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A scene from 'The Honeymooners' television comedy
A scene from ‘The Honeymooners’ television comedy | John Springer Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

The Honeymooners was made up of one of the greatest ensemble casts in television history: Jackie Gleason as bus driver and blowhard Ralph Kramden; Audrey Meadows as his long-suffering wife, Alice; and Art Carney and Joyce Randolph as their neighbors and best friends, the Nortons.

While each of the show’s stars deserves credit for their part in the show’s success, Gleason felt the lion’s share of the applause was due to one particular cast member.

Gleason didn’t create ‘The Honeymooners’ but he oversaw every aspect of it

Although Jackie Gleason didn’t create The Honeymooners, it was clear that the comedian and actor was the heart and soul of the show. He made every decision pertinent to the series and whatever he said was the bottom line.

His most important decision on the series, indisputably, was to end it after a single season. Even fans today marvel at the comedy’s staying power with just 39 episodes. As far as the star’s reasoning for ending it early, he didn’t want the show to overstay its welcome.

'The Honeymooners' cast during rehearsals
‘The Honeymooners’ cast during rehearsals | Leonard Mccombe/The LIFE Images Collection via Getty Images/Getty Images

“We were running out of ideas,” Gleason told Johnny Carson in 1996. “I liked The Honeymooners and I liked doing them, and I didn’t want to denigrate them by forcing scenes that didn’t mean anything.

“So I wanted to quit, but they didn’t believe me. They thought I had another job someplace, but I didn’t. I’m glad I did stop them, because what we had done was good and if we had gone any further, we might have spoiled it.”

‘The Honeymooners’ wouldn’t have been a hit without this person, Gleason said

Art Carney, left, and Jackie Gleason
Art Carney, left, and Jackie Gleason | John Springer Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Carney’s comedic gift was innate. As far as Gleason was concerned, Art Carney was the true star of The Honeymooners. He and Gleason were constantly referred to as the Laurel and Hardy of their generation.

While Carney wasn’t a trained actor, like many of his era, he earned experience on early television programs including The Dagmar Story, The Morey Amsterdam Show, The Victor Borge Show, and Studio One In Hollywood, all in the years leading up to the 1955 premiere of The Honeymooners.

Ultimately, all of that hard work paid off as evidenced by Carney’s Best Actor Oscar win for his role as Harry in the 1974 film Harry and Tonto.

Gleason told People in 1985 that he gave Carney “90 percent of the credit” for The Honeymooners’ success.

“He has exquisite timing—and the best body language in the world,” Gleason said.

Joyce Randolph on her television husband

Joyce Randolph, left, with Art Carney as Trixie and Ed Norton
Joyce Randolph, left, with Art Carney as Trixie and Ed Norton | John Springer Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

‘The Honeymooners’: Why Did the Show End After 1 Season?

Joyce Randolph, who portrayed Carney’s on-screen wife Trixie, agreed with Gleason’s assessment, as she told the Archive of American Television in 1999.

“He’s so fantastic, he can do anything,” Randolph said of her co-star who died in 2003. “He’s just naturally a funny man. He was the perfect foil for Jackie.

“I don’t think Mr. Gleason would have gotten as far as he did without Art Carney.”