The ageless beauty and talent Sheila MacRae will be 90 on Saturday and will be celebrating it with her daughter and my friend, Heather MacRae. Michael Alden, the Broadway producer and Tony Newfield, the actor, also will join in the celebration at the Actor’s Fund Home in Englewood, New Jersey.
Together they will gather around the baby grand piano and sing showtunes such as “Oklahoma,” “Surrey With the Fringe on the Top,” “If I Loved You” and those wonderful songs made famous by Sheila and her husband Gordon.
Heather and Sheila used to sing for my mother who was in her wheelchair and who lived to be 100, so this is a ritual in the MacRae dynasty — singing as we grow along. Heather is very pleased with the care that her mother is receiving at the Actor’s Fund Home in New Jersey and because she lives and performs her highly acclaimed cabaret show “Songs for My Father” in Manhattan, she is just a short drive over the bridge to supervise her mother's care.
I had the privilege of visiting Sheila one sunny autumn day and we had a “sing in” after we ate food Heather had imported from Manhattan. Sheila remains the gourmet and deservedly is pampered by her daughter and all the MacRaes.
Sheila is an English actress and author. She was born Sheila Margaret Stephens. She appeared in such films as “Pretty Baby” (1950), “Caged” (1950), “Backfire” (1950) and “Sex and the Single Girl” (1964). She played Alice Kramden, the long-suffering but sassy wife of bus driver Ralph Kramden (played by Jackie Gleason) on the musical-comedy color episodes of "The Honeymooners" on “The Jackie Gleason Show” from 1966 to 1970 (a role originally played by Pert Kelton and then Audrey Meadows). She later played the role of "Madelyn Richmond" on “General Hospital.”
Sheila married Gordon MacRae in 1941 and together they had four children. Both Sheila and Gordon were exceptional singers and often appeared on the stage together, in such musical productions as a 1964 production of “Bells Are Ringing” and “Guys and Dolls.” Sheila played the role of Miss Adelaide, a role that she took to Broadway in the 1965 revival. On television, she is famously remembered for playing herself in the “I Love Lucy” episode titled "The Fashion Show.”
Bells, whistles, remembrances and cards are welcomed by the Actor’s Fund Home in Englewood, New Jersey.