The October 27th, 2018 update is what should be seen here first so until the rewrite it is below:
PRESENTING! THE CULMINATION OF THIS PROJECT! FIRST TIME EVER?!
Jackie Gleason's secretarial signature sources (and 1 wife) BY NAME (where possible). The vast bulk of the secretarials out there will be by Spear from the later 1970's on to 1987 on anything in felt tip, usually black, and then Saddleman on the 1950's postcards in blue fountain ink most often. Forgeries are of course more common than anything. After those and the secretarials shown by name below, the signing secretarials are encountered (infrequently, fountain and often ballpoint, on portraits mostly), then Marilyn Gleason (ballpoint and perhaps 1 fountain pen so far C. 1970's,), and last...finally, The Great One (pencil, fountain (black and blue with some oddities in the late 1960's), ballpoint (usually blue), felt tip (black and blue) etc.).
"...And away we go!..."
Click for large image please.This image has been updated October 29, 2018 to show the largest examples clearly.
Photo reposted Oct. 30th, 2018. PM 10.29.18 Improved with better, larger scans, more accurate date windows and expanded to show a later Saddleman as well (!):
And the "old" article, undergoing full revision follows...
I thought this composite might be useful in identifying the rampant secretarials of Jackie Gleason's signature that are offered, both raw and certified. The topic has risen before, but I did not see this all laid out simply and clearly labeled. Gleason's authentic signature is very rare in any form. Almost everything out there is a secretarial or poor forgery, especially the 1970's signatures, although this is changing now (10/28/18) as the forgers attempt to create 1950's signatures. The comments below concern the scans above as shown.
The authentic example from 1951 shown is typical of this period, not terribly neat, sometimes slightly flowery if messy, and with a rather bouncy base line (especially early examples) in "jackie", which often appears as "jockie". Note the overall shape and slight lean of the "a" in Jockie" compared to the secretarials (much more round). Note the attack of the "jackie", the connection of the "j" to the "a", and the clear construction and articulation of the "k" (hooking back and under). Sometimes the "e" in "jackie" is a touch higher than the "i" and leans back a bit to the left. Also note the differences in the formation of the "g" in "gleason" with the 1950's secretarial (and the form of the "ason"). The "a" in "gleason" is often complex and dense as it goes back on itself. Ink dispersal shows a rather quick hand compared to all the secretarials, with most ink in the last "a". Authentic examples are very hard to find and rather expensive if identified. Very early examples show him singing both names in a single line, even almost connecting first and last names, but then he started signing on two lines by C. 1949. Gleason's signature remained more or less the same, sometimes taking on a more extreme slant, until the early 1960's, after which it became a bit more scrawled and often more simplified. Most authentic examples appear to come from the 1950's and are often found on album pages; examples from the 1960's can be found on playbills and theater programs as well as other items. From what little I have seen, most all later examples (mid 1970's and on) exhibit more variation and extreme simplification in the last years and are seldom encountered. They should be priced accordingly.
The 1950's secretarials are easily spotted by an overall drawn quality, extreme neatness, straight baseline, even ink dispersal/pressure, and the very similar "j" and "g" bottom loops. Do not ignore this. The formation of the letters in first and last names is very different - the first "a" is often quite round, and the "ason" in "gleason" is quite different from the authentic (see the elongated space between the "a" and "s" in the secretarial) and is always legible (true of most all secretarials), with no ending trail off that melds the final letters. This is important. Early examples can show an elongated thinner "j" (now added in a composite scan posted below), but are readily betrayed by the rest of the signature which displays hesitance and the drawn quality and form. These 3.5" x 5" secretarials exist in quantity, yet I believe are still quite collectible as period items - if you wrote to the Jackie Gleason Show during the 1950's this is indeed what you would have received. Very few if any of these bear authentic signatures. They were usually signed by secretary Patricia Saddleman, who admitted to signing all of his mail at the time on a broadcast (1956) of What's My Line.
The 1960's secretarials are even more obvious with very even ink dispersal, a very different overall slant compared to either the authentic or earlier secretarials, a straight base line, a different formation overall and of the last name in particular. The "j" in "jackie" is not connected to the "a" as the authentic. The capitalized "E" in "glEason" first appears about C. 1959 on the earlier C. 1954 PC's images, many times from the same source but I digress. They bear ballpoint signatures that appear much like the 1960's version(s). Several examples exist with the capital "E" ALL c. 1959/60, so that one can distinguish the forged from the secretarial apart from the other problems. Note the opposing slants of the "j" and "k" in "jackie" compared with the authentic example - same holds true for the 1970's and 1980's. These 3.5" x 5" secretarials with the "E" do not show up as frequently as the earlier 1950's 3.5" x 5" secretarials which are comparatively common. There is another scarcer 3.5" x 5" early 1960's (Perhaps 1963) version showing Gleason on stage in front of curtains with a raised arm - I have seen this version bear the shown 1960's secretarial signatures (not all with "E") and, very rarely, a genuine signature. If my memory serves, I have seen a very few stamped versions of just the standing pose from Miami.
