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Jackie Gleason


David Proulx
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After watching The Hustler and Requiem for a Heavyweight within a couple of days of each other, it occurred to me that Jackie Gleason never gets mentioned too much for his dramatic roles (except for his Minnesota Fats). Personally, as great as he was as a comedic actor, I think his dramatic acting chops are still better. Not being leading man material, lookswise, he was doomed for supporting roles, but am I the only one who can't take my eyes off him when he's on screen. I'm guessing who ever shared a scene with him had to bust their **** just to stay in it. I can only think of those two movies that I've seen him act in a dramatic role. Did he have very many? Any recommendations?

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2 hours ago, David Proulx said:

After watching The Hustler and Requiem for a Heavyweight within a couple of days of each other, it occurred to me that Jackie Gleason never gets mentioned too much for his dramatic roles (except for his Minnesota Fats). Personally, as great as he was as a comedic actor, I think his dramatic acting chops are still better. Not being leading man material, lookswise, he was doomed for supporting roles, but am I the only one who can't take my eyes off him when he's on screen. I'm guessing who ever shared a scene with him had to bust their **** just to stay in it. I can only think of those two movies that I've seen him act in a dramatic role. Did he have very many? Any recommendations?

Personally. I've Never Much Cared For His Delivery/Persona.  But to Each Their Own Upon that Perspective. He IS a Gentlemans Gentleman SWEETheart Though when he appears as mystery guest on WML. 🧸

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The character Gleason plays in GIGOT was basically the same character he played on his variety show in the 1950s:  The Poor Soul.  He was mute.  GIGOT is a variation on that character. 

NOTHING IN COMMON (1986) was Jackie Gleason's last movie.  He played Tom Hanks' aging and stubborn father.  Gleason died about a year after it was released.   

Gleason had a dramatic part in the 1983 made-for-cable presentation MR. HALPERN AND MR. JOHNSON.  He starred with Laurence Olivier.   It was shot on videotape.  Runs about 50 minutes.     

Jackie made 5 movies in the early 1960s:  THE HUSTLER, REQUIEM FOR A HEAVYWEIGHT, GIGOT, PAPA'S DELICATE CONDITION and SOLDIER IN THE RAIN.  Then in the late 1960s he made 4 more movies:  SKIDOO (1968), HOW TO COMMIT MARRIAGE (1969), DON'T DRINK THE WATER (1969) and HOW DO I LOVE THEE? (1970). 

It wasn't until 1976 that he appeared in another theatrical film:  MR. BILLION.  Then came SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT (1977).

THE TOY (1982) is best avoided, btw.  An unfortunate waste of a lot of talented performers. 

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4 hours ago, David Proulx said:

...but am I the only one who can't take my eyes off him when he's on screen. I'm guessing who ever shared a scene with him had to bust their **** just to stay in it.

 

4 hours ago, brianNH said:

I know I've seen them, but can't recall much about them:  "Papa's Delicate Condition" and "Soldier in the Rain"  

In the second movie you mentioned here Brian, I've always thought that Steve McQueen probably found himself doing exactly what David said above in his OP.

(...and because Gleason DOES pretty much steal any scene that he's in in that film...including any with the future "King of Cool" superstar)

 

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8 hours ago, sewhite2000 said:

He played Tom Hanks' father in a very late-career drama. I'm not remembering the name off the top of my head. It may have been his last film. Otherwise, I'm not thinking of many dramas.

Nothing in Common (1986) - I mostly remember Tom Hanks playing a son who tried to connect with his elderly father. Paraphrasing: "Why don't we go to a club and listen to some music. I remember you liked Jazz!"

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5 hours ago, Mr. Gorman said:

The character Gleason plays in GIGOT was basically the same character he played on his variety show in the 1950s:  The Poor Soul.  He was mute.  GIGOT is a variation on that character. 

NOTHING IN COMMON (1986) was Jackie Gleason's last movie.  He played Tom Hanks' aging and stubborn father.  Gleason died about a year after it was released.   

Gleason had a dramatic part in the 1983 made-for-cable presentation MR. HALPERN AND MR. JOHNSON.  He starred with Laurence Olivier.   It was shot on videotape.  Runs about 50 minutes.     

