‘The Honeymooners’: Audrey Meadows Was The Only Cast Member to Earn Residuals

Residuals and royalties are commonplace in television contracts today, but that wasn’t always the case. Audrey Meadows, the actor who portrayed Alice Kramden on The Honeymooners, is considered one of the first actors to receive residual payments for her time. She is also believed to be the only cast member who earned residuals for reruns, including the show’s star, Jackie Gleason.

Audrey Meadows’ brother considered the value of reruns in television’s infancy

Meadows’ residuals had little to do with her star power and everything to do with the forethought of her brother, an attorney. When Meadows was working out her contract with CBS, her brother advised her to have a residual clause written into the paperwork because he thought reruns of the famed show would eventually be valuable, according to IMDb.

Joyce Randolph, Audrey Meadows, Art Carney and Jackie Gleason on stage after the 'The Jackie Gleason Show'
Joyce Randolph, Audrey Meadows, Art Carney, and Jackie Gleason | Earl Leaf/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

He was right. The residual payments ended up earning Meadows far more money than she ever made for appearing on the show in the first place. Residuals and royalties were incredibly uncommon at the time because television was still in its infancy.

How much did Audrey Meadows earn for her time on The Honeymooners?

When Jackie Gleason signed a deal with CBS in the 1950s, it was the largest television contract in history. Gleason was paid $11 million for three seasons of The Honeymooners, according to The Daily News. There was a catch, though; Gleason had to pay for all production costs out of pocket. That included the pay of his co-stars.

Audrey Meadows appears in 'The Jackie Gleason Show' in the 1950s
Audrey Meadows | Earl Leaf/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

While exact amounts are hard to nail down, it is believed that Meadows made around $2,000 per week for her time on the series. Joyce Randolph, the last living cast member, is believed to have earned around $500 per week for her role. Randolph, who portrayed Trixie Norton, did not appear in every episode.

The Honeymooners have become a New Year’s tradition

Meadows died in 1996, but her character of Alice Kramden lives on. The Honeymooners has become something of a New Year’s tradition. The series is shown, in its entirety, starting at midnight on New Year’s Day on Pix11. All 39 episodes featuring Meadows are featured in the marathon.

The cast of 'The Honeymooners' on set
The cast of ‘The Honeymooners’ | Earl Leaf/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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The famed series is not currently available for streaming, but that could change at any time. Only one member of the original cast is still alive. Gleason, who portrayed Ralph Kramden, died in 1987. Art Carney, who took on the role of Ed Norton, died in 2003.