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Jayne Meadows dies; actress and TV personality was 95

Actress and TV personality Jayne Meadows, seen in

Actress and TV personality Jayne Meadows, seen in a Sept. 2006 file photo, died Sunday, April 26, 2015 in her home in Los Angeles at age 95, Meadows' son, Bill Allen, said. Photo Credit: AP / Phil McCarten

Jayne Meadows, the Emmy-nominated actress and TV personality who often teamed with her husband, original "Tonight Show" host Steve Allen, has died. She was 95.

Meadows died of natural causes Sunday at her home in the Encino, California, area, spokesman Kevin Sasaki said Monday.

"She was not only an extraordinarily gifted actress who could move audiences from laughter to tears and back again all in one scene, but she was the greatest storyteller I have ever known," said her son, Bill Allen.

Though best known as the wife of the TV host -- and the sister of "Honeymooners" star Audrey Meadows -- Jayne Meadows also had a solid career. In the 1940s, she acted on Broadway and in movies, before becoming a household name as a panelist on the TV game show "I've Got a Secret" from 1952 into the late 1950s.

Meadows was born Jayne Cotter to Episcopal missionary parents in Wu Chang, China, and barely spoke English when the family moved back to the United States. She appeared in several Broadway shows in the 1940s. She changed her name to Meadows (borrowing an old family name) when she made her film debut in 1946 in "Undercurrent" with Katharine Hepburn.

She met Allen in 1952 at a dinner party. He sat next to her, speechless, until she turned to him and said, "Mr. Allen, you're either the rudest man I ever met or the shyest." It was the start of something big.

They married in 1954, just as Allen was starting his run as the first host of "The Tonight Show." After his death in 2000, Meadows called him "my best friend and my partner on stage and off for more than 48 years."

Meadows' innumerable TV guest credits include many appearances on her husband's shows: "Tonight," "The Steve Allen Show" and "The Steve Allen Comedy Hour."

One of her three Emmy nods came in 1978 for her portrayal of Florence Nightingale in "Meeting of Minds," Allen's 1977-81 PBS show that portrayed historical figures getting together for a chat. She was nominated in 1987 for a guest role in the drama series "St. Elsewhere" and in 1996 for her supporting role in the sitcom "High Society." She also played Billy Crystal's mother in the 1991 movie "City Slickers" and its 1994 sequel.

She had been largely retired since her husband's death.

Plans for a memorial service were not immediately announced.


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