Art Carney
Carney in 1959
Arthur William Matthew Carney

(1918-11-04)November 4, 1918
DiedNovember 9, 2003(2003-11-09) (aged 85)
Resting placeRiverside Cemetery, Old Saybrook, Connecticut, U.S.
  • Actor
  • comedian
Years active1939–1993
Jean Myers
(m. 1940; div. 1965)
(m. 1980)
Barbara Isaac
(m. 1966; div. 1977)
FamilyReeve Carney (great-nephew)
Military career
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service1943–1945[1]
Rank Private
Unit28th Infantry Division[1]
Battles/warsWorld War II
Awards Purple Heart
American Campaign Medal
European–African–Middle Eastern Campaign Medal
World War II Victory Medal

Arthur William Matthew Carney (November 4, 1918 – November 9, 2003) was an American actor and comedian. A recipient of an Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award, and six Primetime Emmy Awards, he was best known for his role as Ed Norton on the sitcom The Honeymooners (1955–1956).

His film roles include Harry and Tonto (1974), The Late Show (1977), House Calls (1978), Going in Style (1979), Firestarter, The Muppets Take Manhattan (both 1984), and Last Action Hero (1993).

Early life

Carney, the youngest of six sons (his brothers were Jack, Ned, Robert, Fred, and Phil), was born in Mount Vernon, New York, the son of Helen (née Farrell) and Edward Michael Carney, a newspaperman and publicist.[citation needed] His family was Irish American and Catholic.[2] He attended A.B. Davis High School.[3]

Carney was drafted into the United States Army in 1943[1] as an infantryman and machine gun crewman during World War II. During the Battle of Normandy serving in the 28th Infantry Division,[1] he was wounded in the leg by shrapnel and walked with a limp for the rest of his life. As a result of the injury, his right leg was ¾-inch (2 cm) shorter than his left.[4] Carney was awarded a Purple Heart, the American Campaign Medal, the European–African–Middle Eastern Campaign Medal and the World War II Victory Medal, and was discharged as a private in 1945.[1]



Carney was a comic singer with the Horace Heidt orchestra, which was heard often on radio during the 1930s, notably on the hugely successful Pot o' Gold, the first big-money giveaway show in 1939–41. Carney's film career began with an uncredited role in Pot o' Gold (1941), the radio program's spin-off feature film, playing a member of Heidt's band. Carney, a gifted mimic, worked steadily in radio during the 1940s, playing character roles and impersonating celebrities such as President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. He can be seen impersonating Roosevelt in a 1937 promotional film for Stewart-Warner refrigerators that is preserved by the Library of Congress.[5] as well as during his appearance as a Mystery Guest on What's My Line.[6] In 1941, he was the house comic on the big band remote series Matinee at Meadowbrook.

One of his radio roles during the 1940s was the first Red Lantern on Land of the Lost. In 1943 he played Billy Oldham on Joe and Ethel Turp, based on Damon Runyon stories. He appeared on The Henry Morgan Show in 1946–47. He impersonated Roosevelt on The March of Time and Dwight D. Eisenhower on Living 1948. In 1950–51 he played Montague's father on The Magnificent Montague. He was a supporting player on Casey, Crime Photographer and Gang Busters.


Carney on his variety show Art Carney Special (1959).

On both the radio and television versions of The Morey Amsterdam Show (1948–50), Carney's character Charlie the doorman became known for his catchphrase, "Ya know what I mean?".

In 1950, Jackie Gleason was starring in the New York–based comedy-variety series Cavalcade of Stars and played many different characters. Gleason's regular characters included Charlie Bratten, a lunchroom loudmouth who insisted on spoiling a neighboring patron's meal. Carney, established in New York as a reliable actor, played Bratten's mild-mannered victim, Clem Finch. Gleason and Carney developed a good working chemistry, and Gleason recruited Carney to appear in other sketches, including the domestic-comedy skits featuring The Honeymooners. Carney gained lifelong fame for his portrayal of sewer worker Ed Norton, opposite Jackie Gleason's bus driver, Ralph Kramden. The success of these skits resulted in the famous situation comedy The Honeymooners and the Honeymooners revivals that followed. He was nominated for seven Emmy Awards and won six.

