Sheila MacRae starred on the Broadway stage and in films, yet it was her small-screen role as the tolerant and brassy wife of a Brooklyn bus driver for which she is most remembered.
MacRae, best known for playing Alice Kramden to Jackie Gleason‘s Ralph in the 1960s recreation of The Honeymooners, died Thursday. She was 92.
The actress died at the Lillian Booth Actors Home in Englewood, N.J., MacRae’s granddaughter Allison Mullavey told the Associated Press on Friday.
In the 1950s version of The Honeymooners, Audrey Meadows starred with Gleason as the lovebirds and sparring partners Ralph and Alice. Sheila MacRae replaced Meadows as Alice in a later version from 1966-70 on The Jackie Gleason Show. MacRae was the last survivor from the ’60s edition of the Gleason show. Jane Kean, who played Trixie Norton, died last fall.
“My mother referred to herself as the last Mrs. Kramden,” said her daughter, actress Heather MacRae.
“She had a great life, my mom, she really did. She was quite a broad,” Heather said. “Fascinating, almost like an Autie Mame character.”
MacRae, who suffered from dementia but was otherwise in good health, had been hospitalized for a minor surgical procedure. Her death came suddenly Thursday night, apparently the result of old age, said Heather.
A singer, dancer and actress, MacRae was married to Oklahoma! and Carousel star Gordon MacRae for 26 years, and they appeared together in 1964 on The Ed Sullivan Show when the Beatles were featured.
From Broadway to TV
She had put her career on hold while she devoted herself to MacRae and their four children, Heather said. After helping her husband with his nightclub act, she decided to join him and her career took off, her daughter said. The couple appeared together in musicals including Guys and Dolls, with Sheila taking her performance as Miss Adelaide to Broadway in 1965.
The couple divorced in 1967.
Actress Shirley Jones, in a statement released by MacRae’s family, called the star “a great lady” with extraordinary talent who “helped me to be a better mother.”
After her divorce from Gordon MacRae, she was married to Ronald Wayne, who produced Gleason’s show, her daughter said. They later divorced.
MacRae played the role of Madelyn Richmond on the soap opera General Hospital and was host of The Sheila MacRae Show.
“She lived a good life and a long life,” Mullavey said. “We’ll miss her.”
A native of London, MacRae emigrated to America with her parents during World War II.
Survivors include children Heather and William “Gar” MacRae, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Daughter Meredith died in 2000 and son Robert in 2010, Heather said.