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Sue Ane Langdon (who occasionally spelled her middle name more conventionally, as Ann) was one of dozens of attractive young actresses who came into our living rooms in the late 1950s and throughout the '60s. Some were beautiful, but serious; some were beautiful, but usually bad; some were beautiful. but bland, and some were very cute and funny. Langdon was cute and funny ... and sexy, too.

Unfortunately, the worst thing she ever did in front of a camera was play Alice Kramden on the program Jackie Gleason brought to CBS in the fall of 1962. The network lured Gleason back to weekly television even though he had starred with Paul Newman in a movie hit, "The Hustler," that turned Gleason into an in-demand actor.

Gleason wanted Audrey Meadows to join his new show and play Alice Kramden in the "Honeymooners" sketches that would be part of a weekly 60-minute series that also would feature other skits and musical numbers. Meadows turned down the offer, so Gleason selected a 26-year-old actress who had delivered impressive performances on several television shows, usually as a comic foil.

To promote the new show, Gleason and Langdon and some other young actresses dubbed "The Glea Girls" boarded a train in Los Angeles and headed for New York, making a few stops along the way. The train was called The Great Gleason Express.

It was in Pittsburgh that I met the train – along with dozens of other reporters. We all interviewed Gleason and I managed to talk to Langdon on and off during the many activities that had been planned for Gleason during his visit (including a stop at old Forbes Field for a Pirates-Phillies baseball game).

What follows is the story that resulted from my conversations with Langdon. The program would be renewed, but Sheila MacRae would be replace Langdon – and do a very good job as the new Alice.

Akron Beacon Journal, September 23, 1962

By JACK MAJOR

When Jackie Gleason’s new television show goes on the air Saturday night it will be just about the same program he had a few years ago.

One beautiful girl after another will poke her head into your living room, purring “Welcome to the show and a-a-a-away we go” ... or something similar.

The June Taylor Dancers will trot across the stage and a few seconds later Gleason will bounce into view. Likely he’ll tell the audience, “You’re a good group!”

But when the show swings into its first Honeymooners sketch, you’ll finally notice something different – there’s a new Alice Kramden.

She’s Sue Ann Langdon, and if you watched a lot of television last year you probably saw her several times, though you might not have noted her name.

Langdon has replaced Audrey Meadows, a mainstay of the old Gleason programs. Gleason tried to convince Meadows to join his new series, but her recent marriage and her Hollywood success in “That Touch of Mink” with Doris Day and Cary Grant made her reluctant to return to New York for a television show unless the price was right. It wasn’t.

The search for a new leading lady ended when Gleason met honeyblonde Sue Ann Langdon. A mutual agent arranged the introduction and impressed Gleason by reciting the actress’ lost list of TV appearances.

“Besides,” said the Great One, “I liked her appealing personality.”

Now the Gleason newcomer has to win over fans who’ll inevitably compare Langdon’s performance with Meadows’ version of Alice, the drab, but sarcastic wife of Ralph Kramden.

“I’ll play Alice my own way,” said Langdon recently in Pittsburgh where The Great Gleason Express made a stop during the comedian’s cross country train ride to publicize his new CBS program. Langdon claimed, “I’m not at all worried about the way Alice was before.”

The new Alice could be interesting. Most of Sue Ann Langdon’s roles so far have cast her as a sexy dumb blonde, a sexy scheming blonde, or a sexy blonde cowgirl. And let’s face it – at 37-23-35, Sue Ann Langdon, who doesn’t mind flaunting her figure, does not look like an Alice Kramden.

She has been branded a comedienne, but she doesn’t tell jokes. The humor in her scenes usually comes from men dumbstruck by a sexpot. It’s similar to the humor Marilyn Monroe generated so well.

Thus you may recall Langdon from “The Dick Van Dyke Show” where she was an accused criminal who made an ogling idiot of juror Rob Petrie (Van Dyke).

Or perhaps the “Thriller” episode where she played a burlesque queen with a yen for rich, old men.

She was used in other shows to rev up characters usually too bashful to try. Like the time she was wooed by Chester (Dennis Weaver) on “Gunsmoke,” or Wally Cox on “Follow the Sun” and Andy Griffith on his Monday night program.

Sue Ann Langdon rarely carries a scene by herself, but is considered a perfect foil. Off-camera she’s quiet and rarely says anything even remotely humorous.

