Jean Stapleton Dead at 90

Jean Stapleton, best known for playing Edith Bunker in ALL IN THE FAMILY, passed away on Thursday. She was 90.

For her work on ALL IN THE FAMILY, Stapleton won three Emmys and three Golden Globes. When she was not inhabiting the character of Edith, Stapleton spoke without that New York accent, and sang professionally. She began her career with the Robert Shaw Chorale while still in college, and began working as a stage actress in 1941. In a duet with O'Connor, she sang ALL IN THE FAMILY's opening theme, letting him bellow the first few lines before joining in, hilariously off key, "And you know who you were then...".

In the original Broadway cast of "Damn Yankees" with Ray Walston and Gwen Verdon, Stapleton's role was small, but her lilting voice rose above the chorus singing "You've Got to Have Heart (miles and miles and miles of heart)". She was in the original cast of "Bells Are Ringing" with Judy Holliday, "Rhinoceros" with Zero Mostel and Eli Wallach, and "Funny Girl" with Barbra Streisand, where Stapleton sang "If a Girl Isn't Pretty" and "Find Yourself a Man." She also appeared off-Broadway in "Bon Appetit," performing as an operatic Julia Child, mixing and baking a chocolate cake.

In movies, Stapleton's first roles were adaptations of her Broadway plays Damn Yankees with Tab Hunter and Bells Are Ringing with Dean Martin. In other noted supporting roles, she played secretaries in Up the Down Staircase with Sandy Dennis and Klute with Jane Fonda, Meg Ryan's grandmother in You've Got Mail, and the senior citizen who sheltered angel John Travolta in Michael.

On television, her first big break was a recurring role as Gwen on the 1950s soap opera WOMAN WITH A PAST, created by Mona Kent and starring Constance Ford. Stapleton spoke about doing live TV in an Archive of American Television interview.

"It was very demanding in soap opera," she said. "Yuu had to learn things quickly but it worked. And you had to get up very early in the morning. To do a show live was amazing."

"I will thrilled to get the job," Stapleton added about being hired in 1954 at WOMAN WITH A PAST. "Everything you do at the beginning of a career you learn so much. She (Ford) was very lovely."

Before ALL IN THE FAMILY, Stapleton was an occasional guest performer on numerous series, most memorably an episode of the early-1960s lawyer drama THE DEFENDERS with E. G. Marshall and Robert Reed, where her character witnessed a murder and fingered the killer in court -- O'Connor, her future co-star. After ALL IN THE FAMILY she was offered and accepted a series that would have had Stapleton playing an amateur detective, but she reportedly changed her mind on her way to sign the contract; so instead MURDER, SHE WROTE was handed-down to Angela Lansbury. In the 1990s, Stapleton starred on TV as Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle with Christopher Lloyd and in BAGDAD CAFE opposite Whoopi Goldberg.

She first played Eleanor Roosevelt in a mid-1970s speech to high school students, then portrayed the former First Lady in the 1982 TV-movie First Lady of the World, and in her solo stage show, Eleanor: Her Secret Journey.

The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences inducted her into its Hall of Fame in 2002.

Stapleton married William Putch, a producer and director, in 1957. Putch, who died in 1983, spent decades running the Totem Pole Playhouse in Fayetteville, Pennsylvania, and Stapleton performed there during summer breaks from her TV career.

Stapleton and Putch had two children, John Putch, an actor, and Pamela Putch, a TV producer.

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