Jackie Gleason as The Penguin

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Bob Furmanek
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Jackie Gleason as The Penguin

Post by Bob Furmanek » Wed Jan 02, 2019 9:07 am

Gleason wanted the part according to this syndicated Feb. 5, 1966 article.
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John Mack
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Re: Jackie Gleason as The Penguin

Post by John Mack » Wed Jan 02, 2019 10:38 am

Bob, you never cease to amaze and delight me! Happy New Year!
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AndyFish
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Re: Jackie Gleason as The Penguin

Post by AndyFish » Wed Jan 02, 2019 11:35 am

As much as I love Jackie Gleason he would have been terrible in the part. It's hard to imagine anyone other than Burgess, and I would see shades of how Carney as The Archer played out-- like Carney Gleason was an actor who had more personality than acting talent-- that's no slight to him, he was great, but whether you see him in 1942's ALL THROUGH THE NIGHT with Humphrey Bogart or in the 70s in those Burt Reynolds comedies he plays along the same line.
Burgess had much more range.

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svl
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Re: Jackie Gleason as The Penguin

Post by svl » Wed Jan 02, 2019 3:15 pm

I also prefer Meredith in the role, but disagree about Gleason's range. Take another gander at "The Hustler", or "Requiem for a Heavyweight". The man could act...

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JWLJN
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Re: Jackie Gleason as The Penguin

Post by JWLJN » Wed Jan 02, 2019 4:02 pm

Jackie's range is so very underrated. He would have been a different, yet perfect Penguin.

The issue would have been that had he played the role, unless the character was used far less or recast, we would not have seen many Penguin episodes. He was not into leaving Miami all that often by that point.

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AndyFish
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Re: Jackie Gleason as The Penguin

Post by AndyFish » Wed Jan 02, 2019 6:04 pm

Forgot about The Hustler. He was great in that.

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dell
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Re: Jackie Gleason as The Penguin

Post by dell » Wed Jan 02, 2019 8:26 pm

You never know what would have happened, but I can't see Gleason being anywhere near as good as Meredith.
dell

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epaddon
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Re: Jackie Gleason as The Penguin

Post by epaddon » Wed Jan 02, 2019 10:06 pm

I have always found it easier to envision Gleason in some variant of his "Hustler" role just in terms of looking dapper with the flower in the lapel etc.

And can you also envision him being hauled off to jail and angrily vowing, "One of these days, Batman, POW!"(and a graphic goes up)

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Jim Akin
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Re: Jackie Gleason as The Penguin

Post by Jim Akin » Thu Jan 03, 2019 2:34 am

It's a fascinating "what if." It's hard to imagine anyone owning the role more than Burgess Meredith, but it's fun to imagine what Gleason would have done with the part. Although hiring him would seem to have gone against Dozier's claim, early in the show's run, that casting dramatic actors, not comics, as villains was key to the show's deadly seriousness-as-comedy success.

I suspect some viewers, seeing Gleason in Pengy's top hat and flocked gloves, might have had a hard time envisioning anyone but Reginald Van Gleason III. And as a heavy smoker, Gleason would have had no choking issues with the cigarette holder, so we'd likely never have heard the Cagey Bird's famous "quack."

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Dr. Shimel
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Re: Jackie Gleason as The Penguin

Post by Dr. Shimel » Thu Jan 03, 2019 7:31 pm

Gleason was the original Chester Riley on The Life of Riley, but the show was cancelled after one season-supposedly over season length/sponsorship issues. A few years later, William Bendix reprised the role and it lasted five years, becoming the person associated with the role.

One potential production aspect that might have caused conflict was the fact that Gleason did little or no rehearsing and liked to ad-lib. While chewing the scenery was encouraged, I can't imagine a bug-eyed Penguin.

Gleason was also supposedly offered the role of Archie Bunker, but turned it down.

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dell
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Re: Jackie Gleason as The Penguin

Post by dell » Thu Jan 03, 2019 8:53 pm

I can see Gleason as Louie the Lilac or some version of mobster. If he played it like Victor Buono played King Tut it might have worked... or been an embarrassment.
dell

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Yellow Oval
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Re: Jackie Gleason as The Penguin

Post by Yellow Oval » Fri Jan 04, 2019 5:12 pm

Wow, this is a good one! Does this ever have me wondering. One the one hand, Gleason seem to have been too big, loud, rough, and boisterous to have been Penguin. On the other hand, maybe one could argue that Penguin was all of those things only in a smaller stature. It really depends on your own perspective whether it could have worked or not.
"Hmmm... I don't like the twist this joke is taking. Let us away! Let us away!"

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Dan E Kool
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Re: Jackie Gleason as The Penguin

Post by Dan E Kool » Sat Jan 05, 2019 8:21 am

dell wrote:
Thu Jan 03, 2019 8:53 pm
it might have worked... or been an embarrassment.
This could be said of a lot of the show, if not the entire concept altogether. Luckily, it did work! :D Maybe Gleason would've done alright.
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Bob Furmanek
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Re: Jackie Gleason as The Penguin

Post by Bob Furmanek » Sat Jan 05, 2019 9:16 am


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BATWINGED HORNET
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Re: Jackie Gleason as The Penguin

Post by BATWINGED HORNET » Mon Jan 07, 2019 4:53 pm

Frankly, Gleason was not as versatile as Meredith; it takes a special level of talent to create a living, arrogant, even oddly threatening "bird man" from what one would guess was not the most detailed character references.

Like Gorshin as the Riddler, Sanders as Freeze and Newmar as Catwoman, Meredith was perfect casting being an actor who knew how to reach within and build on a concept to make it a signature role that has not lost its impact over 50 years later. There's no way to see Gleason achieving the same--or even knowing where to go with the Penguin.
Beneath Wayne Manor

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