Art Carney, one of America's greatest---and most under-appreciated---actors, passed away on Sunday. Carney is most famous for playing second banana to Jackie Gleason on "The Honeymooners," but he was an accomplished actor on the stage and radio as well as the silver screen.
Young actors should all watch Carney's work on "The Honeymooners" (which has just been boxed in a nifty DVD set). Carney brought a sense of naturalism, or everyday authenticity to his role as Ed Norton. He never chewed the scenery like his famous co-star, but his understated professionalism was always fascinating to watch. He was also a graceful and talented physical comedian. Has any actor ever done more with the simple act of eating food than Carney did? If so, let me know, because I've never seen it.
One of my all-time fantasies is that I wish Art Carney had been allowed to recreate his stage performance as Felix Unger in the filmed version of "The Odd Couple." Whenever I watch Jack Lemmon in the movie, I close my eyes and imagine what Carney would have done with the role. Especially playing against Walter Matheau. Ahhh...
Carney did win an Oscar for his role in Paul Mazursky's tender comedy "Harry and Tonto." If you have not seen that movie, I would highly suggest that you do. If not, make sure to check out "The Honeymooners" next time they are on late-night TV, and watch for the subtle genius in the background.