Capering into fame as Jackie Gleason
's sidekick in The Honeymooners,
Art Carney proved later that he was no mere television personality but a real actor. He originated the part of neurotic Felix in Neil Simon's 1965 Broadway smash The Odd Couple,
and his dual role in Brian Friel
garnered a 1968 Tony nomination; he won an Academy Award in 1974 for his poignant performance in Harry and Tonto.
Michael Seth Starr traces this varied career with perception and empathy, revealing a hard-drinking, introverted, extremely private man totally unlike the blithely goofy Ed Norton.
The story of Carney's career as a funnyman overlaps the story of his battle against alcoholism. Starr's workmanlike account of Carney's dual life adopts a friendly tone that jibes with Carney's comfy-old-shoe acting persona, which so well fit his role as a great second banana to Jackie Gleason that people were surprised when he became a star in his own right. Starr dismisses rumors that Gleason plotted to deny Carney recognition--indeed, dismisses them so often that you start to wonder. Carney's battle with the bottle furnishes a better clue to why proper recognition eluded him. Then again, even with the alcoholism, he won six Emmies fairly early in his career and later an Oscar and a Tony nomination. Because he created three classic comic characters--Ed Norton while with Gleason, The Odd Couple
's Felix Unger, and Harry Combes in Harry and Tonto
Carney demands a good biography. Starr's fills the bill very adequately, though not flashily. Mike Tribby