100 years ago today, Jackie Gleason, the comedian, actor, and musician whose style and characters grew out of his childhood in Brooklyn, New York, was born. He was known for his brash, physical comedy style, exemplified by his character Ralph Kramden in the beloved television series The Honeymooners. He was 8 when his father left the family and 19 when his mother died, but he soon was earning money in pool halls and on stage as an entertainer. WATCH… (1916)
His self-produced TV variety show, The Jackie Gleason Show, earned the second-highest ratings in America in 1954-1955. Among his notable film roles were Minnesota Fats in the Academy Award-winning 1961 drama The Hustler (co-starring with Paul Newman), and Buford T. Justice in the Smokey and the Bandit series.
He was an amateur musician who produced more than a dozen romantic best-selling “mood music” LPs. The band leader for several of them, Bobby Hackett, said, “Jackie knows a lot more about music than people give him credit for. I have seen him conduct a 60-piece orchestra and detect one discordant note in the brass section. He would immediately stop the music and locate the wrong note. It always amazed the professional musicians how a guy who technically did not know one note from another could do that. And he was never wrong.” Nearly all of Gleason’s albums are still available and have been re-released on compact disks.
Watch a tribute from ABC News following his death in 1987 at age 71…
MORE Good News on this Date:
- The Grand Canyon was proclaimed a National Park by the US Congress (1919)
- The Grand Teton National Park was created (1929)
- United Nations proclaimed the vernal equinox as Earth Day (1971)
- The Church of England voted for ordination of women priests (1987)
- Free Nicaraguan elections toppled the Sandinistas (1990)
- Tim Berners-Lee introduced the world’s first web browser (1991)
- Kuwait was liberated by 30 Gulf War Allied countries after 208 days of Iraqi occupation, as Saddam Hussein withdrew his troops (1991)
- The US lifted a 23-year ban on travel to Libya (2004)
- Egypt‘s President Mubarak ordered multi-candidate elections to be legal (2005)
Also on this day, National Public Radio was founded in the US as a non-profit network to produce news and cultural programming through public funding, private donations and underwriting. Today, 900 public radio stations serve high-quality shows including the flagship news programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered. (1970)