Jayne Meadows

Jayne Meadows (born Jane Cotter; September 27, 1919 – April 26, 2015), also known as Jayne Meadows Allen, was an American stage, film and television actress, as well as an author and lecturer. She was nominated for three Emmy Awards during her career and was the elder sister of actress and memoirist Audrey Meadows as well as the wife of original Tonight Show host Steve Allen.

Jayne Meadows
Meadows smiling
Meadows in the 1940s
Jane Cotter

(1919-09-27)September 27, 1919
Wuchang District, Wuhan, China
DiedApril 26, 2015(2015-04-26) (aged 95)
Resting placeForest Lawn Memorial Park, Hollywood Hills, California
Occupation(s)Actress, author
Years active1941–2009
Political partyRepublican
  • (m. 1949; div. 1954)
  • (m. 1954; died 2000)
RelativesAudrey Meadows (sister)

Early lifeEdit

Jayne Meadows was born Jane Cotter in 1919,[1] in Wuchang, Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, the elder daughter of American Episcopal missionary parents, the Rev. Francis James Meadows Cotter and his wife, the former Ida Miller Taylor, who had married in 1915.[2] Her younger sister was actress Audrey Meadows. She also had two older brothers. In the early 1930s, the family settled in Sharon, Connecticut, where her father had been appointed rector of Christ Church.[3]


Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer signed Jane Cotter to a movie contract in 1944, giving her the professional name Jayne Meadows. She specialized in playing intense character roles as opposed to ingenues. Her most famous movies include: Undercurrent (with Katharine Hepburn), Song of the Thin Man (with William Powell and Myrna Loy), David and Bathsheba (with Gregory Peck, Susan Hayward and Raymond Massey), Lady in the Lake (with Robert Montgomery and Audrey Totter) and Enchantment (with David Niven and Teresa Wright). Louella Parsons presented to Meadows the Cosmopolitan Award for Finest Dramatic Performance of 1949, for Enchantment.[4]

Among her earliest television appearances, Meadows played reporter Helen Brady in a 1953 episode of Suspense opposite Walter Matthau titled "F.O.B. Vienna". She was a regular panelist on the original version of I've Got a Secret and an occasional panelist on What's My Line?, the latter alongside husband Steve Allen. She also appeared on the NBC interview program Here's Hollywood. During the early days of the burgeoning live entertainment scene in Las Vegas, the Allens occasionally worked together as a nightclub act.

In the 1950s Jayne Meadows and her younger sister Audrey Meadows recorded four duets for RCA Victor, among them "Dungaree Dan and Chino Sue" (a children's version of the old folk song "Cocaine Bill and Morphine Sue," with new, sanitized lyrics by Steve Allen).

The Allens made several television appearances together. Allen's highly original series Meeting of Minds (1977-81) featured great names of history (Thomas Paine, Socrates, Catherine the Great, et al.) in a talk-show format. Allen insisted on casting his wife in most of the feminine roles, over her objections: "He came to me and he said, 'You're gonna play Cleopatra.' I said, 'I am not! Go away. Go away!' And he calmly said, 'It's a divorce of you don't play it.'"[5]

In 1998, Meadows and Allen played an argumentative elderly couple in an episode of Homicide: Life on the Street in which Allen's character accidentally shoots a man who was in the act of committing suicide (by jumping from the roof of the elderly couple's building). In 1999, the couple made their last joint TV appearance (again playing a couple) in the all-star episode of the Dick Van Dyke series Diagnosis: Murder, titled "The Roast", which marked Steve Allen's final screen appearance. She also appeared in City Slickers, as the telephone voice of Billy Crystal's character's over-protective and oversolicitous mother.

Other venturesEdit

At least as early as 1964[6] and at least as late as 1967,[7] Meadows had a travel agency.

Later life and deathEdit

With husband Steve Allen in 1961

She was married to Steve Allen from 1954 until his death in 2000. They had one son, Bill. Allen's three sons from his first marriage (Stephen Jr., Brian and David) are her stepsons.[8]

Meadows was active in Republican affairs although Steve Allen was a Democrat. She was the recipient of several honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degrees from various universities.[9]

Meadows remained active until 2009 when she fell and fractured her hip. Her last public appearance was in August 2009 at the Early TV Memories First-Class Commemorative Stamp Dedication Ceremony. She died on April 26, 2015, of natural causes at her home in Encino, California, aged 95.[10] She is buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in the Hollywood Hills, beside Steve Allen.[11]



  1. ^ "Actress Jayne Meadows dies at 95; spent early years in Providence". The Providence Journal. April 28, 2015. Retrieved December 13, 2022.
  2. ^ Miss Ida M. Taylor to be Bride of Rev. F.J.M. Cotter on May 27, The New York Times, April 16, 1915, accessed May 6, 2008.
  3. ^ Pollak, Michael (April 27, 2015). "Jayne Meadows, Actress and Steve Allen's Wife and Co-Star, Dies at 95". The New York Times. p. A25.
  4. ^ "Jayne Meadows - Movies". www.jaynemeadows.com.
  5. ^ Jayne Meadows interview, Hi-Ho, Steverino!, Arts & Entertainment Network, 1994.
  6. ^ https://www.archives.gov/files/research/jfk/releases/docid-32297050.pdf
  7. ^ https://web.archive.org/web/20230514112758/https://www.alamy.com/her-business-managers-suggestion-that-a-little-business-might-be-good-as-a-tax-thing-launched-actress-jayne-meadows-on-her-supplementary-and-successful-career-she-runs-a-travel-agency-on-august-29-1967-in-los-angeles-she-also-manages-to-travel-with-husband-steve-allen-to-appear-on-their-tv-shows-and-to-keep-up-a-social-life-with-friends-jayne-is-seen-in-her-travel-agency-ap-photowally-fong-image525570304.html
  8. ^ Severo, Richard (November 1, 2000). "Steve Allen, Comedian Who Pioneered Late-Night TV Talk Shows, Is Dead at 78". The New York Times. Retrieved February 1, 2020.
  9. ^ Haynes, Karima A. (May 7, 1997). "Opposites Attract, Succeed for Decades". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 1, 2020.
  10. ^ Ungerman, Alex (April 27, 2015). "Legendary Actress Jayne Meadows Allen Dies at 95". Retrieved February 1, 2020.
  11. ^ Wilson, Scott (August 19, 2016). Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons (3d ed.). McFarland. p. 507. ISBN 978-1476625997 – via Google Books.

External linksEdit