Tag Archives: Jackie Gleason

Fifty Years of Fred Flintstone

Always love a little alliteration.

When I was a wee lad, I took The Flintstones at face value, just another entertaining and colorful cartoon with great characters, fun sight gags and lots of puns. It wasn’t until later that I realized the hit cartoon was based upon The Honeymooners, the landmark sitcom from the mind of Jackie Gleason.

Creators William Hanna and Joseph Barbera publicly disagreed about the influence, although the similarities are too numerous for it to have been accidental. Pompous man with sane but dominant wife, goofball neighbor, blue-collar job, constantly scheming for something better and screwing up every time? Legend has it that Gleason wanted to sue but decided not to when told he’d be vilified as the guy who got the show pulled off the air.

The show ran for six seasons and was a hit for the first three years. Cartoons and animation have come a long way since the days when a chase scene passed the same tree and rock every second, but like any form of entertainment, without great writing it’s worthless. The Flintstones was usually corny, occasionally subversive, but it always had some great puns and tons of heart.

And damned if that theme song doesn’t sound great, even after fifty years.

Great cartoon. But avoid the live action films like the plague.

In the Flintstone world they would be mourning the passing of Stoney Curtis, but here in reality it is actor Tony Curtis who left us yesterday, unfortunately completing the trifecta with Greg Giraldo and Arthur Penn.

A bona fide movie star, Curtis was adept at both comedy and drama, and although the studios sought to capitalize on his handsome face in lighter fare, his dramatic roles probably left a bigger impression on me. Athletic and rugged, he was solid and believable in films like Trapeze, Spartacus and Houdini.

He was never better than his brilliant comic performance opposite Jack Lemmon in Some Like It Hot and his fawning, soulless hustler in Sweet Smell of Success (parrying with an equally brilliant Burt Lancaster).

After the 70s, his film career waned – there’s actually a film called Lobster Man From Mars on his resume – but he became an accomplished painter and writer. It is almost inconceivable to me that Curtis was 85 years old; then again, today also marks the fifty-fifth anniversary of James Dean’s death. I guess I always think of both of them as young and indestructable. Dean lived fast and died young, while Curtis was truly one of the very last of the old guard.

Time is a bitch.

Tomorrow, a TGIF tribute to Arthur Penn.

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T.G.I.F. – Ten More Anniversaries

 

It’s not that I wanted to repeat last week’s model of ten famous birthdays that fall on the same day, but damned if February 26th wasn’t a key date for a lot of entertainers and artists who made an impact upon me. Just more credence for the MDC Theory (Memorial Day Conceptions) I proposed last Friday. (I determined that my birth was the result of a St. Patrick’s Day party that got a little crazy.) 

And it’s not all birthdays either – February 26th is also the day we lost a couple of favorites, including one of the best and most influential comedians of all time. So here are ten anniversaries, in chronological order; celebrate their contributions today. 

Seven birthdays...

Tex Avery, 1908 – One of the top animators, voice actors and cartoon directors of all time. He could be a legend just for creating Daffy Duck but in fact was involved in hundreds of cartoons and characters for Walter Lantz studios and the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series, whose ribald humor I appreciate more as an adult than I did as a child. 

Jackie Gleason, 1916 – Maybe we just take some people for granted, especially when they make it look effortless. Gleason was a television pioneer; his eponymous variety show and The Honeymooners are seminal influences in the medium (the Honeymooners concept even spawning a more long-running animated version in The Flinstones). But his turns in The Hustler and Requiem For A Heavyweight show that he was no slouch as a dramatic actor either. 

Video: The Great One 

Fats Domino, 1928 – The congenial, portly piano player continues to inspire blues players and rockers alike with his trademark style. “Blueberry Hill”, “Ain’t That A Shame”, “I’m Walkin” – the list is endless. I’m ashamed to admit that it took me until the 80’s to realize that Fats was why Chubby Checker chose his stage name. We almost lost the legend in Hurricane Katrina but he’s 82 today. 

Godfrey Cambridge, 1933 – Cambridge was a very intelligent man; he earned a full scholarship to medical school but dropped out to pursue an entertainment career.  He was a staple on talk shows in the 60’s and 70’s with a smooth and smart style like fellow comic Bill Cosby (but talked about black and white issues with a more sarcastic edge). He died early; sadly his albums are out of print and he is known to many only for his acting in films such as Watermelon Man and Cotton Comes To Harlem

Johnny Cash, 1932 – Nothing much need be said about The Man In Black that you don’t already know, his recorded legacy is essential listening. But you might not have seen that the last album in the American series has just been released entitled Ain’t No Grave

Listen to sample clips from Ain’t No Grave 

Chuck Wepner, 1939 – The Bayonne Bleeder. Watching Muhammad Ali fight in his prime was like watching Mike Tyson; odds were the challenger wasn’t going to last long. Wepner was given no chance by the pundits but took everything Ali threw at him for fifteen rounds, even flattening the champ in the ninth round. This fight inspired Sylvester Stallone to create Rocky

Mitch Ryder, 1945 – I’ve certainly written plenty about my fondness for Mitch Ryder, and although the link shows you just how prolific he continues to be, it’s not the same as hearing the music. The newest album (misnamed on the AMG entry) is Detroit Ain’t Dead Yet, his first American release since 1983, and an autobiography is scheduled for release this Summer. 

...and three fond farewells.

We remember those lost on this day, including… 

Buddy Miles, 2008 – Most famous for his work with Jimi Hendrix in Band of Gypsys and his hit “Them Changes”, Miles was also a player with Wilson Pickett, a member of The Electric Flag, and leader of his own group The Buddy Miles Express, featuring a hot-shot guitarist named Jim McCarty

Video: Buddy Miles 

Lawrence Tierney, 2002 – Quintessential tough guy for whom it was no act; his real-life boozing and brawling cost him an A-list career. Quentin Tarantino, for all his quirks, has a knack for putting an actor past his prime in a plum role and Tierney will forever be remembered for his turn in Reservoir Dogs as the curmudgeonly caper mastermind Joe Cabot

Bill Hicks, 1994 – I’ve expounded upon Bill Hicks at great length; he’s one of the most important comics in the history of the art form. Although his death at 33 meant an abrupt end to his career, he left us an incredible body of work and continues to inspire comedians to hold a mirror up to society and tell the truth

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T.G.I.F. – Ten More Impressions

 

Matt Damon as  Matthew McConaughey.

A contestant on Next Big Thing nailing  Al Pacino.

Joe Alaskey as Jackie Gleason, Art Carney, Don Knotts, Alfred Hitchcock, Walter Brennan and Peter Lorre.

Barry Mitchell does Woody Allen.

Another mystery guy channeling  Christopher Walken, Joe Pesci, Robert De Niro and Jack Nicholson.

Jim Carrey as David Caruso in CSI Miami.

Dre Parker doing Dave Chappelle, Bernie Mac and Damon Wayans.

Another anonymous YouTuber imitating Gilbert Gottfried.

Ray Ray in a skit as Regis Philbin and Owen Wilson.

Rob Magnotti as Ray Romano, Brad Garrett, Michael Richards, Bill Cosby, Dudley Moore, Paulie Walnuts, Nicolas Cage, Al Pacino and John Travolta.

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