Jayne Meadows Dies at 95; Widow of Steve Allen Was Nominated for 3 Emmys

Jayne Meadows Dead
Jesse Grant/WireImage

Jayne Meadows, a longtime television actress who was the widow of TV legend Steve Allen and the elder sister of actress Audrey Meadows, died of natural causes at her home in Encino, Calif., on Sunday night. She was 95.

Meadows was thrice nominated for Emmys, the first time for a 1977 episode of the PBS show “Meeting of Minds,” the second time in 1987 for an episode of NBC’s “St. Elsewhere” on which she guested and the third time in 1996 for supporting actress in a comedy for CBS show “High Society.”

Over a showbiz career that spanned six-plus decades, Meadows took to the Broadway stage — in “The Gazebo” in 1958 — appeared in films including 1946’s “Undercurrent,” starring Katharine Hepburn; toured in her one-woman show “Powerful Women in History” for seven years; appeared with Allen onstage in A.R. Gurney’s “Love Letters” off and on for 11 years; and was a regular panelist on the hit CBS gameshow “I’ve Got a Secret.”

Her son Bill Allen, the president and CEO of the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. and a former showbiz executive, issued a statement: “She was not only an extraordinarily gifted actress who could move audiences from laughter to tears and back again all in one scene, but she was the greatest storyteller I have ever known and I will miss her endlessly fascinating and frequently hilarious anecdotes about her life and the many brilliantly talented people she worked with and befriended along the way. She was also the most loving mother and grandmother I could ever imagine, seeing only the best in all her family members and giving us all confidence that we had value to offer the world and should take risks because we could do no wrong in her eyes. ​She will be sorely missed and never forgotten.”

Jane Meadows Cotter, whose parents were missionaries, was born in Wuchang, China, and only learned English when the family returned to the U.S. in the 1930s.

Jayne Meadows received the Susan B. Anthony Award for her continued positive portrayals of women in her acting.

The actress remained active until 2009, when she fell and fractured her hip. She made her last public appearance in August 2009 at the Early TV Memories First-Class Commemorative Stamp Dedication Ceremony.

Meadows was twice married, the first time to writer, actor and director Milton Krims. That marriage ended in divorce in 1954. She was married to Allen (the first host of “The Tonight Show”) from 1954 until his death in 2000. Her sister Audrey Meadows, who starred with Jackie Gleason on “The Honeymooners,” died in 1996.

In addition to her son Bill, she is survived by three stepchildren from Allen’s first marriage, Stephen Jr., Brian and David, as well as by grandchildren.

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  1. Patricia Jones says:

    For the family of Jane Meadows, this is a time of great grief. I admired the fact that as a team Steve and Jane presented a positive image. I don’t look at the “celebrity” status, they were people first. And Jane Meadows leaves a host of family and real friends to mourn her loss. So very sorry for the family at this time of greif.

  2. i played little league with billy and steve allen and her hosted a end of season party she they were both so nice she was wonderful

  3. Thomas Evon says:

    I used to watch Meeting of Minds when it was broadcast back in its day, and it was a wonderful show. Enlightened in and humerus at the same time. Audrey was on it with Steve Allen. I knew they were married and I looked up to them both. She was great. So was he. They should rerun those for the young people today.

  4. Having grown up in the Fifties, Jane and sister Audrey were very much a part of the early memories of Baby Boomers like myself. People like Faye Emerson (The Emmys are named for her), Jane, Audrey, and a host of fabulously sophisticated and beautiful women, were the first television stars. This is in an age when women were treated as ladies, they were well groomed, well spoken and showed flair and kindness, unlike the sorry lot we have out there today. I remember when Steve Allen, Jane’s husband, was the biggest thing on t.v. He was an absolute genius, and was not only a fabulously entertaining host, but an author, musician, an actor..a true Renaissance man, and Jane was perfect for him. A great actress in her own right, she had a gentle sense of humor, and you knew that Steve and Jane had one of the great, fulfilling marriages. They complimented each other. I am so sorry to hear of her passing. The generation of our parents, who lived through the Depression, went to war, and came home to make America the greatest nation on earth, were magnificent parents. Our childhoods were filled with love and every advantage there was, and then some. We were so blessed. Hopefully Jane is reunited now with those she has loved and lost. Her beautiful face and wonderful talents will be remembered by those of us who were “there”. We are grateful for having had her around for many years.

  5. jaypochapin says:

    Reblogged this on jaypochapin and commented:
    A unique woman of remarkable talent who walked among some incredibly brilliant colleagues and family members has passed from the stage and screen…

  6. Niles says:

    She always presented herself in an elegant fashion in public, like the old Hollywood tradition. RIP.

  7. maranew says:

    I have met her several times at different social events. She was quite a talker and I was always fascinated by her stories.

  8. Doug Deaton says:

    I feel honored to have met this marvelous lady with Steve when living in Seattle. The three of us exchanged a really funny series of one-liners, and I will never forget her smile and vivacious spirit. I will never forget them, and that day as one of the highlights of my life. May God rest your beautiful soul. My condolences to all the family.

  9. MerryMarjie says:

    Jayne Meadows and Steve Allen were an awesome couple and you just knew they were so much in love. I will now miss them both, remembering they had luminous careers along with the fact that they were wonderful people.

  10. Lee Lourdes says:

    As fate would have it Im at work and when I went to proofread my comment it
    had posted….WE LOVE YOU JAYNE MEADOWS!!! Lee Lourdes

  11. Lee Lourdes says:

    I remember meeting you and Steve Allen
    when we worked on THE BEST OF LA!
    and when you and I bumped into each other
    at Whole Foods I was still so very much
    as I am now in awe of you!

    You’re quite a Lady, A professional and we are most honored to have enjoyed your path in this life.

    You’re sorely missed and unreplaceable!

    We love you Jayne Meadow now at for all time

  12. Phil says:

    nice attempt at a correction. Paragraph still makes no sense. keep trying!

    • Lee Lourdes says:

      Perhaps not but I know Miss Meadows understood the power and will of the human spirit. From your heartless comment in the event of her passing I for one pity you.

  13. Mike Bond says:

    Obviously the writers at Variety SUCK

  14. Phil says:

    She was married to Steve Allen and her sister?

    “Meadows was married to Allen, who was the first host of “The Tonight Show,” from 1954 until his death in 2000, and Audrey Meadows, who starred with Jackie Gleason on “The Honeymooners,” died in 1996.”

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