Audrey and Jayne Meadows known as a pair of sisters gifted with beauty, talent, and Hollywood success. And for much of their careers, they got along great. But not long after Audrey finished her famous stint on the classic sitcom, The Honeymooners, the two sisters had a falling out. In this video, we’re taking a look at the rivalry between Audrey Meadows and Jane Meadows, and how it finally resolved itself after the death of one of their husbands. Join Facts Verse as we look at the reasons Audrey Meadows hated her own sister for years!
Audrey Meadows was born in Manhattan in 1922. Her birth name was Audrey Cotter, and she was the youngest of four children born to Rev. Francis James Meadows Cotter and Ida Miller Taylor. Her parents were Episcopal missionaries who spent time spreading the gospel in China, which is where the first three kids were born. But they had moved back the United States by 1922 when Audrey was born. Audrey shipped off to Massachusetts to attend boarding school at the Barrington School for Girls.
After she finished school, she dove in fully to pursuing a career in entertainment. She managed to land a role in a Broadway musical called Top Banana. She honed her craft on stage before turning her attention to television acting. Her first big gig was as a regular on the Bob and Ray show. Before long, she was able to land the role that changed her life forever… as Alice Kramden on The Jackie Gleason show, and then The Honeymooners.
She was “too pretty” to play Alice
Before Ralph and Alice Kramden were cracking up audiences across the country in The Honeymooners, the characters appeared on The Jackie Gleason Show. And before Audrey was even considered for the role of Alice, another actress was given the role. Pert Kelton had auditioned for the role of Alice and was all set to play her for as many years as possible. However, she was suddenly fired from the gig in 1952. While the studio released a statement that she was suffering from health issues, the reality was that Pert was being blacklisted, as part of the infamous anti-communist blacklist era in Hollywood.
So that left a hole to fill in casting. Audrey head about the opening, and lobbied hard to get the part. She was clearly a talented actress who could handle playing opposite comedic powerhouse Jackie Gleason. However, when Meadows initially auditioned in person for Gleason, he had an objection to her taking over the role. He felt she was too pretty! He figured that audiences wouldn’t buy that a guy like Ralph Kramden could snag a gorgeous woman for a wife.
But Audrey had other ideas. She knew that if she dressed down and didn’t appear in a glamorous get-up, she’d have a better chance. So she had a photographer come to her house and take photos of her right as she got out of bed. She had on ratty clothes and no makeup. She stood in her own kitchen, holding a frying pan. Clearly she looked a lot more plain than she had in her dolled-up audition appearance. Reportedly, when Gleason saw this new photograph the next day, Audrey looked so different than when she auditioned, Gleason assumed he was looking at a photo of a different actress. He reportedly took one look at this new photo and gave her the part, exclaiming, “She’s Alice!”. Join Facts Verse as we look at the reasons Audrey Meadows hated her own sister for years!
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Audrey’s sister Jayne was born Jayne Cotter in 1919. Unlike her sister, she was born while her family was still living in China as missionaries. After moving back to the United States, the family the family settled in Sharon, Connecticut, due to her brother being named to a position in a local church there.
But Jayne’s ambitions lay beyond the Episcopal church. She wanted to leave the family business behind and become a star. And before too long, she began to live out those dreams. She
Initially found mild success in films, appearing in Undercurrent (which starred Katherine Hepburn) as well as Song of the Thin Man with William Powell and Myrna Loy, and David and Bathsheba with Gregory Peck and Susan Hayward. In 1948 she starred in the movie, Enchantment, and even won the Cosmopolitan Award for Finest Dramatic Performance the following year for that role.
After finding a decent amount of film success, she shifted her focus to television. She was in an episode of Suspense, acting alongside Walter Matthau. She also began appearing on panel shows as herself. These included regular stints on a show called “I’ve Got A Secret” and occasional appearances on “What’s My Line.” What’s notable about her What’s My Line appearances is that they were alongside her husband, Steve Allen. This pairing went on to work together more often in later years, including live appearances in Las Vegas, which at the time was just beginning to gain a reputation as a place for live entertainment.
Even into the 1990’s, the two were still occasionally seen on TV together. They played an elderly couple in Homicide: Life on the Street, for example, and were on Diagnosis: Murder as an older couple as well. This latter appearance was in 1999, and turned out to be Steve Allen’s final one, as he died in 2000. Join Facts Verse as we look at the reasons Audrey Meadows hated her own sister for years!
Jayne, as we mentioned, married Steve Allen. Allen was a legendary figure in the world of television entertainment. He was known as a comedian and actor, as well as a musician and radio personality. But he was most notable for having co-created The Tonight Show, on which he was the first-ever host. This stalwart TV show has continued for years, and is a staple of late-night TV programming.
The two of them had a solid relationship, but not without issues. For example, Allen was a staunch Democrat, while Jayne was a staunch Republican. They even clashed sometimes when it came to career decisions. Reportedly, when Allen asked Meadows to play the role of Cleopatra in a show he was doing called Meeting of the Minds, Jayne wasn’t into it. But Allen basically gave her an ultimatum, saying that he wasn’t sure how their marriage could continue if she refused the part.
Audrey’s marriage was also to a very successful man. She married Richard Six, who was the president of Continental Airlines, in 1961. The two got hitched in Hawaii, and were married until Six died in 1986. It was a lucrative decision on Audrey’s part, as she reportedly became a millionaire due to this marriage.
The Meadows Sisters
While many siblings who find dual success in Hollywood are supportive of each other and have a great relationship, the same can’t be said for Audrey and Jayne Meadows. For whatever reasons, the two women tended to be jealous of the other’s success. Perhaps it was a sibling rivalry that began before their Hollywood careers, and extended into their lives for years. Or perhaps it was triggered by the successes each was having as they broadened their Hollywood career journey. But regardless of its origins, the jealousy between the two of them was enflamed when both women got married.
It was said that Jayne and Audrey constantly thought of themselves as rivals. In the book “The Lucy Book” author Geoffrey Mark Fidelman said that one big problem was that Audrey constantly made it seem like she was the bigger star. And this ruffled Jayne’s feathers a lot. The two sisters continued their petty rivalry for years. While it’s not known whether or not it was made worse by the men in their lives, it did coincide with the period where they were both married.
But reportedly, after Robert Six died, the two put their rivalry aside, and became friends again. So it’s possible there was an element about Audrey’s marriage to him that enflamed the issues between the two sisters. Either way, after 1986, the Meadows sisters became close again, and reportedly were on good terms for the later stages of their lives. Join Facts Verse as we look at the reasons Audrey Meadows hated her own sister for years!
Audrey Meadows died on February 3rd, 1996. She had been diagnosed with lung cancer the year before, after being a heavy smoker for many years. While doctors tried to offer he aggressive treatment to beat her cancer, she declined. She fell into a coma at a hospital in Los Angeles, and died the net day.
Jayne, on the other hand, was a very active senior citizen until the end. Though she fell and fractured her hip in 2009, and that seemed to signal the end of her public appearances. But she lived a long and full life, finally dying on April 26, 2015 of natural causes at the age of 95. She was at her home in Encino, CA, and then was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, next to her husband.
Now it’s time to hear from you. Are you a fan of the Meadows sisters? Which one of their shows or films do you remember them best from? And do you think siblings in Hollywood should always try to put personal beef aside and support each other. Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below. And before you go, make sure you give this video a like, and subscribe to Facts Verse if you haven’t already. Click the bell icon to stay updated on all our latest content!