Sunday, June 2, 2013

In Memoriam: Jean Stapleton 1923-2013

Actress. Appeared in many stage and film productions--she sang the reprise of "You Gotta Have Heart" in the original Broadway run of Damn Yankees--but was best known for playing Edith Bunker on All in the Family.

No one gave more profound 'how to be a human being' lessons than Jean Stapleton.

--Norman Lear

Working with her was one of the greatest experiences of my life.

--Rob Reiner

Before Edith ... women who lived with fellows like Archie were usually submissive and suffering in the face of roaring nonthink...After Edith, they confronted nonthink a little more sternly and stiffly and gave hint of a serious readiness to rebel, just as Edith rebelled from time to time.

--Carroll O'Connor, in his autobiography I Think I'm Outta Here, 1999

Norman said on the phone, "I just haven't been able to say yes to this." … I said, "Norman, you realize, don't you, she is only fiction," And there was a long pause. And I thought, I've hurt this dear man that I love so much. And then the voice came back to me, "She isn't."

--Jean Stapleton, describing in 2000 producer Norman Lear's reaction when she informed him that, after 10 seasons, she would no longer be playing Edith Bunker. Reluctantly, Lear signed off on the character's demise. Fortunately, by that time the show was called Archie Bunker's Place. Edith's death--which occurs off-screen anyway--is now in a whole different syndication package from All in the Family. You don't have to watch it if you don't want to.

So, instead...



Carroll O'Connor and Jean Stapleton appeared one last time together in 2000. They're being interviewed here by Donny and Marie Osmond (whom, to my knowledge, never appeared in a Norman Lear production.) Note that, unlike her TV character, Jean Stapleton was actually quite articulate.

Earlier this year, I wrote about a couple of episodes of All in the Family. I liked one, didn't care so much for the other, but Jean Stapleton was great in both.


  1. I don't know how Carroll O'Conner kept a straight face acting with her. She was so talented and funny. RIP Jean. Another good one gone.

  2. Patricia, I think some of the funniest moments on that show was Carroll-as-Archie listening not-so-patiently to one of Jean-as-Edith's long stories.


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