On 'All in the Family,' Jean Stapleton's 'Edith Bunker' was, as one critic writes, 'a mother to us all, a reminder that in the midst of every living room war were decent people trying to do right.'
To most television viewers in the 1970s, Jean Stapleton was the working class housewife ditz with the screechy New York voice who put up with a domineering, bigoted husband – brilliantly and hilariously, and with a kind of love for stagecraft, and indeed for Archie Bunker that defined that sitcom era.
Ms. Stapleton, who died over the weekend, was much more than Edith Bunker of course, although that’s the role she’ll be most remembered for, the one that won her three Emmys and two Golden Globe awards.
She spent years performing in live theater alongside such actors as Barbra Streisand and Art Carney, did a one-woman show as Eleanor Roosevelt, and helped run a regional theater with her late husband William Putch.
News of her passing brought an outpouring from her Hollywood colleagues.
"Jean was a brilliant comedienne with exquisite timing,” said Rob Reiner, who played her son-in-law, dubbed “Meathead” by Archie. “Working with her was one of the greatest experiences of my life."
“No one gave more profound 'How to be a human being' lessons than Jean Stapleton,” said Norman Lear, producer and director of “All in the Family,” the show featuring the Bunkers and assorted other characters which ran from 1971 to 1979.
TV comedy veteran Roseanne Barr tweeted that Stapleton was "a great actor whose range was unbelievable, deep and majestic."
The late Carroll O’Connor, who played Archie opposite Stapleton’s Edith, wrote in his 1998 autobiography: “The benign, compassionate presence she developed made my egregious churl bearable…. Her idea of Edith Bunker was not only original and perfectly suited to the American audience, but very comical and emotionally moving."
Critics remember her with respect and fondness too.