Sheila MacRae, Wife in ’60s ‘Honeymooners’ Sketches, Dies at 92

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Sheila MacRae, Wife in ’60s ‘Honeymooners’ Sketches, Dies at 92

Posted on: March 11th, 2014 by tommyj

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Sheila MacRae, who starred on television and in movies, appeared on Broadway in the musical “Guys and Dolls” in 1965.

Sheila MacRae, the actress and singer best known for playing Alice Kramden in the 1960s version of “The Honeymooners,” died on Thursday in Englewood, N.J. She was 92.

She died at the Lillian Booth Actors Home, her daughter Heather MacRae said.

From 1966 to 1970, Ms. MacRae portrayed the long-suffering but tough-talking wife of Ralph Kramden, the blustery Brooklyn bus driver played by Jackie Gleason, in “Honeymooners” sketches, which often featured musical numbers, on the CBS variety series “The Jackie Gleason Show.” The role was made famous by Audrey Meadows on “The Honeymooners” in the 1950s.

For 26 years she was married to Gordon MacRae, singer and actor best known for starring in the movie versions of the musicals “Oklahoma!” and “Carousel.” The MacRaes performed as a duo for nearly a decade in nightclubs, on television and in concerts across the country, and appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show” on Feb. 23, 1964, the same night the Beatles made their third appearance on the show. Shortly after they married in 1941, Mr. MacRae was signed by Warner Bros. Pictures and the couple moved to Los Angeles.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Ms. MacRae acted in a few movies and appeared on “I Love Lucy” and other television shows. She left show business briefly after becoming pregnant with the couple’s first child, but returned to perform with her husband, she wrote in her 1992 memoir, “Mother of the Year,” because his drinking and gambling had begun to spiral out of control and she wanted to stay close so she could keep an eye on him. (Her memoir was named for an award she received the year her marriage began falling apart.)

In addition to performing as a pair, the MacRaes starred in a production of “Annie Get Your Gun” in Kansas City in 1961, in a cast that also included their four children, Meredith, Heather, William and Robert.

During her husband’s troubles, Ms. MacRae wrote in her memoir, she rebuffed overtures from suitors including Henry Fonda, Peter Sellers and Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. Ms. McCrae turned down a marriage proposal from Frank Sinatra, she said.

As troubled as her marriage was, Ms. MacRae was reluctant to divorce. “I would have had to take Gordy to court for divorce and spill all the secrets about his drinking and gambling,” she said in a 1992 interview.

The couple eventually separated in 1965 and divorced in 1967. She married Ronald Wayne the same year. They divorced in 1970.

Trained as a singer and dancer, Ms. MacRae also portrayed Miss Adelaide in “Guys and Dolls” on Broadway in 1965.

She revived the role of Alice on a Jackie Gleason special in 1973. She later appeared on the soap opera “General Hospital” and on Broadway in “Absurd Person Singular,” and she toured with the musical “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.”

Ms. MacRae is survived by two children, Heather and William, also known as Gar; five grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. Mr. MacRae died in 1986. Meredith MacRae, who starred in the situation comedy “Petticoat Junction,” died in 2000. Robert MacRae died in 2010.

Born in London on Sept. 24, 1921, as Sheila Meredith Stephens, she fled with her parents to Long Island in 1939, shortly before World War II.

Until recently, family and friends said, Ms. MacRae delighted in keeping her exact age a mystery. When friends and relatives wished her a happy 90th birthday in 2011, her family said in a statement, she replied, “I am only 90 in London.”

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