The Honeymooners star Art Carney dealt throughout his life with issues connected to his overuse of alcohol.
In Art Carney: A Biographer, author Michael Seth Starr stated that the comedic second banana attempted at some point to attend an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. However, he vowed to never return after what happened.
Carney was the heart and soul of ‘The Honeymooners’
Carney’s comedic gift was innate. As far as Gleason was concerned, his co-star was the true star of The Honeymooners.
While Carney wasn’t a trained actor, like many of his era, he earned experience on early television programs including The Dagmar Story, The Morey Amsterdam Show, The Victor Borge Show, and Studio One In Hollywood, all in the years leading up to the 1955 premiere of The Honeymooners.
Ultimately, all of that hard work paid off as evidenced by Carney’s Best Actor Oscar win for his role as Harry in the 1974 film Harry and Tonto.
Gleason said in 1985 that he gave Carney “90 percent of the credit” for The Honeymooners’ success.
“He has exquisite timing—and the best body language in the world,” Gleason said.
The Ed Norton actor dealt with alcoholism much of his life
The Emmy-winning Carney admired Ed Norton and wished he could be more like him, the Chicago Tribune reported at the actor’s death in 2003.
“Ed was friendly and outgoing, and nothing seemed to bother him,” he said in 1985. “For me, that was all acting.”
In 1974, he said he had sought help at an in-patient psychiatric center in Connecticut for a mental and physical breakdown.
“My first marriage was breaking up and I was not in good shape, physically or mentally,” Carney said. “I was hurt by my troubles with alcohol.
“The booze and pills and the breakup of my marriage had me about finished,” he recalled.
Carney couldn’t continue AA after this experience
According to Starr, Jackie Gleason’s secretary, Joan Reichman Canale, was tasked with finding Carney in his favorite bars when he should have been at rehearsals for the Gleason Show.
“I was the one who had to go get him out of his different little haunts,” Canale told Starr.
The actor and comedian sought help at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. Carney’s brother Jack found the group helpful in dealing with his alcoholism and Art followed suit.
“Jack Carney had a drinking problem and had joined [AA],” Starr wrote. “He urged Art to attend some AA meetings but Art found the experience horrifying: When word spread of his appearance at a Westchester AA meeting, people showed up with their children in tow, to gawk at the famous television star.”
Carney said, “Geez, can you imagine what that did to me?”
How to get help: In the U.S., contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration helpline at 1-800-662-4357.
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