Harry Crane, co-creator of Jackie Gleason's classic 1950s sitcom "The Honeymooners" and comedy writer for Red Skelton, the Marx Brothers, Bing Crosby and others, has died of cancer. He was 85.
Crane died Tuesday in his Beverly Hills home, according to publicist Warren Cowan.
The writer, who worked on movies as well as television, had another link to Hollywood: He was the grandfather of actresses Melissa Gilbert ("Little House on the Prairie") and Sara Gilbert ("Roseanne").
The New York City native was 19 when he started performing stand-up comedy. He was recruited by MGM as a screenwriter, earning his first credit on "Air Raid Wardens" (1943), starring Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.
"The Harvey Girls" (1946) and "Song of the Thin Man" (1947) were among other films Crane worked on before moving to the new medium of television.
He and Joe Bigelow were staff writers for "Cavalcade of Stars" when Gleason, the variety show's new host, asked for help in developing a sketch.
Gleason told the writers he wanted to play an "everyday working stiff" who lived with his long-suffering wife in a little Brooklyn flat, according to the book "Classic Sitcoms," by Vince Waldron, Silman-James Press.
The two created a scene involving squabbling Ralph and Alice Kramden, and the couple became a variety show mainstay for Gleason and then in 1955 the basis for the 39-episode sitcom "The Honeymooners."
During his half-century career, Crane also put laughs into TV series, specials and nightclub acts for such singers as Crosby and Frank Sinatra and worked with other writers and performers, including Mel Brooks, Alan King and Neil Simon.