Art Carney: A Biography

Article excerpt

Art Carney: A Biography. Michael Seth Starr. New York: Fromm International Publishing, 1997.

When most Americans think of Art Carney, they remember him for his role as Ed Norton in the classic 1950s comedy series, The Honeymooners. While this role earned Carney an important place in television history as one of TV's best known and loved sketch comedians, few people are aware of this talented actor's other professional accomplishments. Long overdue, Michael Seth Starr has written an in-depth account of this legendary performer's life and career.

Starr begins in Mount Vernon, New York, where Carney spent his childhood. At an early age, the unexpectedly shy and introverted Carney showed enormous talent at being an exceptionally funny impersonator. This ability to impersonate others gave Carney his first break in show business. In 1937, bandleader Horace Heidt hired him as a mimic/announcer for the Musical Knights, a Big Band touring troupe. In 1942, Carney joined the cast of Report to the Nation, a radio show that re-enacted current events by using actors to imitate famous individuals. Other important radio work by the actor included his role as Newton on The Morey Amsterdam Show (1948) and as "the athlete" on the Henry Morgan Show (1950). Starr maintains that these performances were particularly important to the actor because they were early versions of Ed Norton.

On October 5, 1951, Jackie Gleason introduced the Honeymooners to the American public as a short sketch on the television show, Calvacade. Shortly thereafter, television history was made when Carney joined the cast and became dimwit sewer worker, Ed Norton, in the Honeymooner skits. …

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