THE GREAT ONE: The Life and Legend of Jackie Gleason. William A. Henry III. Doubleday; 1992.
Henry has put together an excellent, unsparing, well-researched tome on the comic genius that celebrates his artistry but by no means glosses over the negative sides of his life and character. Gleason could be kind and generous, but he was also an egomaniac without brakes, an absentee, hardly devoted father, a lousy husband, and a braggart who claimed he could compose symphonies when he couldn't even read music. Henry, however, also makes it clear why “The Great One” was so great, and there are lots of interviews with and quotes from people who worked with Gleason, who could inspire as much affection as exasperation. Henry does a fine job of nailing down his subject. [Oddly, Henry seems unaware that many of the scripts for the Honeymooners musicals of the sixties were originally used for some of the sketches in the “lost episodes.” These truly lost one hour musicals, which have never been released on video or DVD, can now be seen on American Life cable, channel 153 in Manhattan, on Saturday and Sunday nights.]
Verdict: A good read and then some. ***1/2.