Audrey Meadows made bank in her role on The Honeymooners

Image credit: The Everett Collection

In the early '50s it was uncommon to see women in Hollywood making loads of money — especially while standing next to a male leading co-star. Despite that, in 1955, The Honeymooners' Audrey Meadows became super rich.

Meadows and her co-star, Jackie Gleason, signed a deal where they would make well over one million dollars during a three-year period.

You can re-read that sentence again if you'd like, because according to a 1955 interview with Star Tribune, Meadows did a classic double-take when she saw that amount of zeros.

Meadows knew of her contract negotiations for some time, but said she never expected the fantastical number that appeared when the contract was finalized. "It's more money than I ever thought I'd see as long as I lived," Meadows said.

To make the deal even more sweet, The Honeymooners had half-hour episodes, which meant Meadows could work way less for much more money than ever before. "Other people in the business just don't believe how little we rehearse," Meadows said. "For a long while, none of us showed up until Saturday afternoon."

According to Meadows, there are three types of actors: good actors, bad actors and "Gleason" actors.

"The Gleason actor is the kind of guy who lets nothing bother him once he's on the air," Meadows said. "If you're waiting behind a door, and your cue doesn't come, you walk in anyway."

Her career wasn't always so rich, in fact, when Meadows went in for an interview with Gleason she left Gleason unconvinced of her talent and potential.  According to the article, after her interview Gleason told the two managers: "Are you guys out of your minds? Alice is supposed to be a pathetic, beaten-down, worn-out woman. This girl is as far removed from that as anyone could be."

Meadows worked hard to get Gleason's respect and it worked, just like it did for the many American television viewers watching her onscreen each week. "People may be inclined to think of me as a rather quick, almost outrageous, success," Meadows said in another 1955 interview with The Buffalo News. "But this is really the cumulative result of all the work and experience over the years."

So, what does someone making one million dollars do with the first paycheck?

"I'll probably go absolutely mad in the clothes department," Meadows said. "Why, when I was just making $300 a week, I'd think nothing of buying a shirt for $300. So, imagine what I am going to do now."

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