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.”