Jackie made 5 movies in the early 1960s:  THE HUSTLER, REQUIEM FOR A HEAVYWEIGHT, GIGOT, PAPA'S DELICATE CONDITION and SOLDIER IN THE RAIN.  Then in the late 1960s he made 4 more movies:  SKIDOO (1968), HOW TO COMMIT MARRIAGE (1969), DON'T DRINK THE WATER (1969) and HOW DO I LOVE THEE? (1970). 

It wasn't until 1976 that he appeared in another theatrical film:  MR. BILLION.  Then came SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT (1977).

THE TOY (1982) is best avoided, btw.  An unfortunate waste of a lot of talented performers. 

Gigot is one I will see. I'm looking for straight dramatic roles he's done, as opposed to comedy/dramedy. For my taste, I've found him at his best there, and it seems to a rare thing with him. Smokey, The Toy, Don't Drink, Mr Billion, etc, all have that comedic element that I'm trying not to see. I know comedy was his stock in trade, but I disagree that it was his forte. I have hopes that Mr Halpern & Mr Johnson is much more rooted in drama than the comedy it looks like it has.

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MR.  HALPERN AND MR. JOHNSON is not a comedy.  I've seen it. 

MR. BILLION is sort-of a comedy, except that Jackie Gleason does not have a comedy part.  He plays a crooked businessman. 

One movie that Jackie Gleason had a decent part in that seems to have vanished is THE DESERT HAWK (1950).  It was directed by the fella who later went on to work on "The Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson for years.  Fred de Cordoba was his name. 

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My folks used to watch him all the time on THE HONEYMOONERS. Having seen the show on DVD's now, he is hilarious.

I say Gleason was equally adapt at comedy and drama. My first introduction to him was THE HUSTLER, but he's also superb in REQUIEM  FOR A HEAVYWEIGHT.  NOTHING IN COMMON was the movie he was teamed with Tom Hanks as father and son, and he's great in that as well.

Of course he also tickles my funny bone with SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT. 

I have to agree with Mr. Gorman on THE TOY, however. It was a movie unworthy of Gleason's talents as well as Richard Pryor's.

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2 hours ago, Mr. Gorman said:

MR.  HALPERN AND MR. JOHNSON is not a comedy.  I've seen it. 

MR. BILLION is sort-of a comedy, except that Jackie Gleason does not have a comedy part.  He plays a crooked businessman. 

One movie that Jackie Gleason had a decent part in that seems to have vanished is THE DESERT HAWK (1950).  It was directed by the fella who later went on to work on "The Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson for years.  Fred de Cordoba was his name. 

Nice trivia! I did just now watch Nothing in Common. Very good flick. Someone mentioned in this thread (I thought, but can't find it) that this movie told him/her that Hanks was definitely going to be huge. Truer words never spoken. He was outstanding, showing every angle of his talents in it. I'll have to chase down a Mr Halpern and Mr Johnson copy, as my Amazon firestick showed no results on the search. I only got a good synopsis of it from IMDB. I'll check out The Desert Hawk as well.

Oh yeah, and The Toy was awful. I remember seeing it when it came out. The critics crushed it, as well.

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9 hours ago, Dargo said:

 

In the second movie you mentioned here Brian, I've always thought that Steve McQueen probably found himself doing exactly what David said above in his OP.

(...and because Gleason DOES pretty much steal any scene that he's in in that film...including any with the future "King of Cool" superstar)

 

Actually Darg.

Although I like most of the Gleason flicks mentioned so far, SOLDIER IN THE RAIN is my favorite movie of BOTH McQueen and Gleason.  B)

Sepiatone

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11 minutes ago, Sepiatone said:

Actually Darg.

Although I like most of the Gleason flicks mentioned so far, SOLDIER IN THE RAIN is my favorite movie of BOTH McQueen and Gleason.  B)

Sepiatone

Really? Of McQueen's TOO???

While I'll admit McQueen is fairly good in this one as Gleason's lackey, I've always thought him somewhat miscast in the role.

