Watch an episode of “The Honeymooners” and see if you can pick out a cartoon that reflects Jackie Gleason and three other characters.
Ever wonder where Hanna-Barbera’s “The Flintstones” received its inspiration? Look no further than Gleason, Audrey Meadows, Art Carney, and Joyce Randolph. They played Ralph, Alice, Norton, and Trixie on “The Honeymooners.”
If you watch the way Fred Flintstone acts toward Wilma, then you could almost see Ralph Kramden, Gleason’s character, in there. Barney Rubble? Say “Hello, ball” to Ed Norton. Wilma? Yep, she’s Alice Kramden in cartoon form, right down to Meadows’ red hair. Does Betty Rubble get a hall pass on this? No. She’s the spitting image of Trixie Norton, Randolph’s character.
Take a look at Fred and Barney dealing with a television set issue in this clip from “The Flintstones.”
‘The Honeymooners’ Star Gleason Didn’t Sue Over Cartoon
Now, this would make many actors furious that their creativity was kind-of ripped off. Gleason was not always the most mild-mannered soul to be around. Yet when he thought about suing show creators Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera over “The Flintstones,” he couldn’t do it.
Why? Reportedly, Gleason felt that if he did, then the show would be taken off and kids couldn’t enjoy it. When “The Flintstones” first aired on prime-time television on ABC in the 1960s, Gleason was still holding court with his variety show over on CBS. He was one of CBS’s megastars right along with Lucille Ball.
But he simply chose not to sue Hanna-Barbera and “The Flintstones” continued to run on ABC. It morphed into other “Flintstones”-related spinoffs in the cartoon world.
Barbera Admits ‘The Flintstones’ Copied Classic TV Show
Barbera, though, admitted to copying “The Honeymooners” with a caveat tossed in there.
“So many people say, ‘Did you copy ‘The Honeymooners’?’ I said, ‘Well, if you compare ‘The Flintstones’ to ‘The Honeymooners,’ that’s the biggest compliment you can give me,” Barbera told Emmy TV Legends. “But ‘The Honeymooners’ don’t have all the gags that we had in there.” He mentions a Stoneway Piano and the Polarrock Camera among the gags.
Oddly enough, “The Honeymooners” did have an episode called “The $99,000 Answer” where a piano was in the Kramdens’ flat. Ralph was appearing on a 1950s music trivia-based game show and he needed to practice up on his knowledge.
Want to see how that all ended up? Take a look at Jackie Gleason, as Ralph Kramden, coming apart at the mention of
“Swanee River.” It’s the warm-up song Norton always plays before playing the piano throughout the episode. Here’s the second half of “The $99,000 Answer.”