We gave it a B-
You’ll have to be a hard-core Honeymooners fan to extract much mirth from The Honeymooners Really Lost Debut Episodes. Quite aside from the annoyances of the title-Why isn’t there an apostrophe after Honeymooners, and how can more than one episode constitute a debut?-these 1951 kinescopes offer Jackie Gleason’s greatest creation in embryo form. First airing as part of Cavalcade of Stars on the DuMont network, these sketches are more interesting than funny. Here, Pert Kelton plays Alice Kramden, and although a skilled film comedian, she has none of Audrey Meadows’ rude spunk, the quality that made her a more satisfying match with Gleason’s Ralph.
In these crudely written presentations, the actors frequently wring laughs from the studio audience by repeating their banal lines with different emphases: ”Now I’m gonna show you how much I like bread,” roars Gleason; ”I’m gonna show you how much I like bread!” It’s as if they had anticipated David Mamet plays by a quarter of a century. Here, Art Carney’s Ed Norton is more of a glowering hood than the genial dope he became; his wobbly accent is liable to remind you of Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver. But Gleason is great: He already had a clear vision of the pompous, pathetic boob he wanted Ralph to be, and it was just a matter of time before he whipped the rest of The Honeymooners into classic shape. B-