Sheila MacRae, who played Alice Kramden on the cult classic remake of The Honeymooners, The Jackie Gleason Show, alongside Jackie Gleason, has died at age 92. The Jackie Gleason show was better known in the 1970’s as The Color Honeymooners. MacRae was 42 when she took over the role of quick-witted and feisty Alice Kramden, a role that originally was played by Audrey Meadows. The actress of stage, screen, and television passed in the Lillian Booth Actors Home Thursday. “She had a great life, my mom, she really did. She was quite a broad,” stated her actress daughter, Heather MacRae. MacRae, who reportedly suffered from dementia, was in general good health despite her advanced age and was stated to have died suddenly by her daughter. She had been recently hospitalized for a minor surgical procedure. MacRae was the final surviving cast member from her series.
MacRae, a starlet since the early 1950’s, who was also an accomplished singer and dancer, was married in 1941 to Gordon MacRae, star of Oklahoma! and Carousel who also recorded Rambling Rose and It’s Magic. The two appeared together during the famed Beatles performance in 1964 during The Ed Sullivan Show. Sheila MacRae eventually divorced and remarried Ronald Wayne, who would go on to produce the remake of The Honeymooners with Jackie Gleason, on which Sheila starred as Gleason’s leading lady and “sparring partner” on the series. Later, MacRae played key roles in General Hospital and eventually starred in her own show, The Sheila MacRae Show. She received various accolades for her work on stage and screen, notably winning the Drama Logue Award in 1983 for An American Farce. She recently performed a recounting of her life in An Evening With Sheila MacRae.
Heather MacRae spoke fondly of her mother Sheila’s passing, stating that she had devoted her time and energy to her husband Gordon MacRae and her four children early in her career. “She lived a good life and a long life,” she said, mourning the death of the 92-year-old Honeymooners star. Sheila helped Gordon with his nightclub career and eventually joined him. Both had worked together on stage often, stated MacRae’s daughter, including a show for Elizabeth, the Queen of England at the London Palladium. One of the roles she played in Guys and Dolls, Adelaide, took her to Broadway in 1965. MacRae even played herself in an episode of the mega-cult classic, I Love Lucy, where she played a celebrity wife trying on dresses with Lucille Ball. Shirley Jones, another actress greatly influenced by MacRae, released a statement about how she improved as a mother and person because of MacRae, calling her “a great lady,” and further stating that she “helped me to be a better mother.”
Sheila MacRae was born in London. Her family immigrated during World War II. She is survived by her children, Heather and William, six grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. Her daughter, Meredith, passed away in 2000 of cerebral cancer at the age of 56. Her son, Robert, passed in 2010. Sheila MacRae, last of The Honeymooners cast has died at 92, causing media all over the country to mourn the loss of this starlet of the silver age of television.
By Emanuel F. Camacho