Elizabeth Allen

d. September 19, 2006

Elizabeth Allen, leading Broadway actress and Tony nominee also known for cult TV roles in The Twilight Zone and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. as

well as the John Wayne picture “Donovan’s Reef,” died Sept. 19 from kidney failure in Fishkill, N.Y. She was 77.

She had major roles in five Broadway shows and six movies, appeared in three series and made numerous guest shots on television, and sang at

the Stork Club in New York.

Born in Jersey City, N.J., Allen began a fashion-model career while still a teenager after a photographer noticed her walking along Madison Avenue

in Manhattan. Hoping to break into acting, she tried out for a bit part on The Jackie Gleason Show and was chosen instead to be the “Glea-Girl” who stood onstage in an evening gown and opened the show with the catch phrase, “And away we go!” She was with Gleason for the 1954-55 and 1956-57 seasons (1955-56 was the season Gleason dropped his variety hour to produce the filmed version of The Honeymooners).

While she was appearing Saturday nights on Gleason’s show, Allen worked as a costume designer for a production of “Hamlet” staged by the Helen Hayes Equity Group. Hayes invited her to work on stage after noticing her rapt attention at rehearsals, telling her, “I think you’re in the wrong end of the business,” Allen recalled.

Her big break came in October 1957 when the director of the Hayes touring troupe recommended her to a desperate David Merrick, producer of the Peter Ustinov comedy “Romanoff and Juliet.” The show was scheduled to open in less than a week and the role of Juliet still was not cast. Allen read for Ustinov and Merrick, learned the part in several days and went on to an acclaimed 11-month run.

She won her first Hollywood role in 1960’s “From the Terrace” starring Paul Newman, and then started to appear in filmed television shows. One of the first was The Twilight Zone episode “The After Hours,” an eerily effective Rod Serling script for the show’s first season. Allen played a snippy department store clerk who shares a bizarre secret with a customer played by Anne Francis.

She returned to Hollywood throughout the 1960s, appearing in episodes

of Checkmate, Route 66, Thriller, 77 Sunset Strip, Bachelor Father, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Ben Casey, Combat, Naked City, Burke’s Law,

The Fugitive, Stoney Burke, Dr. Kildare, The FBI and others.

Back on Broadway in 1962, Allen picked up her first Tony nomination as featured actress in a musical for “The Gay Life,” a short-lived show starring Barbara Cook. She was nominated again in 1965 as best actress in a musical for the Richard Rodgers-Stephen Sondheim show “Do I Hear a Waltz?”

Her next film roles came in “Diamond Head,” with Charlton Heston, and her best-known picture, “Donovan’s Reef,” another of John Wayne’s early-60s hits, with Lee Marvin, Cesar Romero, Jack Warden and Dorothy Lamour also in the cast. Both films were shot in Hawaii and both were released in 1963. The following year, John Ford, who also directed “Donovan’s Reef,” cast her in his epic western, “Cheyenne Autumn.”

On The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Allen guest-starred in “The Waverly Ring Affair,” an episode broadcast early in 1966 and one of the few outstanding episodes the series managed to produce after its first season. Allen portrayed the director of U.N.C.L.E.’s personnel department, who’s suspected of being a Thrush infiltrator.

She took her first series role in Bracken’s World, a 1969 NBC show produced by 20th Century-Fox, all about life behind the scenes at a Fox-like movie studio. Allen portrayed the head of the studio’s new-talent school, whose students included Linda Harrison, fresh out of Fox’s “Planet of the Apes.”

Allen’s last movie roles were in two notable early-1970s releases: “Star Spangled Girl,” the unsuccessful film version of Neil Simon’s play, and “The Carey Treatment,” a Blake Edwards murder-mystery starring James Coburn.

In 1972, she was cast as Paul Lynde’s wife in The Paul Lynde Show, a typical sitcom with Lynde as a typically harried husband and father. It ran for one season on ABC. She went on to appear in the first season of Don Rickles’ series CPO Sharkey, playing the commander of the U.S. Navy base where Rickles as Sharkey broke in new recruits. She was replaced when the series cranked up for a quick second season.

Between series, she had roles in shows that ran the 70s TV gamut, from The Young Lawyers, Kojak and Mannix, to Cannon, Faraday and Company, Barnaby Jones and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.

From 1980 to 1982, Allen appeared on the daytime serial Another World and its spin-off, Another World: Texas, before heading back to Broadway. She took over the starring role of fading singer Dorothy Brock in “42nd Street” in 1983 and stayed until the Broadway production finally closed in 1989. Then she joined the touring company and continued the role until that version of the show closed in 1996.

Her only marriage — to a German baron — ended in divorce in the 1950s. She left no immediate survivors. “I hated being remembered as the ‘away we go’ girl,” she once said about her first television job. “Now I love it, because so many people liked it. It’s flattering.”


Elizabeth Allen, top to bottom, in “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” in 1966; with Sergio Franchi in “Do I Hear a Waltz?” in 1965; in an early glamour shot.

Left, with Larry Blyden in “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.”; below, with Jack Warden in “Donovan’s Reef.”