Julia Grandes Crane, Widow of 'The Honeymooners' Creator Harry Crane, Dies at 101

Julia Grandes Crane - Publicity-H 2018
Courtesy of Chasen & Company

The grandmother of actresses Sara Gilbert and Melissa Gilbert was a dancer and a model who won a Miss Brooklyn contest.

Julia Grandes Crane, a former model and Miss Brooklyn contest winner who was married to Harry Crane, who helped create the legendary comedy The Honeymooners, died Saturday at her home in Los Angeles, her family announced. She was 101.

Survivors include granddaughters Sara Gilbert, the actress and executive producer of The Conners and The Talk, and Little House on the Prairie star Melissa Gilbert.

In 1951, when Jackie Gleason was looking for a comedy sketch for his DuMont Television Network show Cavalcade of Stars that would have him portray a working-class stiff from Brooklyn with a long-suffering wife, Harry Crane came up with bus driver Ralph Kramden and his wife, Alice. (The couple were loosely based on Harry and Julia, and Harry also created other characters for Gleason, like his pantomimed "Poor Soul.")

The Honeymooners, of course, went on to become a CBS series that aired for 39 fabled episodes in 1955-56 and then for decades in syndication. (Gleason is often credited as the creator of the show.)

Julia Grandes was born in Connecticut on April 28, 1917, and raised in Brooklyn. An artist and a dancer, she and Crane were married in 1934 and divorced in 1958, according to public records. He died at age 85 in 1999.

Survivors include her daughters, Stephanie Crane and Barbara Gilbert Cowan, widow of the late Hollywood publicist Warren Cowan; Melissa Gilbert and her husband, actor Timothy Busfield; Sara Gilbert and her wife, Linda Perry; grandson Jonathan Gilbert, another Little House actor; and great-grandchildren Dakota Brinkman (Marissa), Michael Boxleitner, Levi Gilbert-Adler, Sawyer Gilbert-Adler and Rhodes Perry.

Donations in her name may be made to the Alzheimer's Association, No Kid Hungry and the John Wayne Cancer Foundation.