Jackie Gleason

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Born

2/26/1916 , Brooklyn, New York

Died

6/24/1987

Birth Name

Herbert John Gleason

Gender

Male

Biography:

Jackie Gleason was born on February 26th, 1916 in Brooklyn, New York. This future great was born into a poor family of Irish Catholic immigrants, living in Brooklyn. His father, Herbert Gleason, was an insurance clerk who ran out on his family when Jackie was only nine years of age. His mother, Mae Kelly Gleason, died when he was nineteen. This, and the fact that his only sibling, Clemence, was diagnosed with tuberculosis when Jackie was three, made Jackie have a very sad and lonely childhood. Gleason, who attended Public School 73, dropped out before he was sixteen, and instead hung out with an organization that was basically a street gang. Even though he was a gigantic eater as a teenager, he was very good at sports, particularly boxing and football. Right from the beginning, Jackie seemed to be a natural for the entertainment field. He appeared in many church and school plays, and eventually won an award for an original comedy routine. From there, we was a master of ceremonies at a vaudeville house, Folly Theater. After leaving school, he began to travel around New York, picking up jobs as he went. He also worked in hotels in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. After working in other various jobs, he married Genevieve Halford, a dancer, in the year 1936. They had two daughters, Geraldine and Linda, the only children he ever had. After several separations, the couple finally split up in 1954, though the legal divorce would occur later in 1970. In 1941, Jack Warner signed Gleason, who had been working in nightclubs and musicals, to a contract, and he headed out to Hollywood at the age of 25. His early movies unsuccessful, Warner contributed his signature on the contract to drunkenness. After failing in Hollywood, Jackie grew to hate Los Angeles, and his future works would take place on the East Coast, in New York and Florida. Depressed, Jackie returned to nightclubs and the stage, and even tried radio. But it was when his agent, George "Bullets" Durgom suggested he work in television that Gleason went on his way. He was cast in the title role of The Life of Riley, but he was not right for the part, and it was soon cancelled. His television career really began when he signed on with the DuMont network as the summer host of Calvacade of Stars. After two episodes, he was signed on as permanent host. It was here where he created his most memorable characters, including Ralph Kramden. But, after guest hosting several shows on other networks, Jackie signed an exclusive contract with CBS as the host of The Jackie Gleason Show. In the 1955-1956 season, he took Ralph Kramden's The Honeymooners and made it into its own show for a season. Today, this is one of the most beloved sitcoms, even making number 3 on TV Guide's recent The 50 Best TV Shows of All Time. Gleason continued to make several movies, including The Hustler which earned him an Oscar nomination, and Requiem for a Heavyweight. In The Hustler Jackie did all of his own pool shots for the camera. Gleason also recorded his own records, writing his own music even though he could not read a note. In 1962 Jackie returned to television with Jackie Gleason's American Scene Magazine, but the name was soon changed back to The Jackie Gleason Show. In July 1970 he married Beverly McKittrick, but they were divorced in 1974. The following year he married Marilyn Taylor, sister of June Taylor of the June Taylor Dancers. After working on a series of movies throughout the 80's, Gleason died on June 24th, 1987, of colon and liver cancer. His demise saddened many in the entertainment business, as well as all of those who watched him for his many years on television.
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