Saturday, June 1, 2013

Jean Stapleton Passes On

Jean Stalpleton, perhaps best known for playing Edith Bunker on All in the Family, died on 31 May 2013 at the age of 90.

Jean Stapleton was born on 19 January 1923 in New York City. She began her professional career in 1941, performing in summer stock. In 1949 she was cast in the national touring company of Harvey. In 1951 Jean Stapleton made her television debut in an episode of Starlight Theatre. The year 1953 would be a turning point for Miss Stapleton. She appeared off Broadway in American Gothic. She also made her debut on Broadway in In the Summer House. During the Fifties she appeared in such Broadway productions as Damn Yankees, Bells Are Ringing, and Juno. She guest starred on the shows Lux Video Theatre, Robert Montgomery Presents, The Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse, and The Robert Herridge Theatre. She made her film debut in the 1958 adaptation of Damn Yankees. She also appeared in the 1960 film adaptation of Bells Are Ringing.

In the Sixties Miss Stapleton appeared on Broadway in Rhinoceros and Funny Girl. She appeared on television in such shows as Dr. Kildare; Dennis the Menace; The Defenders; Car 54, Where Are You; Naked City; The Eleventh Hour; Route 66; and My Three Sons. She appeared in the films Something Wild (1961) and Up the Down Staircase (1967).

It was in 1971 that the revolutionary sitcom All in the Family debuted with Jean Stapleton in the role of Archie Bunker's long suffering wife Edith. Jean Stapleton remained with the show until one season after its title had been changed to Archie Bunker's Place, leaving in 1979.  During the Seventies she also guest starred on The Muppet Show and Hallmark Hall of Fame. She appeared in the films Cold Turkey (1971) and Klute (1971).

In the Eighties Jean Stapleton played Jasmine Zweibel on the short lived sitcom Bagdad Cafe. She guest starred on such shows as Scarecrow and Mrs. King, Faerie Tale Theatre, The Love Boat, and Trying Times. She appeared in several TV movies, including Eleanor, First Lady of the WorldSomething's Afoot; and Agatha Christie's Dead Man's Folly. She appeared in the film The Buddy System (1984). She appeared in a Broadway revival of Arsenic and Old Lace.

In the Nineties and early Naughts Jean Stapleton appeared in the films The Trial (1993), Michael (1996), You've Got Mail (1998), and Pursuit of Happiness (2001). She was the lead on the children's show Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, based on the books by Betty MacDonald. She also played the recurring character of Beakman's mom on the children's show Beakman's World. She appeared on such shows as The Ray Bradbury Theatre, Grace Under Fire, Caroline in the City, Murphy Brown, Everybody Loves Raymond, Style & Substance, and Touched by an Angel.

There could have been no better actress to play Edith Bunker than Jean Stapleton. In a lesser talent's hands Edith could have easily been a typical sitcom scatterbrain, but Jean Stapleton brought the role to life and made Edith real. As played by Miss Stapleton, Edith  was a character of some depth. While Edith may have not have been particularly bright, she made up for it with a sense of compassion and even common sense that her husband Archie often lacked. Of course, Jean Stapleton played many more roles than simply Edith. She appeared as Sister Miller in Damn Yankees, where she belted out one of the musical's most recognisable songs, "You've Gotta Have Heart". In You've Got Mail she played Birdie, Kathleen's (Meg Ryan) confidant. In Cold Turkey she played the neurotic Mrs. Wappler. While Jean Stapleton may have been most famous for playing Edith Bunker, over the years she gave many more great performances in many different roles.

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