'Honeymooners' Star Sheila MacRae Dies

4:21 PM PST 03/07/2014 by Mike Barnes , Duane Byrge
Courtesy Everett Collection
Sheila MacRae

The actress starred as Alice in a later version of the Jackie Gleason comedy. She had a popular nightclub act with her husband, "Oklahoma!" star Gordon MacRae, before their divorce.

Sheila MacRae, the English actress and comedienne who starred as Alice Kramden in a 1960s re-creation of the hit TV series The Honeymooners, has died. She was 92.

MacRae, who played Ralph Kramden's wife from 1966-70 on CBS' The Jackie Gleason Show, died Friday at the Lillian Booth Actors Home in Englewood, N.J., a spokesman for the nursing care facility confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter.

MacRae revived the role made famous by Audrey Meadows, who starred in the 1950s version of The Honeymooners. MacRae made a final appearance as Alice in a 1973 Gleason special.

An accomplished singer, dancer and impressionist, MacRae was married to Oklahoma! singer-actor Gordon MacRae and was the mother of Petticoat Junction actress Meredith MacRae, who died of brain cancer in 2000 at age 56. In the wake of her daughter's death, she did not perform for years.

Born Sheila Margaret Stephens in London, she was sent by family to live on New York's Long Island just before the outbreak of World War II.

In 1941, she married Gordon MacRae, who recorded such hits as "Rambling Rose," "So in Love" and "It's Magic" and hosted his own TV show in the mid-1950s. They often performed together and were on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964 when The Beatles also appeared.

That exposure boosted their careers, and they performed in nightclubs all over the world --including a show in front of Queen Elizabeth at the London Palladium -- until they separated in 1965.

The pair finalized their divorce in 1967, and she married TV producer Ronald Wayne that same year. (They divorced in 1970.) She wrote a 1992 autobiography, Hollywood Mother of the Year, that told of her years on the road and her turmoil with her first husband.

MacRae appeared as herself in a 1955 episode of I Love Lucy, titled "The Fashion Show," in which Lucille Ball modeled fashions with other celebrities' wives, and was in such films as Backfire (1950), Caged (1950), Pretty Baby (1950) and Bikini Beach (1964).

In a recurring role on daytime TV, she played Madelyn Richmond on General Hospital and later appeared as a pushy publicist on Search for Tomorrow. She was a popular quiz show performer, appearing often on What's My Line?

She starred on Broadway in Absurd Person Singular, which debuted in 1974, starred Off-Broadway in O.K. and toured in national productions of Luv, Plaza Suite, Twigs, Redhead and The Typist and the Tiger.

On the Los Angeles stage, McRae was a Drama Logue Award winner in 1983 for An American Farce and received critical acclaim for L'Acheteuse. More recently, she performed in a show titled An Evening With Sheila MacRae, a recounting of her life.

She and Gordon MacRae had four children.

Twitter: @mikebarnes4

comments powered by Disqus