The 1970's secretarials, as those of the 1980's, are also very neat and exhibit very consistent ink dispersal even if more fluidly executed. These later secretarials are usually accompanied with the inscription "My Best Wishes" and a "dash" "-"; and display a slant to the right, posses a readily identifiable "j", and the "k" is formed very much like the "i" and "e" - with all reaching the same height. There is usually a space before and/or after the "a" in "jackie" (lone "a"),and often a space before the "a" in "gleason". The last name appears to be broken into two or three segments. There can be some variation of the "g" (thinner bottom loop, angular tipped) but the rest of the signature will quickly confirm the secretarial (the "j", which sometimes has a loop at the top and a slightly varying flourish, and then the "g"). These secretarials are extremely common, generally accepted as genuine, and are usually seen on 8" x 10" cast signed bus photographs (with the rest often authentic), fan letters, personal portraits and, later, 5" x 7" portraits. The signature is almost always in black felt tip without regard to what the item is; this allows ready examination of the ink and pressure changes which will reveal the secretarial. The presence of a "dash" is problematic - limited to secretarials only - perhaps Marilyn - I have yet to see a genuine example with a "dash".
Below is another authentic vintage signature - a superb example in pencil that dates to shortly after the 1951 example above. It is a wonderful example of the true signature of The Great One.
Additional authentic signatures from 1944 to 1961 can be see here (the 1948 example is very useful, but they all are of great value in this discussion), as well as a confirmed common secretarial from the 1970's:
Note: If you have an authentic Gleason signature or another type of secretarial from any period and would like to share it for the purposes of this article please contact me. Member Bob Shinn also has a superb example, but I wont post images w/o permission.
A large scan of the 1951 has been added as an attachment below.
Closing notes: It is sometimes said that Gleason's wife signed for him. She did! Marilyn Gleason, starting early, in about 1965. Gleason was married 1936-1970, 1970-1975, and 1975-1987. From what I have seen the "My Best Wishes" secretarials, which represent the overwhelming majority of signatures, start to appear on photographs from about 1975 on. The presence of this inscription does not equate with being a secretarial, but this is often the case. I also note the lack of any transitional examples of the secretarials. The little I have seen appears forged or unusual in some odd way. His authentic signature mutated slightly over the years while retaining basic elements, yet the secretarials just change violently. I have never seen the 1960's style secretarial signature shown in the composite above, whose appearance seems to correlate with his move to Miami in 1964, on anything but these small photographs from this period.
This article is under construction. Updated October 26, 2018 with much additional information and a new scan showing the most encountered secretarial signatures with the names of those who signed them along with Marilyn Gleason. © EKL 2018
Thanks for the confirmation, Eric. And thanks also for posting these contemporaneous exemplars. It’s a good reminder that just because a signature is on a legal document, it isn’t necessarily authentic. I suppose a notarized signature would have a better chance of being real, but in the last analysis, the signature has to speak for itself. And in this case, it’s saying “not The Great One’s autograph.” Anyway, thanks again.
P.S. Your Gleason photo on eBay is magnificent!
Did you see this 10.5"x13" beauty that sold yesterday on eBay? It must have sold almost instantly because it's still flagged as a "new listing" when I search the completed auctions. It's on double weight original movie still and, interestingly, appears to be signed with a black grease pencil. The description suggests that this was a common choice of writing implement for The Great One's formal portraits but I've never seen him use one before to the best of my knowledge.
In studying the inscription and signature, they both strike me as being quite similar to, and probably contemporaneous with, the magnificent Doug Kennedy 1962 photograph you were selling on eBay the other day. The still is from the 1963 film "Papa's Delicate Condition" so the lower limit for the date of this still is right around the time your oversized photo was likely signed.
One thing I find interesting is the inscription to "Jack" shows a completely different formation of an uppercase "J" than the one he uses for his own name. I saw this once before in an album page inscribed to "John" (probably in one of the images you posted here in this thread or elsewhere), where the uppercase "J" of the dedicatee's name had a much fuller, more rounded upper half than the version he uses for his own autograph.
Anyway, I think this is another highly interesting exemplar for the archives.
Hello again, Eric.
My apologies if you've already seen this one (it sold through Julien's back in 2017) but here's another interesting exemplar I just stumbled across: Jackie's 1954 passport signed twice with both his legal name and stage name. In the second image, what I find interesting is that he used both versions of his uppercase "G" in quick succession--the one that looks like a lowercase "G" followed immediately by the "crazy 8" version. I thought the "lowercase G" started to pop up more in the early 1960s but it looks like he was experimenting with it as early as 1954.