Jayne Meadows Allen, actress, raconteur, and widow of the PTC’s Honorary Chairman Emeritus Steve Allen, died earlier this week. The PTC honors her memory.
Jayne Meadows Cotter was born in 1919 in Wuchang, China, where her parents were Episcopalian missionaries. The family moved back to the United States when she was eight, and she grew up in Connecticut. After performing in various films throughout the 1940s, she gained her most famous role as a panelist on the TV game show I’ve Got a Secret, where she and other panelists tried to guess a funny or embarrassing fact about guests. The program was one of the highest-rated shows of the 1950s. “The thing that made me a name in television was not acting — it was that show,” she later said.
Her gift for witty banter on I’ve Got a Secret led to her meeting legendary comedian and intellectual Steve Allen, who at the time was the first host of NBC’s Tonight Show. (Allen later served as the PTC’s Honorary Chairman until his death in 2000.) She was co-star and writer on Mr. Allen’s PBS series Meeting of Minds, on which actors played various real-life figures from history who interacted with one another. Mrs. Allen played historical women ranging from Cleopatra to Margaret Sanger. She won the first Women’s Equality Day Award from the National Organization for Women for her portrayal of Susan B. Anthony.
PTC President Tim Winter noted, “We are saddened to learn of Jayne Meadows Allen’s passing. Like her beloved husband, PTC Co-founder and Chairman Emeritus, Steve Allen, Jayne built a successful career on a foundation of positive, uplifting, family-friendly entertainment. And like Steve, she embraced the mission and vision of the PTC, actively sharing our work with friends even in recent years. We are profoundly grateful for the joy Jayne brought to so many families for so many years.”