She was born 26 years ago in Paterson, N.J., and since then has lived in about half of the 50 states. Her father died when she was two, and her mother gave up a career as an opera singer and became a teacher. Their stops after that included a brief residence in Delaware, Ohio, but most of their time was spent in the Southwest, mostly Texas.

“I started singing in public when I was five,” she said, “and I haven’t stopped performing since.”

She had the leads in several student productions at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and later at Montana State College. Her first professional break was in summer stock in Montana six years ago. She worked her way east and joined a touring company of “Most Happy Fella.”

Next she went to Las Vegas as a member of the chorus of a Ziegfeld Follies revue. A movie scout signed her for a role in “The Great Imposter” with Tony Curtis. She didn’t set the movie world on fire, but a string of television offers followed.

One role, as a siren on the series “Mike Hammer” in 1959 attracted the attention of a producer of “Bachelor Father.”

“I wore a very tight dress on ‘Mike Hammer’ and he thought I’d be just right for a racy part on his show, but when I showed up at his office I was wearing a simple kind of dress. He looked at me again and decided I’d be just right as John Forsythe’s secretary, and that wasn’t a sexy part at all.

“I thought it was interesting that a man look at me twice, in different outfits, and saw two completely different female types.

“In either case I would have played comedy. That’s all I’ve ever done, and I really don’t want to do anything serious. Not yet anyway.”

Jackie Gleason's return to TV was big news
in the fall of 1962. For Sue Ane Langdon,
however, the news would not be good.

As mentioned, Langdon was just one of many young actresses who found work on television at that time. Studios such as Warner Brothers, Universal and MGM were using an old system to stock a new medium. They put several young performers under contract, then gave them on-the-job training in their television show.

The filming of television programs by movie studios was a fairly new thing at the time. The studios were cutting back on the production of movies and double features – that's two movies for the price of one admission – would soon be a thing of the past. To replace what used to be the low budget movie at the top of a double bill, studios cranked out television series, many of them Westerns.

Langdon returned to Hollywood from New York and went back to do what she did best – playing the dumb or scheming blonde on a lot of prime time television programs. She also appeared in several movies, including two with Elvis Presley (Roustabout" in 1964 and "Frankie and Johnny" in 1966) and, better, two with Henry Fonda ("The Rounders" in 1965, also with Glenn Ford, and "The Cheyenne Social Club" in 1970, also with James Stewart and Shirley Jones). She was especially good in the two Fonda films.

She did another TV series, "Arnie," a situation comedy with Herschel Bernardi, for two seasons (1970-72) and continued to work in front of a camera for several years. She also performed on stage, including a production of "Hello, Dolly!"

Overall, she had a longer and more successful career than most of the other young actresses who came along during that era. Here's a brief look at some of my other favorites.

 
Sue Ane Langdon on the Internet Movie Database (IMDb.com)
 

 

Also . . .
Don Adams Patty Duke Ricardo Montalban
Herb Alpert Richard Egan George Montgomery
Dana Andrews Jack Elam Joanna Moore
John Astin Linda Evans Mary Tyler Moore
Frankie Avalon Pat Finley Ozzie and Harriet Nelson
Barbara Barrie Eric Fleming Hugh O'Brian
Bill Bixby Peter Fonda Pat O'Brien
George Burns Anthony Franciosa Gene Pitney
Michael Callan Annette Funicello Martha Raye
Richard Chamberlain Zsa Zsa Gabor Della Reese
Leslie Charleson Beverly Garland Carl Reiner
Petula Clark Jackie Gleason Barbara Rush
Dabney Coleman Merv Griffin Robert Ryan
Robert Conrad Mark Harman Henry Silva
Bill Cosby Patricia Harty Julie Sommars
Joseph Cotten Marty Ingels Barbra Streisand
Bob Crane Jack Jones The Three Stooges
Richard Crenna Jack Kelly The Supremes
Ken Curtis Dave Ketchum Dick Van Dyke
Bill Dana Sue Ane Langdon Jerry Van Dyke
Bobby Darin Sheldon Leonard Robert Vaughn
Sammy Davis Jr. Jack Lord Clint Walker
Richard Deacon George Maharis Ray Walston
Bob Denver Jackie Mason Betty White
James Drury Raymond Massey Andy Williams
  Martin Milner Henry Winkler
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