Audrey Meadows (February 8, 1922 - February 3, 1996), born Audrey Cotter, was an American actress best known for playing the deadpan housewife, Alice Kramden in the 1950s American television comedy, The Honeymooners.
According to the Social Security Death Index (]), Audrey Six (her married name) was born in 1922. Her sister, Jayne, claimed to have been born in 1926, but was really born in 1920. Thus Audrey was long-regarded as the elder sister, when she was really the younger.
Born in Wu-ch'ang (now Wuchang), China, to Episcopal missionary parents, the Rev. James Cotter, and his wife, Ida. The family returned to their home in Connecticut in the United States not far from the family home of William F. Buckley, Sr. and his huge family (10 children). The Buckleys were fervent Roman Catholics, and the Cotters obviously were Protestants, and some of the Buckley girls engaged in acts of misconduct and vandalism directed towards the Cotters, such as making prank calls sending the Rev. Cotter to imaginary deathbeds, and breaking windows.
After high school, she moved to New York City and became a singer in the Broadway show Top Banana before becoming a regular on the Bob and Ray Show. She was then hired to play Alice on The Jackie Gleason Show, and retained the role when The Honeymooners became a half-hour situation comedy on CBS. She then returned to play Alice after a long hiatus, when Gleason produced occasional "Honeymooners" specials in the 1970s.
Meadows had auditioned for Gleason and was initially turned down for being too chic and pretty for the drab Alice. Meadows later submitted an unglamorous photo of herself to Gleason, who reconsidered. Pert Kelton had originated the role of Alice when the Honeymooners was a skit on Gleason's variety show, but lost the role due to the blacklist, and her absence was explained away as due to her health.
After the show's run, Meadows played in a number of films, worked with Dean Martin on his variety hour, and then returned to situation comedy in the 1980s playing the mother-in-law on Too Close for Comfort. She had a notable appearance in an episode of the Simpsons, "Old Money", where she did the voice of Bea Simmons, Grampa Simpsons' girlfriend; her character died in that episode.
She died of lung cancer 5 days before her 74th birthday. A heavy life-long chain smoker, she had been diagnosed the year before but declined treatment. She was apparently estranged from her sister and her sister's family and had not been on speaking terms with them for at least a year. Thus they were unaware of her illness. Jayne first learned her sister was hospitalized when she was on a Hollywood soundstage appearing on an episode of the short-lived sitcom High Society. She rushed to the hospital but Audrey was already in a coma, and later died.
She is interred in Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California, although she was not known to be a Roman Catholic.
Audrey Meadows was the younger sister of actress Jayne Meadows, and sister-in-law to the late Steve Allen. She had several nephews and nieces. She had also had two brothers, both of whom predeceased her.