Jean Stapleton, Who Played Edith Bunker on ‘All in the Family,’ Dead at 90

Jean Stapleton All in the Family
Jean Stapleton, who won three Emmys and charmed audiences as the “dingbat” Edith Bunker on the groundbreaking TV show “All in the Family,” died Friday in New York of natural causes. She was 90.
Nearly 50 at the time, Stapleton had already worked onstage and in film and television for many years when she was cast by Norman Lear as the wife of Archie Bunker, played by Carroll O’Connor.
Lear said, “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.”
Rob Reiner, who played her son-in-law on the long-running CBS show, said in a statement, “She was a brilliant comedienne with exquisite timing.  Working with her was one of the greatest experiences of my life.”
The show ran from 1971 to 1979, and Stapleton became known as the querulous, long-suffering counterpart to gruff Archie. Her character experienced things that virtually no TV show had portrayed before, including going through menopause, nearly being raped and finding a lump in her breast during a time when breast cancer was not discussed.
After “All in the Family” ended, she segued to spinoff “Archie Bunker’s Place,” but didn’t want to continue after the first season, so  O’Connor’s character was left to mourn her when she died on the show.
She went on to roles on TV series including “Scarecrow and Mrs. King,” “Faerie Tale Theater,” “Bagdad Cafe,” “Touched By an Angel” and “Everybody Loves Raymond.” She was also Emmy-nommed for performances as Eleanor Roosevelt in “Eleanor, First Lady of the World” and a guest appearance on “Grace Under Fire.”
Born in New York City, her first major role was in the national touring company of “Harvey” in 1949. After performing in summer stock and off-Broadway, she starred in the 1953 Broadway play “In the Summer House.”
She went on to star in “Damn Yankees” onstage and in the 1958 film. She appeared onstage and in the film version of “The Bells are Ringing,” and originated the role of Mrs. Strakosh in “Funny Girl.” Her television appearances during the 1960s included “Route 66,” “My Three Sons,” “The Patty Duke Show” and “Dennis the Menace.”
She is survived by her daughter, TV producer Pamela Putch and son, film and TV director John Putch. Her husband, William Putch, died in 1983.

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  1. occultology says:

    Jean Stapleton made my beloved & dearly departed grandparents laugh with regularity, in an era long since vanished from this earth. I can offer no greater praise and thanks than that.

  2. Michael Aldridge says:

    One of the darlings of show business. Sweet and completely professional. Rare. I hope she was as happy as she made the people who knew her.

  3. JOE S HILL says:

    Jean Stapleton was THE Glue,vital to the strength of “ALL IN THE FAMILY”,and its amazing longivity!
    there will NEVER be another like this wonderful actress,and like all acceptional actors and actresses
    who have gained outstanding fame,Ms Stapleton has truely earned her place,in that special Galaxy,
    as a result of her talented hard work,,and not only will she be seriously missed,but she is totally
    un-replacible! God Bless and Aloha Jean Stapleton,,may you seriously Rest in Peace!

  4. In 1991, she starred in my first New York production of my first play, The Learned Ladies, an adaptation of Moliere in verse. She reprised the role at A.C.T. in 1993 and was even better. That tells you a little of the scope of her acting abilities. Upon meeting her for the first time she hugged me and made me feel instantly that I was one of her best friends. And over the 22 years I knew her and cavorted with her she became my Fairy Godmother, my friend and my confidante. I feel blessed to have known her.

  5. She was speaking at a conference on Women In The Media at Emerson College (probably in 1979 or ’80), but I was off-campus so I missed most of it. I snuck in the back to get a peek (through an adjoining room) just as she was exiting.

    I know this sounds trivial, but I remember that she took the time to turn around, shake my hand and say hello, even though I had missed her speech. I just happened to be in the room as she was saying her goodbyes and “thank yous” to the organizers.

    A tiny thing, but a small, kind thing that she did, and something that I’ve always remembered.

  6. She was a CLASS act. Will be deeply missed

  7. Victor Salva says:

    I can’t think of a more beautiful or brilliant interpretation of a role. This woman was truly something so special. From what I understand, this was true of her onscreen as well as off.

    Much love to you, Jean Stapleton, Edith may live on but you will be much missed.

  8. Can one smile and be sad at the same time?

  9. Nina Rappaport says:

    Her memory will live on and on. An unforgettable, inspired, actress.

  10. Liz says:

    To her children…I’m so sorry for your loss. I watch All in the Family nearly every day, as its on TV continually. She was a unique person and I enjoyed her in the movies and TV shows she appeared in. You must be so proud of your Mom.

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