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.