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Audrey Meadows

Audrey Meadows

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Also Known As: Audrey Cotter Died: February 3, 1996
Born: February 8, 1924 Cause of Death: lung cancer
Birth Place: New York City, New York, USA Profession: actor

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

An icon of American TV, Audrey Meadows will forever live on the airwaves as Alice Kramden, the loving yet bickering wife of Ralph (Jackie Gleason) who would threaten in the body of each show, "To the Moon, Alice," yet end each episode by noting what America already knew: "Baby, you're the greatest!"Meadows went into show business as a singer and comedienne after her older sister Jayne Meadows had become established as a dramatic actress. After appearing with Phil Silvers in the road company of "High Button Shoes" and on Broadway in "Top Banana", she was hired as a singer and sketch player on the "Bob and Ray", produced in New York. Across town, Jackie Gleason was looking for a new actress to play Alice in sketches about a working class couple. Pert Kelton, who had been portraying Alice, had been blacklisted in "Red Channels" and could no longer be employed. Meadows was younger and softer than Kelton but her eyes had just the right smoky quality with just a hint of sexuality and Gleason hired her. She joined his variety show doing "The Honeymooners" sketches, winning an Emmy for her work. When the sketches were turned into a regular half-hour series in 1955, Meadows went along, and the 39 episodes...

An icon of American TV, Audrey Meadows will forever live on the airwaves as Alice Kramden, the loving yet bickering wife of Ralph (Jackie Gleason) who would threaten in the body of each show, "To the Moon, Alice," yet end each episode by noting what America already knew: "Baby, you're the greatest!"

Meadows went into show business as a singer and comedienne after her older sister Jayne Meadows had become established as a dramatic actress. After appearing with Phil Silvers in the road company of "High Button Shoes" and on Broadway in "Top Banana", she was hired as a singer and sketch player on the "Bob and Ray", produced in New York. Across town, Jackie Gleason was looking for a new actress to play Alice in sketches about a working class couple. Pert Kelton, who had been portraying Alice, had been blacklisted in "Red Channels" and could no longer be employed. Meadows was younger and softer than Kelton but her eyes had just the right smoky quality with just a hint of sexuality and Gleason hired her. She joined his variety show doing "The Honeymooners" sketches, winning an Emmy for her work. When the sketches were turned into a regular half-hour series in 1955, Meadows went along, and the 39 episodes produced have become TV classics. Simultaneously, she had been appearing as a panelist on numerous quiz shows. When Gleason returned to a regular variety show format, Meadows briefly remained with him playing the girlfriend of his Reginald Van Gleason before spending several seasons on the panel show "Masquerade Party".

In the early 60s, Meadows tried her hand in features, playing Doris Day's wisecracking roommate in "A Touch of Mink" (1962) and the more progressive wife in "Take Her, She's Mine" (1963). But except for "Rosie" (1967), she devoted herself in the 60s and 70s to occasional guest appearances on episodic TV and game shows. In 1982, Meadows was back on sitcoms as Ted Knight's mother-in-law from hell in the ABC sitcom "Too Close for Comfort". On the short-lived "Uncle Buck" (CBS, 1990), she was cast as the stern grandmother. After Gleason's death in 1987, Meadows appeared on numerous salutes to the star as well as on TV retrospectives. She published her autobiography in 1994, "Love, Alice: My Life as a Honeymooner". Meadows remained loyal to Gleason's memory crediting him with her success. The acerbic ripostes were saved for the cameras, where, preserved forever, America can hear Ralph saying "This is probably the biggest thing I ever got into" and Alice giving him a look and responding, "The biggest thing you ever got into is your pants." Alice could always top Ralph.

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Rosie (1967) Mildred Deever
2.
 Take Her, She's Mine (1963) Anne Michaelson
3.
 That Touch of Mink (1962) Connie
5.
 2 Years... Later (1990)
6.
 Comic Relief IV (1990)
9.
 Wally and the Valentines (1989) Lillian
10.
 Johnsons Are Home, The (1988) Aunt Lunar
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1940:
Singing debut, Carnegie Hall
:
Broadway debut, "Top Banana"
1951:
TV series debut as regular, "Bob and Ray" (NBC); played Linda Lovely in a spoof of soap operas
1952:
Was a series regular on "Club Embassy" (NBC)
:
Hired to replace Pert Kelton as Alic Kramden in the "The Honeymooners" sketches on "The Jackie Gleason Show" (CBS)
:
Was a frequent panelist on game shows like "What's Going On?", "What in the World?" and "The Name's the Same"
:
Co-starred as Alice Kramden on the half-hour version of "The Honeymooners"
:
Was a panelist/performer on "Masquerade Party" (NBC and CBS)
1962:
Supported Doris Day and Cary Grant in the hit comedy, "That Touch of Mink"
:
Played Iris, the mother-in-law, on the ABC sitcom "Too Close For Comfort"
1990:
Co-starred as the grandmother on the CBS sitcom "Uncle Buck"
1992:
Attacked on the street in Manhattan; robbed of an expensive jeweled necklace
1994:
Published autobiography, "Love, Alice: My Life As a Honeymooner"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Miss Hill's School: Great Barrington , Massachusetts -

Notes

Meadows' brother, attorney Edward Cotter, negotiated a clause in her contract which guaranteed Meadows residual payments should "The Honeymooners" ever be rebroadcast. She not only made a fortune from rebroadcasts, she was the only performer on the show to do so.

Virtually all published sources about Meadows' life say she was born in China where her parents were missionaries. At her death, her family revealed this was one of those "show biz fibs." In fact, Meadows was born in New York City.

"She had as much power as Gleason without matching his volume. She matched him in intensity. You knew darn well that both of them loved each other deeply and that everything would end up okay." --Art Carney (Ralph Norton on "The Honeymooners")

"I'm not the kind who would die for art. My aim is to make as much money as possible, to buy clothes and travel." --Audrey Meadows in 1955

"One thing people might not suspect is that my aunt had an incredible business mind." --Nephew Chris Cotter in PEOPLE, February 19, 1996

Companions close complete companion listing

husband:
Randolph Rouse. Realtor. Married 1956; divorced 1958.
husband:
Robert Six. Airline executive. CEO of Continental Airlines, married from 1961 until Six's death in 1986; formerly married to Ethel Merman.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Francis James Meadows Cotter. Episcopal priest, missionary.
mother:
Ida Cotter. Missionary.
sister:
Jayne Meadows. Actor. Married to Steve Allen; born 1922; survived her.
brother:
Edward Cotter. Attorney. Negotiated Meadows's "The Honeymooners" contract which resulted in her being the only cast member to receive residuals; deceased.
brother:
Frank Cotter. Died of lung cancer in 1981.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

Bibliography close complete biography

"Love, Alice: My Life as a Honeymooner"

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