Name at birth: Herbert John Gleason
Jackie Gleason was a big, bluff comedian of the 1950s and 1960s. One of TV's early stars, he specialized in blustering loudmouths, blue-collar philosophers and thin-mustache cocktail-hour types. His show The Honeymooners, in which he played the scheming bus driver Ralph Kramden, ran only from 1955-56 but achieved cult status in endless reruns. (Shorter Honeymooners sketches were a regular part of Gleason's variety shows throughout the 1950s and 1960s, but the 39 full half-hour episodes seen in reruns come from the 1955-56 season.) Gleason also hosted several television variety shows and played dramatic roles, most notably starring as pool hustler Minnesota Fats opposite Paul Newman in The Hustler (1961).
Gleason was a successful composer and conductor of jazz-inflected mood music, recording over a dozen albums during his career? Gleason?s character in The Honeymooners often is cited as the inspiration for Fred Flintstone.
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