Wrap Shot: The Honeymooners (1955-’56)

"One of these days Alice...pow, right in the kisser!" Surly blue-collar Everyman Ralph Kramden often blurted this famous threat at his wife after she had chastised him for bumbling into to yet another no-account scheme of his own making.

Interestingly, The Honeymooners had a mere one-season run (1955-’56) as a show of its own. The program actually began as a sketch — first as part of Du Mont's Cavalcade of Stars, and then in star Jackie Gleason's own eponymous one-hour series. A decade after its original run, the brief series resurfaced, this time as a segment of another Gleason variety show which ran for five years.

This photograph appeared in AC's October 1955 issue as an illustration for the article "Gleason Goes 'Live on Film'." True to form, Gleason and Art Carney (in his role as Kramden's stalwart buddy Ed Norton) yuk it up at New York City's Adelphi Theater before 1,200 audience members. Twice weekly, the actors would record their antics for broadcast, accompanied by their onscreen wives (played by Audrey Meadows and Joyce Randolph, respectively).

The Honeymooners marked the first time that a prominent television program was photographed with the Du Mont Electronicam TV/film system. Here, camera operators man three of the Electronicam "pickup units," each of which consisted of a TV camera and a Mitchell 35mm film camera. Mounted together side by side, the twin cameras allowed for simultaneous electronic and emulsion capture. The video material was transmitted live to a control room where the director selected edits and camera angles, much in the same manner employed today on three-camera newscasts.

The director's video editing choices were later fed into kinescope equipment to create a "teletranscription" — a blueprint of how the program appeared during broadcast. The teletranscription was then synchronized to the 35mm film reels that were sent off for editing. The archival film versions of each episode — shot on Kodak's Tri-X stock — were later used for delayed broadcasts and reruns. The Electronicam TV/film system thus permitted the actors to perform with the spontaneity of a live taping while preserving the performance forever on high-quality celluloid.


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