Actress Jean Stapleton, Edith Bunker on 'All in the Family,' dies at 90
Actress was unforgettable as Archie Bunker's cheery, faithful wife
Perpetually absent-mined and good natured, actress Jean Stapleton was unforgettable as Edith Bunker, Archie Bunker's wife in the classic 1970s situation comedy "All in the Family." Stapleton was adamant that in spite of her high visibility, that she was an actress, and not a celebrity. She has passed away at the age of 90.
Dotty but delightful, Jean Stapleton as Edith Bunker smoothed out her husband Archie's rough edges on the classic situation comedy "All in the Family."
The daughter of an opera singer and businessman, Stapleton grew up on Long Island and in New York City. It was there during the early 1940s, while working as a typist for the British War Ministry Office, she began acting in the theater.
Broadway bound, Stapleton acted in the production of "In the Summer House" in 1953, the same year of her television debut on the daytime drama "Woman with a Past." Other big stage roles followed, including in "Bells Are Ringing" and "Damn Yankees."
Television beckoned, including appearances on shows such as "Philco TV Playhouse" and "Dr. Kildare." But it was in her role was as Edith Bunker, the kindhearted foil to husband the blustery bigot Archie, played by the late Carroll O'Connor, that she left her most lasting impression.
"All in the Family" was one of television's most popular shows. Always funny and entertaining, it fearlessly tackled social issues such as racism, sexuality, life and death. Edith Bunker, played by Stapleton, for instance revealed
"I just loved doing it from the very beginning," Stapleton told CNN in 2001, shortly after O'Connor's death.
Winning three Emmys in 1971, 1972 and 1978, in addition to five other nominations in which he she fell short -- for her performance in that Lear-helmed show.
"Jean was a brilliant comedienne with exquisite timing," Rob Reiner, who played the Bunkers' son-in-law referred to as "Meathead" on the show said. "Working with her was one of the greatest experiences of my life."
After "all in the Family" went off in the air in 1979, Stapleton continued to work frequently, including Emmy nominations in 1982 for playing Eleanor Roosevelt in the CBS miniseries "Eleanor, First Lady of the World" and in 1995 as Aunt Vivian in a guest spot on the ABC comedy "Grace Under Fire."
Stapleton continued working in theater, including a nationwide tour as Roosevelt in her one-woman show "Eleanor: Her Secret Journey," the Broadway revival of "Arsenic and Lace" and Obie Award performances in Harold Pinter's "Mountain Language" and "The Birthday Party." Her final stage appearance was in "The Carpetbagger's Children" a few blocks from her home in New York, to which she returned permanently in 2002.
John and Pamela Putch, Stapleton's two children with her husband William Putch, whom she married in 1957 and who died in 1983 said "her devotion to her craft and her family taught us all great lessons."
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