Jayne Meadows was a performer who appeared in dozens of television series as an actress, and was also a frequent celebrity panelist on classic game shows such as I’ve Got a Secret, To Tell the Truth, The Match Game, What’s My Line? and The Hollywood Squares.
Born in Wuchang, China, in 1919 to missionary parents, she returned to America with her family in 1927. Her sister, Audrey Meadows, was an actress best known for playing Alice Kramden on The Honeymooners. Meadows got her own start with acting on Broadway in 1941, with a role in Spring Again, then later in The Gazebo, Moss Hart and Once in a Lifetime.
She started out in Hollywood with a contract at MGM and moved into television in the early ’50s, appearing in such series as Kraft Theatre, Studio One in Hollywood, The Steve Allen Plymouth Show, The Red Skelton Hour, Hawaii Five-O, Fantasy Island, The Love Boat, The Paper Chase, St. Elsewhere, High Society, Diagnosis Murder and Meeting of Minds.
Meadows, who was married to renowned writer-producer-composer-performer Steve Allen for nearly 50 years, collaborated with her husband on Meeting of Minds, for which she received an Emmy Award nomination for lead actress in a single appearance. The PBS series, which won its own Emmy for outstanding informational series, was turned into a traveling town hall show, which Meadows performed in for many years.
In the early ‘80s she received the Susan B. Anthony Award for her work portraying women in positive roles. She also received two more Emmy nominations, for outstanding supporting actress in a comedy series for High Society, and outstanding guest performer in a drama series for St. Elsewhere.
Meadows’s roles in film included Undercurrent with Katharine Hepburn, Lady in the Lake, Song of the Thin Man, The Luck of the Irish and Norman…Is That You? starring Redd Foxx. She also played Billy Crystal’s mom in City Slickers and the movie’s 1994 sequel, and in 1999 she played Michelle Pfeiffer’s mom in The Story of Us, her last onscreen role.
Meadows died on April 26, 2015, in Encino, California. She was 95.
Upon her passing, Television Academy chairman Bruce Rosenblum said, "Jayne Meadows was a gifted performer. She and Steve Allen shared a wonderful marriage and a brilliant creative partnership, which was showcased so memorably in the PBS series Meeting of Minds. She was there at the beginning of television, and left an indelible mark on our industry. Jayne will be missed. Our thoughts are with her son Bill and his family."