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Jean Stapleton, Best Known as TV’s Edith Bunker, Dies at 90

Jean Stapleton

Jean Stapleton had a long career on stage, television and movies, capped by her role in All in the Family.

Jean Stapleton, whose long career in movies, the stage and television was capped by her memorable performance as Edith Bunker on the hit ’70s sitcom “All in The Family,” has died of complications from old age. She was 90.

Stapleton “passed away peacefully of natural causes” Friday at home in New York City “surrounded by friends and her immediate family,” according to statement by son John Putch and daughter Pamela Putch.

She was born in New York City and raised on Long Island. After attending Hunter College, she launched her career in 1941 in an Off-Broadway play American Gothic.

Her focused remained on theater and she landed on Broadway in 1953 in the play In the Summer House. She broke into television the same year in a daytime soap called “Woman With a Past” and continued to land roles on the stage, including musicals Bells Are Ringing and Damn Yankees.

She also continued with her television career making appearance in a wide range of ’50s and ’60s sit-coms and dramas, from “Dr. Kildare,” “The Patty Duke Show,” “Car 54 Where Are You?,” “Dennis the Menace,” and “Naked City.”

But her signature role was as Edith the ditsy, but prescient wife of Archie Bunker in the “All in the Family.” The show debuted on CBS in 1971 and became the No. 1 comedy for most of the decade. It was the first show to deal with contemporary issues like the War in Vietnam, abortion, gay rights, women’s rights and sexual dysfunction among others.

Edith’s openness and naive honesty was a foil to husband Archie, played by Carroll O’Connor. He was a blue-collar every-man who had little tolerance for anything outside his archly conservative views. Rob Reiner played his hippie son-in-law and Sally Struthers was his new-age daughter.

The show, developed by Norman Lear, remained on the air until 1979 and defined an era in television. Stapleton continued her career in television afterward, including an Emmy-nominated performance as Eleanor Roosevelt in the CBS miniseries “Eleanor, First Lady of the World.”

Stapleton also returned to her first love, the theater. She performed a one woman show, again as Eleanor Roosevelt, in Eleanor: Her Secret Journey. Among her other stage credits, she also starred in a Broadway revival of Arsenic and Lace.


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