Obituary: Jane Kean / Best known for role on 'Honeymooners'

April 10, 1923 - Nov. 26, 2013

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Jane Kean, best known for her role as Trixie, the long-suffering wife of Ed Norton on the 1960s TV revival of "The Honeymooners" with Jackie Gleason and Art Carney, has died. She was 90.

Ms. Kean, a resident of the Toluca Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles, died Tuesday at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank of complications from a fall. Her niece, Deidre Wolpert, confirmed her death.

Although she played diverse roles during a career spanning more than four decades, including performing at London's Palladium before moving to Broadway, Ms. Kean said her role in "The Honeymooners" was the character that most people remembered.

"There's something about the show -- people relate to it," Ms. Kean said in a 1991 interview with the Los Angeles Times. "People believed the show was real, and that we really were the characters we played."

"The Honeymooners," which started as a sketch on "The Jackie Gleason Show" in the early 1950s, starred Gleason as Ralph Kramden, a struggling New York bus driver who lived in a cramped apartment with his wife, Alice (Audrey Meadows). Carney played Norton, Kramden's dim-witted neighbor and best friend who was married to Trixie (originally played by Joyce Randolph), who was Alice's best friend.

Ms. Kean first started working with Gleason in the 1940s, when they were both on the vaudeville circuit. They also appeared in several stage productions in the 1950s.

She joined the cast of "The Honeymooners" in 1966 as Trixie when Gleason moved to Miami Beach for another version of "The Jackie Gleason Show," where he revived "The Honeymooners" for new sketches that reunited him with Carney. Sheila MacRae took on the role of Alice.

Those "Honeymooners" segments expanded to an hour and were crafted as musical comedies, with several original songs within each installment. The cast also appeared in 1976 for an ABC special, "The Honeymooners -- The Second Honeymoon."

Born April 10, 1923, in Hartford, Conn., Ms. Kean first started working professionally in the 1940s on stage. She appeared in starring roles on Broadway in the 1950s in shows such as "The Pajama Game" and "Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?" in which she replaced Jayne Mansfield.

During the 1950s, she also teamed up with her sister Betty for a popular nightclub act that blended singing, dance and comedy. The sisters performed on "The Ed Sullivan Show" and had a successful run at the London Palladium.

Ms. Kean also did voice-over work for commercials and in animated movies such as "Pete's Dragon" (1977) and TV specials including "Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol" (1962).

From the 1980s, she performed at colleges, on cruise ships, at dinner theaters and what she called Florida's "condo circuit."

Ms. Kean's first marriage, to Richard Linkroum, ended in divorce. She later married her manager, Joe Hecht. He died in 2006. Her sister Betty died in 1986.


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