If you happen to be a fan of classic comedy The Honeymooners (and who isn’t?), you will remember actress Joyce Randolph as Trixie, the loving wife of Art Carney’s kooky Ed Norton. Today we wish Ms. Randolph a Happy 97th Birthday.
Joyce Randolph’s association with The Honeymooners star Jackie Gleason began after he saw her in a commercial for Clorets gum in 1951. Gleason asked her to appear in a skit in his variety show, Cavalcade of Stars, on the early DuMont Television Network. Shortly later, she was cast as Trixie (aka Thelma) Norton in The Honeymooners.
The comedy, of course, is remembered for those classic 39 episodes in its one broadcast season as a standalone series in 1955-56. But combined with the various Honeymooners sketches, beginning with the aforementioned Cavalcade of Stars in 1949, and subsequently on CBS variety hour The Jackie Gleason Show, these beloved characters — Ralph and Alice Kramden, and Ed and Trixie Norton — were seen sporadically on television through 1978.
Technically, Joyce Randolph was not the first actress to portray Trixie. That honor goes to actress Elaine Stritch, who appeared as a tougher burlesque dancer version of the Kramden’s sensible and dutiful neighbor in a sketch on Cavalcade of Stars. And Randolph wasn’t the last, with Jane Kean stepping in for the revival of The Jackie Gleason Show in 1966. But from 1952 to 1957, Randolph cemented her status as a pop culture character, both in the series of sketches and in The Honeymooners sitcom.
“The pacing was frantic when we did The Honeymooners,” I remember Joyce Randolph telling me in an interview. “The script was delivered to my apartment in Manhattan and a few days later we went and did the show live. Jackie was against doing rehearsals. He wanted everything to be spontaneous, which for me was no issue. I never had that many lines, after all. But it was a much bigger deal for Art (Carney) and Audrey (Meadows).”
“When Jackie moved production of the show to Miami Beach when his variety show returned, it was just not convenient for me,” she added. “I chose not to continue.”
Roles were scarce for Randolph after The Honeymooners, who appeared briefly in summer stock musicals, made commercials, and had a few guest appearances on various TV shows. But almost seven decades after her first appearance as Trixie Norton, Joyce Randolph will always be fondly identified with her now iconic role.
In 1991, Audrey Meadows and Joyce Randolph reprised their Alice and Trixie characters in an episode of syndicated comedy Hi Honey, I’m Home.
“People loved The Honeymooners when we did it, but we had no idea that new generations of fans would would enjoy it all these years later,” she told me. “We can all still relate to these characters. It is just timeless.”
Jackie Gleason died in 1987, marking the first loss of the show’s famed quartet. Next was Audrey Meadows in 1996, followed by Art Carney in 2003. But, today, we celebrate the birthday of the show’s last surviving cast member, Joyce Randolph. As Jackie Gleason would say…”How sweet it is!”