Art Carney, the TV immortal who played Jackie Gleason’s sidekick on the classic sitcom ”The Honeymooners,” died Sunday at his Connecticut home after a long illness, the Hartford Courant reports. According to a statement from a Clinton, Conn., funeral home, his family wanted news of his death kept private until after Tuesday’s memorial service. Carney, who also won a Best Actor Oscar for 1974’s ”Harry & Tonto,” was 85.
A veteran of the D-Day invasion of Normandy, Carney first gained fame on the ’50s sitcom ”The Honeymooners” as Ed Norton, the goofy sewer worker and upstairs neighbor of his bowling buddy, loudmouthed bus driver Ralph Kramden (Gleason). Carney won four Emmys over the course of the series, not to mention inspiring the character of Barney Rubble on ”The Flintstones.”
Carney was also an acclaimed Broadway actor who created the role of Felix Unger in Neil Simon’s 1965 comedy ”The Odd Couple.” (The role would go to Jack Lemmon in the movie version and Tony Randall on the TV sitcom.) He made some 25 movies, but his most renowned film character was the starring role in ”Harry & Tonto,” that of a retired teacher traveling across America with his cat. Carney was just 55 when he played the senior, but he was convincing enough that he won the Oscar that year, beating such contenders as ”Chinatown”’s Jack Nicholson and ”The Godfather Part II”’s Al Pacino. Explaining Carney’s win to Entertainment Weekly in 2000, ”Harry” cowriter/director Paul Mazursky said the actor surprised the Academy with his versatility. ”He’s a master – one of the great actors of our time,” Mazursky said. ”But once he played Ed Norton, it’s hard to see him as something else.”