Jayne Meadows was born Jane Meadows Cotter in 1919 in Wuchang, one of three sections of Wuhan in the Hubei Province (where the Cotter family was relocated after a bomb fell on their home in Wu Chang [clarification needed]; the other two sections are Hanyang and Hankou), the 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. Meadows was the older sister of the late actress Audrey Meadows. She also had two brothers (both now deceased). In the early 1930s, the family settled in Sharon, Connecticut where her father had been appointed rector of Christ Church. Meadows’ 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), Enchantment (with David Niven and Teresa Wright). Louella Parsons presented to Meadows the Cosmopolitan Award for Finest Dramatic Performance of 1949, for, Enchantment.
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 an act. Prior to Allen’s death in 2000, the couple made several television appearances together; in 1998 they played an argumentative elderly couple in an episode of Homicide: Life on the Street in which Allen’s character accidentally shoots a man in the act of committing suicide by plunging 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).
She was married to Steve Allen from 1954 until his death in 2000. They had one son, Bill. Allen’s three children from his first marriage (Stephen Jr., Brian and David) are her stepchildren. Meadows was active in Republican affairs although Steve Allen was a Democrat. She was the recipient of several Doctor of Humane Letters degrees from various universities. 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.
- September, 27, 1919
- Wu-ch'ang, Heilongjiang
- April, 26, 2015
- Encino, California
Cause of Death
- natural causes