Jean Stapleton passes at 90; friends remember


Jean StapletonStapleton, best known for playing Edith Bunker in the now-iconic 1970s Norman Lear sitcom “All in the Family,” died Friday 5/31 at 90 from natural causes, her family announced. She was a major force and an originator in the role early 1970’s television played in addressing the hard societal and social issues of the day that hadn’t been addressed in the past—bigotry, sexual preferences, politics, “shacking up,” women in the workplace—you name it. And it was all delivered with humor, great writing and unmatched acting ability. Much of the credit was due to the Norman Lear portfolio of hits from the era that also included “Maude,” “The Jeffersons,” “Good Times,” “Sanford and Son” and “One Day at a Time.”

Stapleton won three Emmys for her role as Archie’s (Carroll O’Connor) better half. Born Jeanne Murray in 1923, she established herself on Broadway in such shows as “Damn Yankees,” “Funny Girl” and “Bells Are Ringing.”

After All in the Family, she appeared on hit shows as “Scarecrow and Mrs. King,” “Murphy Brown,” “Grace Under Fire” and “Everybody Loves Raymond.”

Stapleton was married for 26 years to director William Putch, until his death in 1983, and is survived by their two children, John and Pamela.

All in the Family producer Norman Lear issued a statement: “This will be short and sweet. Never as sweet as I’d wish it to be if I took a month to write it. I only just learned that Jean Stapleton, our beloved Edith — or Edith, our beloved Jean Stapleton — has passed. Back in 1971, possibly the first time I was asked by a journalist “What is Jean Stapleton like, my reflexive response was: “She’s always where she is.” I was surprised by my answer, never had the thought before and never knew it resided within me. Can I reach deeply enough inside me now to express how much that, the idea and Jean Stapleton herself has meant to me? I was at my computer when her glorious children, John and Pam, phoned me, and I told them I was working on my memoir and reflecting on the time I was father to my personal family on Mooncrest Drive while also fathering Archie and Edith and three other families on CBS. And I added — so, at 90, here still is Jean Stapleton, “always where she is,” helping me to see my own frailties and humanity yet again. No one gave more profound “How to Be a Human Being” lessons than Jean Stapleton. Goodbye Edith, darling.”

Thanks to CNN, here’s a sampling a celebrity reactions, most of them from Twitter:

“Jean was a brilliant comedienne with exquisite timing. Working with her was one of the greatest experiences of my life.”

— Rob Reiner, who starred on “All in the Family” with Stapleton, in a statement

‘”All in the Family’ star Jean Stapleton dies at 90. One of my favorites has passed away. Jean was Brilliant. RIP”

— Michael Chiklis


“It’s a sad day. RIP Jean Stapleton. #Legend #Icon #OneOfAKind”

— Mackenzie Phillips


“Jean Stapleton, beloved as Edith in ALL IN THE FAMILY dies at 90. She was unforgettable in that role…rest in peace…”

— Bette Midler


“Those Were The Days…Rest In Peace Jean Stapleton”

— Lynda Carter


“Jean Stapleton was a great actress and a wonderful lady. She WAS Edith Bunker.”

— Larry King


“Saddened to hear about Jean Stapleton. She was a gifted actress and comedienne. MBB”

— William Shatner


“RIP Jean Stapleton, a great actor whose range was unbelievable, deep and majestic.”

— Roseanne Barr


“All In The Family was a great show, acting may have been best in sitcom history. Jean Stapleton was unreal, will not be forgotten. #RIPEdith”

— Mike Greenberg


“Ms. Stapleton was a spectacular actress but her role with Mr. Lear behind the scenes was as funny and authentic as any in TV history. RIP.”

— Richard Lewis


“JEAN STAPLETON— an extraordinary actress and part of 1 of the best TV shows in history. Thank you and rest in peace. Xo”

— Debra Messing


“R.I.P. Jean Stapleton, such a sweet lady!!”

— Dick Van Dyke


“Tonight I dedicate @ANNIEonBroadway to the great JEAN STAPLETON and her gorgeous memory. #jeanstapleton”

— Jane Lynch

Picture courtesy of Fox News.