Jan Miner, Palmolive's "Madge" and Respected Theatre Actress, Dead at 86

Obituaries   Jan Miner, Palmolive's "Madge" and Respected Theatre Actress, Dead at 86
 
Jan Miner, the theatre, film and TV actress whose best-known character shocked women in a fictional manicure shop on television, died Feb. 15 in a Bethel, Connecticut, health care facility, The New York Times reported.

For than 20 years Ms. Miner played Madge the Manicurist in commercials for Palmolive dishwashing detergent, which was billed as being so mild that it could be used to soften cuticles in the fictional salon where Madge made her living.

"You're soaking in it," Madge would tell her customers. Pulling their fingers out of the soapy soup, the ladies would be reassured by Madge that it was safe for their hands.

Ms. Miner was a Boston native who made her stage debut in Light Up the Sky in 1958 at the Playhouse in Cincinnati and at the Webster Playhouse in Massachusetts. The Times reported her age as 86, though some biographical information indicates she was 84. She made her New York City debut in Obbligato, followed by appearances in Viva Madison Avenue!, Decameron and The Lady of the Camellias. In stock and regional theatre, she appeared at the Cape Playhouse in Dennis, MA, the Mineola Playhouse and elsewhere. In TV's infancy, she appeared in "Robert Montgomery Presents" and other programs.

The New York Times reported she worked all over the country, including the Missouri Repertory Theater (with her husband, in The Gin Game) at the American Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, CT, for six seasons. She often worked with her husband, Richard Merrell, an actor and writer, who died in 1988.

She is remembered for playing Lenny Bruce's mother, Sally Marr, in the film, "Lenny." On Broadway, she appeared in 1973's The Women, 1980's Watch on the Rhine and Heartbreak House with Rex Harrison in the early 80s.

Among her Off-Broadway roles was the part of Gertrude Stein opposite the Alice B. Toklas of Marian Seldes in Win Wells' Gertrude Stein and a Companion, directed by Ira Cirker at the Lucille Lortel Theatre in 1986 (a TV version was filmed with Ms. Miner and Seldes). In 1988 she appeared in the Roundabout Theatre Company's Dandy Dick, by Arthur Wing Pinero, at the Union Square Theatre.

Born Janice Miner to a father who was a dentist and a mother who was a painter, Ms. Miner studied at the Vesper George School of the Arts in Boston. In New York City, her acting instructors included Lee Strasberg, Ira Cirker, David Craig and Don Richardson.

She is survived by a brother, Donald Miner, of Concord, NH.

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