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An entry from The Encyclopedia of Imagined Italian-Americana

An entry from The Encyclopedia of Imagined Italian-Americana

Joseph Sciorra (December 13, 2009)
Ralph Kramden (Jackie Gleason) in front of a presepio.

The lost Christmas special of "The Honeymooners" with an Italian-American theme, from the Imaginarium of Joey Skee.


In January 1956, Jackie Gleason saw a RAI-TV version of Eduardo de Filippo’s Neapolitan-language play “Na

tale in casa Cupiello” broadcast on “Continental Miniatures,” the television program that aired Italian films on New York’s WOR-TV (see Martin Scorscese’s 1999 documentary My Voyage to Italy), and decided to produce a Christmas special for his successful The Honeymooners.  This episode expanded on the show’s previous Christmas specials by including an Italian-American theme. 

The plot involves Ralph Kramden seething at his Italian-American neighbor’s boisterous Christmas festivities.   When he goes upstairs to complain he discovers that the Rossi family is too poor to afford a holiday meal and is simply putting on a show for their neighbors, the Monettis.  As in the de Filippo play, Luigi Rossi has built a sprawling Nativity scene (presepio) in his Brooklyn apartment, which fascinates Ralph Kramden. 
The show had a stellar cast of Italian-American actors, with Vito Scotti and Argentina Brunetti as the Rossis, and Tito Vuolo and Esther Minciotti playing the Monettis.  Jerry Colonna, with his distinctive bulging eyes and extended moustache, makes a comic entrance doing his opened-mouth siren routine.   
The Honeymooners was cancelled in September 1956 and the episode was never aired.  “JUS Classic TV” released the episode in 2002 as part of its three-DVD box set “Lost Christmas Specials from the Golden Age of Television.”  As part of the DVD “Features,” Professor Vanessa Longo-Murphy of Montclair State University commented that this episode marked a high point in the representation of Italian Americans in American media, given the “gravitas of the Italianate Christmas Carol theme plunked down in the middle of American’s defining television comedy.” 
In the seven years since the episode’s rediscovery and release, it has become an instant classic and seasonal perennial.  Now during the holiday season families all over America can be heard joyfully repeating Ralph Kramden’s bellowing declaration that closes the episode and, effectively, the television show: “Of course the apartment's a mess, Alice.  I’m building a presepio!”

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thanks for reposting

Missed it in 2009 so enjoyed it 2017. Your humor is high on the intelligence scale.

I remember watching this

I remember watching this episode in syndication with my parents I think all my friends did as well.

Buone Feste Natalizie!

Buone Feste Natalizie! I salute you brother. I have wanted to start a blog like this and you did it. Italian Americans need to reclaim our old world strengths away from the media. Thanks so much.

lruberto's picture

keep them coming!

Great stuff, Joe. I hope you have something else (performance-meets-academic talk?) in mind for these parody pieces you’ve been writing here. They each play so well into your recent piece about "positive" Italian American images as well. -Laura Ruberto