June Taylor (Pointing)

Frank Fontaine


Show Type: Comedy/Variety

First Telecast: September 20, 1952

Last Telecast: September 12, 1970

Theme Music:  "Melancholy Serenade," by Jackie Gleason

Broadcast History:

September 1952 – June 1955, Saturday 8:00-9:00 on CBS

September 1956 – June 1957, Saturday 8:00-9:00 on CBS

October 1958 – January 1959, Friday 8:30-9:00 on CBS

September 1962 – May 1968, Saturday 7:30-8:30 on CBS

September 1968 – September 1970, Saturday 7:30-8:30 on CBS


Jackie Gleason

Art Carney (1952-1957 / 1966-1970)

Joyce Randolph (1952-1957)

Audrey Meadows (1952-1957)

Buddy Hackett (1958-1959)

Frank Fontaine (1962-1966)

Sue Ane Langdon (1962-1963)

Barbara Heller (1963-1965)

Horace McMahon (1963-1964)

Alice Ghostley (1962-1964)

Helen Curtis (1964-1966)

Sid Fields (1964-1966)

Phil Bruns (1964-1966)

George Jessel (1965-1966)

Sheila MacRae (1966-1970)

Jane Kean (1966-1970)

The June Taylor Dancers

The Glea-Girls (1956-1970)

Ray Bloch & His Orchestra (1952-1959)

Sammy Spear & His Orchestra (1962-1970)


Jack Lescoulie (1952-1959)

Johnny Olsen (1962-1970)


The lure of money brought The Jackie Gleason Show to CBS in the fall of 1952. The rotund comic had been starring in The Cavalcade of Stars on DuMont since the summer of 1950 and had developed into one of the few genuine successes on that money-poor network. When CBS offered him a staggering increase in weekly pay – reportedly $8,000 compared to the $1,600 that DuMont could afford – coupled with the funding to make his show a much more elaborate production, he could scarcely refuse.

Jackie's original CBS variety hour, done live from New York,  bore a strong similarity to his previous show on DuMont, albeit with a much larger budget. His second banana, Art Carney, made the move with him, as did the June Taylor Dancers and Ray (“the Flower of the Musical World”) Bloch’s Orchestra. Audrey Meadows and Joyce Randolph were added to the cast of regulars, primarily in “The Honeymooners” sketches, and most of the characters that Gleason had developed on DuMont were honed to perfection on CBS. Among them were, in addition to The Honeymooners Ralph Kramden, were The Poor Soul, Joe the Bartender, The Loudmouth, Reggie Van Gleason - III, Rudy the Repairman, and Fenwick Babbitt. "The Great One," as Jackie was called, opened each telecast with a monologue and then led into the first sketch with "And awa-a-aay we go," as he left the stage. His other catchphrase, used in reaction to almost anything at all was "How sweet it is!"

The original Jackie Gleason Show ran three seasons and was replaced, for the 1955-1956 season, with a half-hour situation comedy version of The Honeymooners. When the variety show returned the following fall, it was with the same basic cast and format, plus decorative additions in "Glea-Girls," 16 young models who did little else than look beautiful and introduce various sketches. There was no Gleason variety series during the 1957-1958 season, but Jackie was back in the fall of 1958 with a modified half-hour format. Gone were all the regular cast members from previous seasons and Buddy Hackett was added as Jackie’s second banana. The chemistry wasn’t there and after only three months on the air, this short version of The Jackie Gleason Show expired.

In the fall of 1962, following an abortive failure with a quiz show (You’re in the Picture) and the talk show (The Jackie Gleason Show) that replaced it in 1961, Jackie was back with a lavish full-scale variety show – The Jackie Gleason Show: The American Scene Magazine. His new second banana was Frank Fontaine (as Crazy Guggenheim in the Joe the Bartender sketches), who could sing quite well when not in character and released a number of moderately successful record albums during his tenure with Gleason. Not only were most of Jackie’s standard characters in evidence, but a new "Agnes & Arthur" sketch about two lovelorn tenement residents (with Alice Ghostley as Agnes) was added as a semi-regular feature. The beautiful “Glea Girls,” including Barbara Heller as “Christine Clam,” were still in evidence introducing the segments of each show, but there was a considerable turnover in the supporting cast. There were more topical satire in this show than in Jackie’s previous efforts, and more appearances by name guest stars. In keeping with the title, there were entire episodes that were done as musical comedies with book, lyrics, songs, dances, and sketches reflecting “the American scene.” At Jackie’s insistence, the entire production moved from New York to Miami Beach before the start of the 1964-1965 season, and remained in a Florida-based show throughout the remainder of its run. A feature added the following year was a nationwide talent hunt, in which George Jessel traveled around the country auditioning young performers who would get their first national exposure on Jackie’s variety show.

The 1966-1967 season brought a basic change in format, a modified title, and a different supporting cast. The title was shortened to The Jackie Gleason Show, Art Carney was back with Gleason on a regular basis after a nine-year absence, and Sheila MacRae and Jane Kean were the only other cast regulars. “The Honeymooners” was brought back as the principal source of program material. There were still variety shows with sketches and guest stars, special shows devoted to single subjects like circuses or tributes to show-business greats, and book musicals, but throughout this last four-year run over half of the telecasts were full-hour “Honeymooners” episodes. Sometimes they were done without music and other times they were done as musical comedies with songs and production numbers. They took place in Brooklyn, around New York, and in different locations around the world. They were done with and without guest stars, but the constants were always there, the Kramdens (Jackie as Ralph and Sheila as Alice) and the Nortons (Art as Ed and Jane as Trixie), middle-class schleps bumbling their way through life.