Between his stints with Gleason, Carney worked steadily as a character actor and occasionally in musical-variety. He guest-starred on NBC's Henry Morgan's Great Talent Hunt (1951), The Dinah Shore Chevy Show, and many others, including as a mystery guest four times on What's My Line? which he attended (once) dressed as Ed Norton. Carney also had his own NBC television variety show from 1959 to 1960.

In 1958, he starred in an ABC children's television special Art Carney Meets Peter and the Wolf, which featured the Bil Baird Marionettes. It combined an original story with a marionette presentation of Serge Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf. Some of Prokofiev's other music was given lyrics written by Ogden Nash. The special was a success and was repeated twice.

Art Carney surrounded by several marionettes from his television special, Art Carney Meets Peter and the Wolf (1958).

Carney starred in a Christmas episode of The Twilight Zone, "The Night of the Meek", playing a dramatic turn as an alcoholic department store Santa Claus who later becomes the real thing. In 1964, he guest-starred in the episode "Smelling Like a Rose" along with Hal March and Tina Louise in the CBS drama Mr. Broadway, starring Craig Stevens. In the season two opening episodes 35 and 36 of the Batman television series, titled "Shoot a Crooked Arrow" and "Walk the Straight and Narrow" (1966), Carney performed as the newly introduced villain "The Archer". In 1967, he was originally cast as Geppetto for the Hallmark adaption of Pinocchio, but illness prevented him from appearing when taping time arrived. He was later replaced by Burl Ives.

In 1970, Carney appeared as Skeet in "The Men from Shiloh" (the rebranded name of The Virginian) in the episode titled "With Love, Bullets and Valentines." In the early 1970s, Carney sang and danced on several episodes of The Dean Martin Show, took part in the Dean Martin Celebrity Roast of his old co-star Jackie Gleason, and appeared as both Santa Claus and his wannabe kidnapper Cosmo Scam in the 1970 Muppets TV special The Great Santa Claus Switch.[7][8] He was also a guest star on The Carol Burnett Show in January 1971.

He starred as Police Chief Paul Lanigan in the 1976 television film Lanigan's Rabbi, and in the short-lived series of the same name that aired in 1977 as part of the NBC Sunday Mystery Movie lineup.[9]

In 1978, Carney appeared in Star Wars Holiday Special, a television film that was linked to the Star Wars film series. In it, he played Trader Saun Dann, a member of the Rebel Alliance who helped Chewbacca and his family evade an Imperial blockade. The same year, he appeared as the father of Ringo Starr's alter ego "Ognir Rrats" in the made for television special "Ringo". Carney appeared on an episode of Alice.

In 1980, he starred in the TV film Alcatraz: The Whole Shocking Story. In 1984, he portrayed Santa Claus in the holiday television film The Night They Saved Christmas.

Among his final television roles were a series of commercials for Coca-Cola in which he played a man enjoying a day out with his grandson played by actor Brian Bonsall, including a famous Christmas commercial based around the famous Rockefeller Center Christmas tree in New York.


Carney recorded prolifically in the 1950s for Columbia Records. Two of his hits were "The Song of the Sewer", sung in character as Norton, and "'Twas the Night Before Christmas", a spoken-word record in which Carney, accompanied only by a jazz drummer, recited the famous Yuletide poem in syncopation. Some of Carney's recordings were comedy-novelty songs, but most were silly songs intended especially for children.

He also narrated a version of The Wizard of Oz for Golden Records, with Mitch Miller and his chorus performing four of the songs from the 1939 film version.


Carney won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his 1974 performance as Harry Coombes, an elderly man going on the road with his pet cat, in Harry and Tonto. Other nominees that year were Albert Finney, Dustin Hoffman, Jack Nicholson, and Al Pacino. It was presented to him at the 47th Academy Awards on April 8, 1975, by actress Glenda Jackson, with whom Carney went on to co-star in the comedy House Calls in 1978. Carney also won a Golden Globe award for his performance in Harry and Tonto.

