Comedy writer Harry Crane, who was intrumental in the creation of “The Honeymooners” for Jackie Gleason and whose list of writing credits span more than half a century, died Mondayof cancer at his Beverly Hills home. He was 85.
Crane, a prolific writer, helped create the “Honeymooners” concept and signature characters associated with Gleason and the show in 1951.
He and Joe Bigelow were staff writers for the variety show “Cavalcade of Stars” when Gleason, the show’s new host, asked for help in developing a sketch. Gleason told the writers he wanted to play an “everyday working stiff” who lived with his long-suffering wife in a little Brooklyn flat, according to the book “Classic Sitcoms,” by Vince Waldron, Silman-James Press.
The two created a scene involving squabbling Ralph and Alice Kramden, and the couple became a variety show mainstay for Gleason and then in 1955 the basis for the CBS sitcom “The Honeymooners.”
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Crane penned screenplays, TV series, specials and nightclub acts for an array of Hollywood stars including Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin, Abbott & Costello, the Marx Brothers, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Eddie Fisher, Dinah Shore, Red Skelton, Liberace and Henny Youngman.
Crane also wrote for several of the Academy Award specials, including the 1957 and ’59 awards. He wrote for the Golden Globes telecast of 1968 and the Emmy shows of 1968, 1971, 1973 and 1974.
A native of Brooklyn, Crane’s natural wit led him to the Catskills as a standup comedian at age 19. He was brought to Hollywood by MGM in 1943 and received credit as a screenwriter for “Air Raid Wardens” (starring Laurel & Hardy) and “Lost in a Harem” and wrote additional dialogue for “Two Sisters From Boston.”
In 1946 he reached the apex of his screenwriting career when he wrote the Judy Garland starrer “The Harvey Girls.” The following year he again wrote additional dialogue for “Song of the Thin Man” starring William Powell and Myrna Loy and did not receive writing credit for his efforts on the Kelly-Sinatra musical “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”
He eased into television in the early 1950s, and was nominated for an Emmy during the 1966-67 season for “The Dean Martin Show.” He is survived by his wife, Lillian, daughters Barbara Gilbert Cowan and Stephanie Crane Hirsh, three grandchildren, including actresses Melissa and Sara Gilbert, and two great-grandchildren.
Services will be held at 2 p.m. Sundayat Mt. Sinai Memorial Park, 5955 Forest Lawn Drive.
In lieu of flowers, family suggests donations in Crane’s name be made to the John Wayne Cancer Institute or the Creative Arts Temple.