Search - Jackie Gleason: Genius at Work on DVD

Jackie Gleason: Genius at Work
Jackie Gleason Genius at Work
Actors: Jeff Garlin, Jackie Gleason, Marilyn Taylor Gleason
Genres: Comedy, Television, Sports, Documentary
NR     2008     1hr 0min

Jackie Gleason knew that to produce his top-rated weekly CBS variety show he needed more than just witty monologues, innovative June Taylor choreography and big name guests. He personally had to garner the respect of his n...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Jeff Garlin, Jackie Gleason, Marilyn Taylor Gleason
Genres: Comedy, Television, Sports, Documentary
Sub-Genres: Comedy, Classic TV, Documentary, Documentary
Format: DVD - Color
DVD Release Date: 01/29/2008
Release Year: 2008
Run Time: 1hr 0min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 1
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

MPI Home Video - PLEASE do better than this...
Gleason Fan | 02/21/2008
(2 out of 5 stars)

"Once again, MPI Home Video drops the ball with how they have handled release of the old "Jackie Gleason Show" material. For the Gleason aficionados out there, this DVD is another example of how this company seems to do everything wrong.

I had been awaiting the release of this DVD for a while, and was excited to see some of the material that was billed as "never before released." Needless to say, I was highly disappointed when I watched the video and realized that this is essentially a re-edit of "The Great Gleason," a documentary that MPI released back in 1987! Most of the highlights are the same, and edited in almost the exact same way. Not only this, but Jeff Garlin's commentary is sometimes a word-for-word repeat of the narration from the older documentary!

It's my understanding that MPI owns the rights to well over 100 hours of footage from the original "Jackie Gleason Show" (1952-1955, & 1956-1957 seasons). WHY in the world, after nearly 20 years, do we see the exact same clips??? Can't they put out some material that is truly "never before released?"

Another issue I have is the quality of a number of these clips. Granted, all of this material comes from old kinescopes, and the image quality will vary widely in some cases. But there are some clips on this DVD that looked BETTER when we saw them back in the late 1980s. An example: the Fenwick Babbitt sketch where he's working in the cake factory. On this DVD, the clip is extremely blurred, and very poor quality. However, I have this same sketch on VHS when it aired as part of the "Best of Gleason" TV special hosted by Harry Anderson back in 1988. The video looks better on that VHS than on this DVD! Either MPI has no idea how to properly restore these images, or they've let the kinescopes further deteriorate since they took possession of them back in the mid 80s. Either way, it reflects badly on them.

The main redeeming factor about this DVD is the bonus feature - excerpts of Gleason performing on his variety show in May of 1954. But again, MPI drops the ball - rather than include the full episode, they only include a 15-minute edited version. Why could they not include the whole thing?!
Are they too cheap to spend the money on dual-layer DVD media?

It is frustrating that MPI essentially rehashes a program that is over 20 years old, when there is material they've been sitting on that would be well-worth releasing. Some of you may recall news coverage back in 2004 when the Peabody Award Archives located a rare 1954 kinescope of the Honeymooners "Love Letter" episode. Every article at the time mentioned that MPI planned to release this episode. Nearly four years have passed. Has this release happened? Of course not.

It would be wonderful to see the original Jackie Gleason Show from the 1950s see a full DVD release. Perhaps there is some hesitation, since they already chopped out all the Honeymooners episodes from these shows and released them on their own. But I know there are legions of Gleason fans who would gladly pay for full-season releases of the shows from the 1950s.

It's a real shame that MPI owns the rights to these shows, as they really do not seem to appreciate Gleason's legacy. Why can they not do Gleason's material justice and release it properly? And why does Jackie Gleason Enterprises let them get away with this?"
More than Ralph Kramden-How Sweet It Is!
Andre M. | Mt. Pleasant, SC United States | 02/13/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Along with Bert Williams, Bill Cosby, Richard Pryor, Harpo Marx, and Louis Jordan, JG rules in my view among the Kings of Comedy.