In demand in Hollywood after that, Carney then appeared in W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings (as a deranged preacher), The Late Show (as an aging detective), House Calls (as a senile chief surgeon), Movie Movie (in multiple roles), and Going in Style (as a bored senior citizen who joins in on bank robberies). Later films included The Muppets Take Manhattan, the crime drama The Naked Face, and the sci-fi thriller Firestarter.

In 1981, he portrayed Harry R. Truman, an 83-year-old lodge owner in the semi-fictional account of events leading to the eruption of Mount St. Helens in St. Helens.

In 1990, he co-starred in a movie called, “Where Pigeons Go to Die” with Michael Landon. He played the role of a grandfather who taught his grandson little life lessons that would follow him for the rest of his life.

His final film role was in the 1993 action comedy film Last Action Hero.


Carney made his Broadway debut in 1957 as the lead in The Rope Dancers with Siobhán McKenna, a drama by Morton Wishengrad. His subsequent Broadway appearances included his portrayal in 1965–67 of Felix Unger in The Odd Couple (opposite Walter Matthau and then Jack Klugman as Oscar). In 1969 he was nominated for a Tony Award for his performance in Brian Friel's Lovers. In 1961–62, Carney played Frank Michaelson in an English comedy by Phoebe & Henry Ephron titled Take Her, She's Mine with Phyllis Thaxter as his co-star in the Biltmore Theatre in New York; the character was played by James Stewart in the 1963 film version.

Personal life

Carney was married three times to two women. In 1940, he married his high school sweetheart Jean Myers, with whom he had three children, Eileen, Brian and Paul, before divorcing in 1965. In 1966, Carney married production assistant Barbara Isaac; they divorced in 1977. After his divorce from Isaac, he reunited with Myers, and they remarried in 1980 and remained together until his death.[10][11] His grandson is Connecticut state representative Devin Carney[12] and his great-nephew is musician and actor Reeve Carney.[13]

According to Carney, he was an alcoholic by his late teens. His stage partner, comedian Ollie O'Toole, "would order gin and grapefruit juice for us in the morning and, gee, it was great." Carney later used barbiturates, amphetamines, and alcohol substitutes. To battle his addiction, which he said ran in the family, he tried psychotherapy and joined Alcoholics Anonymous. He finally found success with Antabuse and quit drinking during the filming of Harry and Tonto.[4]

Carney died at a care home in Chester, Connecticut, on November 9, 2003, five days after his 85th birthday.[10][11] He is interred at Riverside Cemetery in Old Saybrook, Connecticut. Jean Carney died on October 31, 2012, at the age of 93.[14]


Year Title Role Notes
1941 Pot o' Gold Band member / Radio Announcer Uncredited
1950 PM Picnic The Narrator
1955–56 The Honeymooners Ed Norton
1958 Alfred Hitchcock Presents Cyril T. Jones Season 4 Episode 8: "Safety for the Witness"
1964 The Yellow Rolls-Royce Joey Friedlander
1967 A Guide for the Married Man "Joe X", Married Man
1972 The Snoop Sisters: 'Female Instinct' Barney with Helen Hayes and Mildred Natwick
1974 Harry and Tonto Harry Coombes Academy Award for Best Actor
Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
1975 W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings Deacon John Wesley Gore
Death Scream Mr. Jacobs TV movie (aka Street Kill)
Katherine Thornton Alman TV movie
1976 Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood J.J. Fromberg
1977 The Late Show Ira Wells National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actor
Scott Joplin John Stark
1978 House Calls Dr. Amos Willoughby
Movie Movie Dr. Blaine / Dr. Bowers (segment "Dynamite Hands") / (segment Baxter's Beauties of 1933")
Star Wars Holiday Special Trader Saun Dann
1979 Ravagers Sergeant
You Can't Take It With You Grandpa Martin Vanderhof
Steel "Pignose" Moran
Sunburn Marcus
Going in Style Al Pasinetti Award for Best Actor
1980 Defiance Abe
Roadie Corpus C. Redfish
Alcatraz: The Whole Shocking Story Robert Stroud TV movie
Fighting Back: The Rocky Bleier Story Art Rooney TV movie
1981 Bitter Harvest Walter Peary TV movie
Take This Job and Shove It Charlie Pickett
St. Helens Harry Truman
The Leprechauns' Christmas Gold The Narrator / Blarney Kilakilarney TV movie, Voice
1982 Better Late Than Never Charley Dunbar
1983 The Last Leaf Mr. Behrman
1984 Terrible Joe Moran Tony TV movie
Firestarter Irv Manders
The Naked Face Morgens
The Muppets Take Manhattan Bernard Crawford
The Night They Saved Christmas Santa Claus TV movie
1985 The Undergrads Mel Adler
Izzy and Moe Moe Smith TV movie
The Blue Yonder Henry Coogan TV movie
1986 Miracle of the Heart: A Boys Town Story Father Michael T. O'Halloran
1987 Night Friend Monsignor O'Brien
1990 Where Pigeons Go to Die Da Nominated — Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie
1993 Last Action Hero Frank (final film role)