(...always seemed to me that someone like, say, Earl Holliman would've been better cast in that role)

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Nope.  McQueen was perfect for it.  And really, he wasn't Gleason's "lackey".  If that were the case, Slaughter wouldn't have interrupted his crossword night to get Eustis out of jail.  But true, there were times Slaughter did take advantage of Eustis' devotion to him, but essentially did know he was the best friend he ever had and would ever  have.  Even risking his life and health helping Eustis out in that fight with the two MPs.   I couldn't picture Holliman as eye catching to the ladies as McQueen was in that flick, or as tough enough to take on the two MPs as well as the character did too.

Although I long thought McQueen's PAPILLON performance was about his best,  SOLDIER is an even longer favorite and therefore gets that distinction.  ;) 

Sepiatone

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38 minutes ago, Sepiatone said:

Nope.  McQueen was perfect for it.  And really, he wasn't Gleason's "lackey".  If that were the case, Slaughter wouldn't have interrupted his crossword night to get Eustis out of jail.  But true, there were times Slaughter did take advantage of Eustis' devotion to him, but essentially did know he was the best friend he ever had and would ever  have.  Even risking his life and health helping Eustis out in that fight with the two MPs.   I couldn't picture Holliman as eye catching to the ladies as McQueen was in that flick, or as tough enough to take on the two MPs as well as the character did too.

Although I long thought McQueen's PAPILLON performance was about his best,  SOLDIER is an even longer favorite and therefore gets that distinction.  ;) 

Sepiatone

Now see, THIS here is something I'll never quite understand. The idea that Steve McQueen was somehow ever "eye candy".

Nope, and sure while I'll admit he had that "cool factor" thing workin' for him, I've never ever thought him as all that good looking or as "eye candy".

(...I DO know though that once SansFin sees what I just said here, SHE'LL probably disagree with me, as for some reason she's always had a thing for the guy...and btw, I never get tired of telling her that the REAL and ORIGINAL "King of Cool" was Robert Mitchum!)

LOL

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@David Proulx You’re not the only one - I can’t take my eyes off him either. 🤩 He’s so magnetic, yet so natural when he’s doing drama. It’s the exact opposite of his loud, brassy comedic style (which I don’t mean to disparage, as I find it very funny and brilliant in its own right - love The Honeymooners!).

His dramatic acting is the epitome of subtle. And so much happens when he’s not saying a word. You really have to watch his face. Part of the magic of his performance in Requiem for a Heavyweight is that his silent moments belie the falsely confident, bullying vibrato he speaks with. When he’s not talking, the walls come down a little, and you see how he really feels. 🤩 And  The Hustler is filled with so many fantastic actors giving outstanding performances - but all in a “showier” way. Gleason just strolls in, casually shoots his own pool, and packs as much dimension and emotion into his character very naturally - if you’re really watching. Maybe he made it look too easy. 

About Nothing in Common: I saw it for the first time when I was a teenager, and it moved me deeply. I don’t feel all the comedy quite lands, but the drama is very real, and it got to me. Like Tom Hanks’ character, I’m an only child - and if my parents hadn’t divorced when I was a teenager, I know that would be me. (And I may still be in a similar situation as they get older.) I’ve seen it multiple times since, but on that first viewing, I cried my eyes out. Partly because of the personal connection, but partly because of Gleason himself. I had no idea who he was - had never heard of The Honeymooners or anything else he’d done - but this made me love him, and he made me cry. To this day, I still have to be in just the right mood to watch it. Sometimes I start it, but can’t take it - again, because of the personal connection, but now also because I appreciate Gleason so much more and know this was his last film.

To @Mr. Gorman’s point about Mr. Halpern and Mr. Johnson, it’s not a comedy at all. In fact, it’s very much like a dramatic, one-act play. Very serious, very nuanced - a little slow, slightly odd. (As much as I appreciate these masters, I found myself thinking, “Why am I watching this?”) But what I thought was most interesting (and it didn’t occur to me until after it was over) is how against type they are - Gleason is a sophisticated, upperclass businessman, and Olivier plays a common man from the working class. One would think the more natural casting would be to reverse the two. It’s almost like they got together before filming and decided to swap for the fun and the challenge of it - just to show what pros they are. I actually wish they had turned around and did it all over again, each playing the other’s role. I really think they could have. 🤩 (PS - It may be on YouTube. That’s how I was fortunate enough to see it.) 

