By Robert Simonson
02 Dec 2013
Jane Kean was born April 10, 1924, in Hartford, CT. Both she and her older sister, Betty, were encouraged by their mother to embark on a career in show business. She made her Broadway debut in the 1943 Fats Waller musical Early to Bed, which ran for a year. The short-lived comedy The Girl From Nantucket followed in 1945. She replaced Betty Garrett in the hit musical Call Me Mister and, alongside her sister Betty, replaced Nancy Walker and Carol Bruce in the revue Along Fifth Avenue in 1949 (which co-starred Jackie Gleason).
Jane and Betty also co-starred in the 1955 musical Ankles Aweigh. The sisters performed throughout the 1950s as a nightclub act. They performed their act—a mix of singing, dancing and comedy—on "The Ed Sullivan Show" and at the London Palladium. In 1953 there were reports of composer Jule Styne and writer Anita Loos building a new musical, called The Great Caress, around the sister act, but the show never came to be. The much-married Betty (her husbands included actors Frank Fay and Jim Backus) preceded her sister on Broadway, performing in Crazy With the Heat and The Sun Field in the early '40s.
In 1966 when Jackie Gleason decided to revive the popular "Honeymooners" series, Ms. Kean was cast as Trixie, a role that was originally played by Joyce Randolph in the 1950s. Different from the original series, which was composed of half-hour episodes, the new "Honeymooners" segments lasted an hour and were presented as musical comedies, with new songs featured in each installment. The series ran through 1970.
Later in her career, Ms. Kean portrayed Sally in the first touring production of Stephen Sondheim’s Follies. In 2002 she starred in a Los Angeles revival of Kander and Ebb’s musical 70, Girls, 70.
Kean’s first marriage, to Richard Linkroum, ended in divorce. She later married her manager, Joe Hecht, who died in 2006.