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Meadows in 1959
February 8, 1926
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Died||February 3, 1996
Beverly Hills, California, U.S.
|Cause of death||Lung cancer|
|Other names||Audrey Six|
|Occupation||Actress, banker, memoirist|
|Known for||The Honeymooners
Too Close for Comfort
(m. 1956; div. 1958)
(m. 1961; his death 1986)
|Relatives||Jayne Meadows (sister)|
Audrey Meadows (born Audrey Cotter, February 8, 1926– February 3, 1996) was an American actress best known for her role as the deadpan housewife Alice Kramden on the 1950s American television comedy The Honeymooners.
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Meadows was born Audrey Cotter in New York City in 1926, the youngest of four siblings. There is considerable debate and confusion concerning her year of birth and place of birth. Some biographies state that she was born in 1922 in New York City. Other biographies place her birth in 1926 in WuChang, China. Her parents, the Rev. Francis James Meadows Cotter and his wife, the former Ida Miller Taylor, had been Episcopal missionaries in Wuchang, Hubei, China, where her three elder siblings were born. The family returned to live in New York in 1921. Her older sister was actress Jayne Meadows. She attended high school at the Barrington School for Girls in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.
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After high school, she sang in the Broadway musical Top Banana before becoming a regular on television in The Bob and Ray Show. She was then hired to play Alice on The Jackie Gleason Show after the actress who originated the role, Pert Kelton, was forced to leave the show due to blacklisting, although the official reason given was that Kelton was suffering from a health problem.
When The Honeymooners became a half-hour situation comedy on CBS, Meadows continued in the role. She then returned to play Alice after a long hiatus, when Gleason produced occasional Honeymooners specials in the 1970s. Meadows had auditioned for Gleason and was initially turned down for being too chic and pretty to play Alice. Realizing that she needed to change her appearance, Meadows the next day submitted a photo of herself, one in which she looked much plainer. She then won the role of Alice.
The character of Alice became more associated with Meadows than with the others who played her, and she reprised her role as Alice on other shows as well, both in a man-on-the-street interview for The Steve Allen Show (Steve Allen was her brother-in-law) and in a parody sketch on The Jack Benny Program.
Meadows was the only member of the Honeymooners cast to earn residuals after the "Classic 39" episodes of the show from 1955 to 1956 started airing in reruns. Her brother Edward, a lawyer, had inserted a clause into her original contract whereby she would be paid if the shows were rebroadcast, thus earning her millions of dollars. However, Joyce Randolph, who played Trixie Norton, did receive royalty payments when the "lost" Honeymooners episodes from the variety shows were later released.
Career outside The Honeymooners
She appeared in a 1960 episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, entitled "Mrs. Bixby and the Colonel's Coat", one of the 17 episodes in the 10-year series directed by Hitchcock himself, and a rather light-hearted one.
She appeared in feature films, appeared on Dean Martin's television variety shows and celebrity roasts, she appeared on an episode of Wagon Train in the episodes title role of Nancy Palmer and years later returned to situation comedy in the 1980s playing Ted Knight's mother-in-law on Too Close for Comfort (1982–1985). She guest-starred on The Red Skelton Show, made an appearance in an episode of Murder, She Wrote ("If the Frame Fits"), and made an appearance in an episode of The Simpsons ("Old Money"), wherein she voiced the role of Bea Simmons, Grampa Simpson's girlfriend. Her last work was an appearance on Dave's World, in which she played the mother of Kenny (Shadoe Stevens).
In 1956, she married a wealthy real estate man named Randolph Rouse. On August 24, 1961, Meadows married her second husband, Robert F. Six, president of Continental Airlines, in Honolulu, Hawaii. He died on October 6, 1986.
Banking and marketing career
Meadows served as director of the First National Bank of Denver for 11 years, the first woman to hold this position. For twenty years, from 1961 to 1981, she was an advisory director of Continental Airlines, where she was actively involved in marketing programs that included the designs of flight attendant and customer service agent uniforms, aircraft interiors, and Continental's exclusive "President's Club" airport club lounges.
In October 1994, Meadows published her memoirs, Love, Alice: My Life As A Honeymooner.
Illness and death
In 1995 Meadows was diagnosed with lung cancer and given a year to live. She declined all but palliative treatment. She died on February 3, 1996, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles after slipping into a coma. She was interred in Holy Cross Cemetery, next to her second husband.
- Audrey Cotter was born in New York City in 1926, not in China as has been commonly stated. A 1921 passenger list shows the family entering the United States from China via Vancouver (S.S. Empress of Russia arriving at Vancouver from Shanghai, July 10, 1921). A 1927 passenger list shows Audrey's birthplace as New York (S.S. Olympic, arriving at New York from Southampton, May 3, 1927). The 1930 U.S. census, listing the family in Providence, Rhode Island, also shows Audrey's birthplace as New York City and her age as 8 years old in April 1930, which also confirms 1922 as her year of birth.
- Reed, J.D. "Diamond in the Rough", People Magazine, February 19, 1996; retrieved October 28, 2015.
- Collins, Glenn "For TV’s Trixie, the Honeymoon Lives On", The New York Times; retrieved October 28, 2015.
- Audrey Meadows on IMDb
- Myrna Oliver. Los Angeles Times obituary for Audrey Meadows, February 5, 1996.
- Serling, Robert J (1974). Maverick: The Story of Robert Six and Continental Airlines. Doubleday & Company. p. 351. ISBN 978-0-385-04057-0.
- "Audrey Meadows Quotes". Brainyquote.com. Retrieved 30 August 2017.
- Meadows, Audrey (January 1994). Love, Alice: My Life As A Honeymooner. Crown Publishers. ISBN 978-0-517-59881-8.
- "Audrey Meadows, "Honeymooners' Co-Star, Dies at 71". The New York Times. 5 February 1996. Retrieved 30 August 2017.
- Gallo, Phil (10 October 2002). "Gleason". Variety (magazine). Retrieved 10 December 2017.