*Oooo - There’s a Westinghouse Studio episode called “The Laugh Maker” that stars Gleason and Art Carney in pre-Honeymooners dramatic roles!* 😃 Another YouTube treasure. It’s a little odd, too.

Also, I know you said you’re not interested dramedys, but check out this masterclass moment from Papa’s Delicate Condition. The movie’s basically light and sweet with a just little conflict, but he puts so much into this. It’s basically everything he does well combined into one scene - comedy, drama, music - a mini-showcase 🌟:

https://youtu.be/eYHh1IIIIIg

And for @Bethluvsfilms and any other Smokey and the Bandit fans, I adore this hilarious moment (Burt Reynold’s fantastic, side-splitting laugh makes it even better!): 

 

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Far be it from me to get in between Dargo and SansFin as they face off in a McQueen/Mitchum showdown.  But Mitchum always seemed to me not so much "cool" as opposed to just not giving a rat's you-know-what about anything.  He could be in movies, he could be working at a Dairy Queen, or he could be driving a bus in Topeka -- just didn't matter because whatever he was doing, he just gave you the same treatment.  McQueen, on the other hand -- in my book, at least -- was born to be in movies.  He had that presence that couldn't exist anywhere else but on film in ways in which his character knew the real score against anything life was going to throw at him.  Probably not explaining this all that well, and I apologize for that.

Not to derail the thread; to me, Gleason always had that mime character he used to do on his shows.  A guy always on the losing end of life, and which. -- I think -- reflected Gleason's own inner troubles.  When I was growing up I certainly didn't appreciate that dimension of his talent, so now it is something I can look at anew with some fresh -- albeit sextagenarian -- eyes!  Thanks for starting this thread.

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@Jillian_Atchley:  I believe Gleason and Olivier DID switch characters shortly before filming began.  That's what it says in the Gleason bio (the one written by the late William A. Henry III back in 1992/93).  It said Olivier couldn't make up his mind which character he wanted to play and so Gleason felt he could play either character as well.  And that's what happened. 

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1 hour ago, Mr. Gorman said:

@Jillian_Atchley:  I believe Gleason and Olivier DID switch characters shortly before filming began.  That's what it says in the Gleason bio (the one written by the late William A. Henry III back in 1992/93).  It said Olivier couldn't make up his mind which character he wanted to play and so Gleason felt he could play either character as well.  And that's what happened. 

@Mr. Gorman Really? 😃 Oh, wow - that’s awesome. 😄 Like I said, pros. 🤩 To be able to match talents with Olivier, of all people, and be like, “Sure. I can play whatever.”…Can you imagine? 🤩 Now I really can’t help but wonder what it would’ve been like had they gone the other way. What started me down that line was thinking back on the moments where Olivier’s character (I don’t remember which is Halpern and which is Johnson ☺️) gets all steamed and upset. I thought, “Oh, yeah. That was definitely meant for Gleason.” 😃

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20 hours ago, brianNH said:

 

Not to derail the thread; to me, Gleason always had that mime character he used to do on his shows.  A guy always on the losing end of life, and which. -- I think -- reflected Gleason's own inner troubles.  When I was growing up I certainly didn't appreciate that dimension of his talent, so now it is something I can look at anew with some fresh -- albeit sextagenarian -- eyes!  Thanks for starting this thread.

That character was THE POOR SOUL and I had difficulty locating a clip of Gleason doing the character.

Sepiatone

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I remember as a kid watching Gleason's variety show, on which he'd usually point out his musical director SAMMY SPEAR, who, as DOC SEVERINSEN years later would, was reputed for his garish suit jackets.  And of course, there was his drinking from that cup of "tea" ;)  which would induce a loud "WHA_A_A_A_A_A_A_H! from him . :D 

"Homminna-homminna-homminna-homminna! "   :D 

Sepiatone

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