Jayne Meadows Allen, a gifted comedian in the Lucille Ball vein who became familiar to TV audiences as a longtime panelist on CBS’ I’ve Got A Secret, died April 26 of natural causes at her home in Encino, CA. She was 95. Her death was announced by her son Bill Allen, CEO of the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp, who was with her in her final hours along with his wife Marie and Jayne’s grandchildren Bradley, Robert and Amanda. She had lived in the San Fernando Valley home since 1959, having moved there with her husband, Tonight Show creator and original host Steve Allen.
Born in China to missionary parents Francis and Ida Cotter, she made her Broadway debut as Jayne Cotter in Spring Again, an urbane 1941 comedy produced and directed by the legendary Guthrie McClintic. Her Broadway career peaked in 1958 with The Gazebo, a comic whodunit set on Long Island, in which she co-starred with Walter Slezak. Her last Broadway appearance was in a 1978 revival of the George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart comedy Once In A Lifetime. In 1993, she toured the U.S. with her husband in A.R. Gurney’s two-hander Love Letters.
Movies and TV brought out her more serious side as an actress. Meadows appeared in Undercurrent with Katharine Hepburn, David And Bathsheba with Gregory Peck, Enchantment with David Niven and Song Of The Thin Man with William Powell and Myrna Loy among many others. On TV, she appeared on all the Golden Age drama series, including Hallmark Hall of Fame, Studio One, G.E. Theatre and The DuPont Show Of The Week. She also appeared on the several long-running series — from Hawaii Five-O and Adam-12 to The Love Boat and Fantasy Island — and spent four years on PBS’ Meeting Of Minds, in which she played historical figures as varied as Marie Antoinette, Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Florence Nightingale. She appeared with her sister, Audrey Meadows, on NBC’s dramatic series Sisters.
Audrey Meadows died in 1996. Steve Allen died in 2000.