Celebrating Seniors - Lee Meriwether is 80
Former Miss America (1955) Lee Meriwether turns 80 today – born May 27, 1935 in Los Angeles, California. She grew up and went to college in San Francisco, along with classmate and actor Bill Bixby.
(Lee Meriwether & Robert Brown 1965 12 O’Clock High)
Jeanne Kessey (left) being crowned Miss San Francisco by 1955 Miss America Meriwether. (AP Wirephoto)
As a teenager Lee was always interested in acting and working with children.
After winning Miss America in 1955, Lee Meriwether appeared on the Today Show (1944-1956).
She married Frank Aletter in 1958 and they had 2 daughters together, Kyle (1960) and Lesley (1963), before divorcing in 1974.
Lee Meriwether has kept busy acting in movies, as well as on stage in television series since the 1950’s – over 65 years in her acting career.
(Lee Meriwether “Catwoman” 1966 Batman Photo: 20th Century Fox)
She appeared in several movies with big stars in the 1960’s.
- The Undefeated (1969), co-starring John Wayne, Rock Hudson, Merlin Olsen, Bruce Cabot, Jan-Michael Vincent, Ben Johnson, and Harry Carey Jr.
- The Legend of Lylah Clare (1968), starring Kim Novak, Peter Finch, and Ernest Borgnine.
- Angel in My Pocket (1969), starring Andy Griffith, Jerry Van Dyke, Henry Jones, Edgar Buchanan, Gary Collins, Elena Verdugo, Margaret Hamilton, and Robert Hastings.
The movie role Lee Meriwether is most associated with is Catwoman in the 1966 feature film Batman, with the TV series cast of Adam West as Bruce Wayne/Batman, Burt Ward as Robin, Cesar Romero, Burgess Meredith, Frank Gorshin, Alan Napier, and Neil Hamilton.
She later guest starred on the Batman TV show as Bruce Wayne’s love interest Lisa Carson, in 1967.
Lee Meriwether’s baby boomer and 1960’s sci-fi TV fans may recall her co-starring with teen heart-throb James Darren in The Time Tunnel series from 1966-1967. Below from left, James Darren, Lee Meriwether, and Robert Colbert on The Time Tunnel circa 1966.
(Photo: ABC Television)
Also on television, Lee Meriwether was a regular on a short-lived daytime soap opera The Young Marrieds, originating the role of Ann Reynolds in 1964.
She was also a regular cast member on The Clear Horizon (1960-1962), which was centred on the lives and loves of astronauts based at Cape Canaveral, Florida (although it was filmed in California). During her tenure on The Clear Horizon playing Enid Ross, Lee Meriwether’s co-stars included Beau Bridges as Eddie Tinker, Ted Knight as Col. Tate, Michael Fox as Sig Levy, and Denise Alexander as Lois Adams.
Lee Meriwether was a recurring cast member of the popular TV spy series Mission: Impossible (1969-1970) as Tracey. Her co-stars during the 8 episodes she appeared in on Mission: Impossible included series regulars Peter Graves, Martin Landau, Barbara Bain, Greg Morris, Peter Lupus, Leonard Nimoy, as well as Diane Baker and John Vernon.
(Andy Griffin and Lee Meriwether 1971 The New Andy Griffith Show Photo: CBS Television)
Lee Meriwether had a recurring role as Lee Sawyer on her Angel in My Pocket co-star Andy Griffith’s TV series, The New Andy Griffith Show, in 1971.
She made several appearances as a nurse on Dr. Kildare, starring Richard Chamberlain.
On The F.B.I., starring Efrem Zimbalist Jr., Philip Abbott, William Reynolds, Ed Nelson, and William Bryant, she was a recurring cast member..
Lee Meriwether appeared 3 times on WWII TV series 12 O’Clock High. In two episodes she played Captain Phyllis Vincent, a love interest for leading actor Paul Burke.
In addition to 12 O’Clock High regular cast actors Chris Robinson, her fellow guest-stars on the star-studded episode “The Outsider“, included James MacArthur, James T. Callahan, Patrick Wayne, and Dabney Coleman. Below, look for Lee Meriwether, James MacArthur, James T. Callahan, and Patrick Wayne in this episode of 12 O’Clock High.
Baby boomers and seniors will likely remember Lee Meriwether best from her longest television series – from 1973-1980 Lee co-starred with Buddy Ebsen (The Beverly Hillbillies) in the popular CBS private detective show, Barnaby Jones.
(Buddy Ebsen & Lee Meriwether c. 1973 Barnaby Jones Photo: CBS Television)
Meriwether played the much older, senior citizen Barnaby’s widowed daughter-in-law; off screen Lee and Buddy enjoyed a warm friendship that lasted until Buddy Ebsen’s death in 2003.
Lee Meriwether was re-united with old college friend Bill Bixby when he guest-starred in an episode of Barnaby Jones.
Lee Meriwether met fellow actor and playwright Marshall Borden when they starred in a San Antonio stage play; they married a few years later in 1986 and are still together today (almost 30 years).
Since turning 50+ and then becoming a senior, Lee Meriwether’s list of television credits include the roles of Lily Munster in The Munsters Today (1988-1991), opposite John Schuck as Herman Munster.
She returned to soap operas with a role as Ruth Martin on All My Children (replacing the originating cast member, retiring Ruth Martin) from 1996-1999 and again from 2002-2011.
Lee Meriwether’s stage credits are too numerous to mention and her roles on television, stage and film keep her quite busy today even as an octogenarian senior citizen. Lee Meriwether’s voice acting can also be heard on video games, and as the narrator of gothic thriller author John Saul’s audio books.
(Lee Meriwether 2005 Photo: Lisa Gottlieb [Little Ferry, NJ, USA PA300017])
In 2015 Meriwether celebrates 48 years of involvement in the charity Ability First, where she Honorary Chairwoman.
Happy 80th Birthday, Lee Meriwether!