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Jayne Meadows: Minor Movie Actress Became Emmy-Nominated Television Celebrity

Jayne Meadows
Jayne Meadows.

Three-time Emmy nominee Jayne Meadows dead at 95

Ramon Novarro biography Beyond Paradise

Jayne Meadows, best known for her show business partnership with husband and television personality Steve Allen, died at age 95 on April 26 at her home in the Los Angeles suburb of Encino.

From minor film actress to major TV celebrity

Born in China (on Sept. 27, 1919, in Wuchang) to American Episcopal missionary parents, Jayne Meadows returned with her family to the United States in the 1930s.

After stage work in the early 1940s, she began acting in films in mid-decade, but failed to make much of an impression in supporting roles in movies such as Vincente Minnelli’s Undercurrent (1946) and actor-turned-director Robert Montgomery’s Lady in the Lake at MGM, and Irving Reis’ Enchantment (1948) for independent producer Samuel Goldwyn.*

Following another supporting role in Henry King’s popular biblical melodrama David and Bathsheba (1951), Meadows switched to television, where in the ensuing decades she would be featured in countless series, specials, variety shows, and TV movies.

Among these were several Steve Allen shows (The New Steve Allen Show, The Steve Allen Comedy Hour, Meeting of Minds), The Paper Chase, Medical Center, and, inevitably, Fantasy Island, The Love Boat, and Murder, She Wrote.

Working for Robert Altman, Martin Scorsese

In the 1990s, Jayne Meadows was seen in supporting roles and cameos in a handful of films, including:

  • Robert Altman’s The Player (1992).
  • Martin Scorsese’s Casino (1995).
  • City Slickers (1991) and City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly’s Gold (1994), in which she played Billy Crystal’s overly concerned mother.

Her last film role was in Rob Reiner’s 1999 romantic comedy-drama The Story of Us. That same year, she was seen in her final TV role: in the episode “The Roast ” of the Dick Van Dyke crime series Diagnosis Murder. Steve Allen was another “The Roast” guest star.†

Emmy nominations

Jayne Meadows was nominated for three Primetime Emmys:

  • Outstanding Guest Performer in a Drama Series for the St. Elsewhere episode “Visiting Daze” (1986).
  • Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for High Society (1995).
  • Outstanding Lead Actress for a Single Appearance in a Drama or Comedy Series for Meeting of Minds (1977).

Jayne Meadows and Steve Allen were married from 1954 until his death at age 78 in 2000. Her sister, Audrey Meadows, also had a successful television career, co-starring opposite Jackie Gleason and Art Carney in the 1950s sitcom The Honeymooners. Her handful of film roles include a scene-stealing supporting turn in Delbert Mann’s Cary Grant-Doris Day comedy That Touch of Mink (1962). Audrey Meadows died in 1996.

Jayne Meadows movies

* Jayne Meadows films mentioned in this article:

† Also featured in “The Roast” were Ruth Buzzi, Tim Conway, Ted Danson, Dick Martin, and Norm Crosby, among others.

More about Teresa Wright, Enchantment, and its connection to Somewhere in Time.

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