between 1952 and 1954 are still missing. Additionally, four other sketches from 1954 to 1957 that were remakes of earlier sketches are also missing.
According to an article in the Fall 2005 edition of Television Quarterly written by none other than Ron Simon, the very first Honeymooners sketch, broadcast as part of Cavalcade of Stars on October 5th, 1951, was recovered from the estate of Snag Werris, actor and scriptwriter for Jackie Gleason who “supposedly had traded Gleason a bottle of booze” for the film . It’s actually quite surprising that the seven sketches from Cavalcade of Stars still exist.
If anyone has additional information about the status of Honeymooners sketches please post in the comments section or contact me directly.
2 Jory, Tom. “Rare ‘Honeymooners’ Episodes Pack Broadcasting Musuem.” Associated Press. 5 Sep. 1984: PM Cycle.
4 Simon, Ron. “Ralph Kramden and The Honeymooners Turn the Big 5 0 (Sort of).” Television Quarterly. Fall 2005: 60.