Awards and tributes

In popular culture


  1. ^ a b c d e Carney, Arthur William, Pvt. Retrieved June 6, 2021.
  2. ^ "'Honeymooners' actor Art Carney dies." China Daily, Beijing. November 12, 2003.
  3. ^ Art Carney Yahoo! Movies: Biography Archived May 22, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ a b Wilkins, Barbara. Art Carney Wins in a Film—and Over Alcoholism. People magazine, Vol. 2, Issue 17 via Internet Archive. Published October 21, 1974. Retrieved June 18, 2020.
  5. ^ Stewart-Warner Refrigerator Sales Film. Library of Congress. Archived from the original on November 17, 2021 – via YouTube.
  6. ^ What's My Line? - Walter Cronkite; Art Carney; PANEL: Steve Allen, Anne Douglas (Mar 27, 1966). Archived from the original on November 17, 2021 – via YouTube.
  7. ^ "The Great Santa Claus Switch (TV Movie 1970)". IMDb. Archived from the original on January 3, 2021. Retrieved August 27, 2018.
  8. ^ "The Great Santa Claus Switch". YouTube. Archived from the original on January 3, 2021. Retrieved August 27, 2018.
  9. ^ "The Museum of Broadcast Communications - Encyclopedia of Television". Archived from the original on October 5, 2012. Retrieved December 22, 2016.
  10. ^ a b Severo, Richard (November 12, 2003). "Art Carney, 85, Lauded 'Honeymooners' Actor, Dies". The New York Times. Archived from the original on December 21, 2009. Retrieved June 18, 2020.
  11. ^ a b McLellan, Dennis (November 11, 2003). "Actor Art Carney dead at 85". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on January 3, 2021. Retrieved November 13, 2020.
  12. ^ Hewitt, Cate (December 6, 2019). "State Rep. Devin Carney on Hartford, Party Lines, and His View of the Coming Session". The Connecticut Examiner. Retrieved March 15, 2023.
  13. ^ Sessums, Kevin (September 17, 2021). "FIVE QUESTIONS FOR … Reeve Carney". Grazia USA. Retrieved March 15, 2023.
  14. ^ "Jean Carney Obituary". Dignity Memorial - Swan Funeral Home. Archived from the original on January 3, 2021. Retrieved December 22, 2016.
  15. ^ "Art Carney". October 25, 2019.
  16. ^ Sardi, Jr., Vincent; Thomas Edward West (1991). Off the Wall at Sardi's. Applause Books. p. 97. ISBN 978-1557830517. Archived from the original on January 3, 2021. Retrieved November 24, 2020.
  17. ^ Gallo, Phil (October 10, 2002). "Gleason". Variety. Archived from the original on December 11, 2017. Retrieved December 10, 2017.
  18. ^ McLellan, Dennis (November 12, 2003). "From the Archives: 'Honeymooners' Sidekick Art Carney Dies". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on January 3, 2021. Retrieved June 18, 2020.