Within its massive collection of radio and television programs, staff in the Peabody Awards Archive at the University of Georgia has discovered a new “lost episode” of the acclaimed television comedy “The Honeymooners.”
“The episode we have, titled ‘Love Letter,’ originally aired on Oct. 16, 1954, on ‘The Jackie Gleason Show.’ It does not exist in another archive and is a unique ‘lost’ episode in ‘The Honeymooners’ history,” said Ruta Abolins, director of the Peabody Awards Collection and Media Archives at UGA.
Gleason, who won a Personal Peabody Award in 1955, introduced “The Honeymooners” on Oct. 5, 1951, during his first variety series, “Cavalcade of Stars,” broadcast live on the DuMont Television Network. From 1952 to 1955 “The Jackie Gleason Show” ran on CBS where the live sketches grew from 10 to 30 minutes in length. “The Honeymooners” also ran as a CBS situation comedy in the 1955-56 season, and “The Jackie Gleason Show” returned as a variety program in the 1956-57 season. A re-performance of “Love Letter” aired in Gleason’s 1956-57 series, but the Peabody Awards Archive holds the only known copy of the original sketch from the earlier variety show.
“I discovered just how special the program is during a preservation review of the Peabody kinescopes and videotapes,” explained archivist Margaret Compton. “When I contacted Jackie Gleason Enterprises they were very excited to find that this particular kinescope still exists in such good condition since their only copy is of the later sketch. We have learned that Gleason Enterprises does intend to release this never-rebroadcast episode through MPI Home Video.”
“We are truly fortunate to hold and preserve this great collection at the University of Georgia,” said Horace Newcomb, Peabody Awards director. “Many people do not realize that it is an archive of all the entrants for Peabody Awards as well as Peabody Award winners. Our media archivists are constantly discovering rare and important materials in the library’s vaults.”
The Peabody Awards, established in 1940 and administered by UGA’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, are the oldest honor in electronic media.