This DVD does him well. Originally airing on television in 2006, this set has his widow Marilyn Taylor Gleason (also sister of his choreographer June Taylor) talking about JG in the midst of some really brilliant clips that shows that our man should be remembered for more than just Ralph Kramden. Those who are my age and older who remember watching JG's Saturday night variety show remember his amazing array of characters such as Joe the Bartender, the Poor Soul, Fenwick Babbitt, Reginald Van Gleason (mmmm, that's good booze!), Rudy the Repairman, etc. etc. The man was a one man theatrical troupe! But since his show has not been available in its entirety since going off the air in 1970 (when I was six years old), most people know him only as Ralph Kramden.

This DVD presents some brilliant skits of the above mentioned characters and then some. The Poor Soul skit, where Art Carney teaches him how to bowl, is a SCREAM and the sight of JG flying down the bowling lane when he aims his ball is a marvel to watch, as is Rudy the Repairman's destruction of a fancy restaurent while installing an air conditioner, Fenwick Babbit's acrobatics during a BEAT THE CLOCK type game show, and Reginald Van Gleason's OUTRAGEOUS dance scene with Audrey Meadows (in a role other than Alice Kramden).

Trust me, these are some of the funniest and most creative moments ever caught on film! You will HOWL and pound on the floor laughing at this stuff.

Okay, so why do I give it 4 stars? Well, this is the DVD age and there is no reason why these wonderful sequences shouldn't be presented in their entirety. One tantalizing sequence has the Poor Soul performing an fascinating ballet with Marilyn Taylor (before she was Mrs. JG), but we only see about two minutes of this! A bonus feature has segements of a 1954 JG show with our man discussing and performing his menagerie of characters, but once again we only see portions of this!

Be that as it may, this is indeed entertaining and whets the appetite for MORE to be released from the JG archives. Genius is right! AND AWAY WE GO!"
The best compilation yet!
Phil S. | USA | 01/31/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"MPI has produced a DVD which should win an award: the kinescopes are so clear you might think they were first generation "film" negatives, sound is fine. The clips are presented in longer form than one might expect - so many documentaries/TV Specials use short takes which emphasize alot of mugging and carrying on - sight gags, often tired and grating, in favor of the more graceful and dialogue-driven segments.
It is a pleasure that just one interviewee is present, and of course she is someone was there, professionally, and later, personally, Marilyn Taylor Gleason, still beautiful. Her dialogue is wonderful, sounding *unscripted* - yes, she must have learned from the Master. Live action and stills of her and her also-famous sister, June Taylor, capture two extraordinarily sensuous dancers, who often shared the spotlight with The Great One. As prodigious a figure as JG was, the ladies definitely added that vertical dimension (wise guy.....). Her descriptions of her husband's characters is spot-on.
A unique approach is sucessfully achieved here: the most popular character, Ralph Kramden is actually given only "equal time", meaning that there is more concentration on other Gleason characters, some actually more well-defined that the occasionally ebullient Bus Driver from Brooklyn.
The funniest sketch, in a long excerpt, is on Rudy The Rapairman, absolutely hilarious in an obviously under-rehearsed bit, involving installation of an early-era air-conditioner in a busy midday restaurant.
After assuring maitre-d' Art Carney (almost unrecognizable from his own Ed Norton and Clem Finch characters) that he'll be quietly fastidious, the total chaos comes hard and heavy. Brilliantly conceived, from the staging, to the lighting, to the live cutting. Makes modern day TV comedy look stilted and mechanical.
MPI has added a rare Jackie Gleason Show, celebrating JG's 25th year in show business, and concentrating on his many characters, as featured on his new (apparently) 10-inch album of character songs.
I hope that this is Volume One, and a future Volume contains his June 1, 1957 farewell telecast, including the last Honeymooners' sketch of the decade."