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June 01, 2013

Jean Stapleton, All in Family’s Beloved Edith Bunker

Stapleton won three Primetime Emmy Awards, all for her performance as Archie Bunker’s loving, long-suffering wife.

Jean Stapleton, who won three Primetime Emmys for her performance as Edith Bunker on the iconic 1970s comedy series All in the Family, died May 31, 2013, in New York City. She was 90. According to news reports, she died of natural causes. Stapleton was an established actress with many stage, film and TV credits to her name when she was cast in All in the Family. She played Edith, the naive, big-hearted wife of Carroll O’Connor’s narrow-minded Archie, from 1971-79, after which she appeared occasionally on the spin-off, Archie Bunker's Place, before asking to be written out of the show. All in the Family’s run coincided with a period of profound social change, and the show addressed numerous challenging topics, including racism, feminism, sexual assault, breast cancer, menopause and many more. She was born Jeanne Murray on January 19, 1923, in New York City, the daughter of outdoor advertising salesman Joseph E. Murray and concert singer Marie Stapleton Murray. She made her acting debut in summer stock at age 18 while a student at Hunter College. She later advanced to Off Broadway and Broadway productions, including the musicals Damn Yankees and Bells Are Ringing (she reprised her roles in the movie adaptations of both shows). She embarked on TV in the medium’s early years, beginning with a small part in a 1951 episode of Starlight Theatre. In the years that followed she appeared in such series as Robert Montgomery Presents, Robert Montgomery Presents, Dr. Kildare, Dennis the Menace, The Defenders, Car 54, Where Are You?, Route 66, Naked City, My Three Sons, The Patty Duke Show and many others prior to All in the Family. Her other films included Up the Down Staircase, Klute and Cold Turkey. The latter was produced by Norman Lear, who brought the British comedy Till Death Us Do Part to television as All in the Family, and offered her the role of Edith. She continued to work in television for more than 20 years, logging such credits as the made-for-TV movies Eleanor, First Lady of the World and Aunt Mary, and the series Scarecrow and Mrs. King, The Love Boat, Baghdad Café, Grace Under Fire, Caroline in the City, Murphy Brown, Everybody Loves Raymond and her final credit, the 2001 telefilm Like Mother Like Son: The Strange Story of Sante and Kenny Kimes. Later films included the comedies Michael and You’ve Got Mail. On November 28, 2000, Stapleton had the distinction of being interviewed by the Television Academy Foundation’s Archive of American Television. During the two-hour interview, conducted by Archive director Karen Herman, she discussed her career in detail and related numerous anecdotes from more than half a century in show business. Read more about Stapleton, her life and her work at: Archive of American Television Hollywood Reporter USA Today

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