Saturday, June 01, 2013

Obituary: Jean Stapleton

Yet another television icon has passed from the scene: Actress Jean Stapleton, 90, best known for her role as Edith Bunker in the groundbreaking 1970s sitcom All in the Family, died yesterday at her home, according to her agent.

Stapleton's role as Archie Bunker's (Carroll O'Connor) lovable "dingbat" proved to be iconic. Not only was Edith not stupid, but she grew as a person over the course the series to a woman who wasn't afraid to stand up for what she believed. She was actually the smart one of the family and dispensed a lot of wisdom.

I just recently purchased the ninth and last season of All in the Family, thus completing the collection. Of course her character "died" in the sequel of Archie Bunker's Place, but the last season of AITF was basically the end of the line for the saga of the Bunkers.

Over the nine seasons viewers watched as Edith went through menopause and was even a victim of attempted rape (in an episode I didn't much care for). Edith Bunker was a symbol of the times of women's changing role in society, even more so than her daughter Gloria (Sally Struthers).

From the obit:

Jeanne Murray was born in Manhattan on January 19, 1923. Her father, Joseph, was an advertising salesman; her mother, Marie Stapleton, was a concert and opera singer, and music was very much a part of her young life. Young Jeanne was a singer as well, which might be surprising to those who knew Ms. Stapleton only from “All in the Family,” which opened every week with Edith and Archie singing the song “Those Were the Days.” Ms. Stapleton’s screechy half of the duet was all Edith; the actress herself had a long history of charming musical performances. She was in the original casts of “Bells are Ringing” and “Damn Yankees” on Broadway in the 1950’s, and “Funny Girl,” with Barbra Streisand, in the 1960’s, in which she sang “If A Girl Isn’t Pretty,” and “Find Yourself a Man.” Off Broadway in 1991, she played Julia Child, singing the recipe for chocolate cake in the mini-musical “Bon App├ętit.” On television, she sang with the Muppets.

“All in the Family” was Ms. Stapleton’s first television series, but before that she appeared as a guest on several shows, including “Dr. Kildare,” with Richard Chamberlain, “My Three Sons,” “Car 54, Where Are You?”, and the courtroom drama, “The Defenders,” starring E.G. Marshall, in which she played the owner of a boarding house who accused one of her tenants — played by Mr. O’Connor — of murder.

Here are some interview excerpts from 2000:

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