( b. Jan 19, 1923 New York, New York, USA - d. May 31, 2013 New York, New York, USA ) Female
Jean Stapleton, the character actress whose portrayal of a slow-witted, big-hearted and submissive -- up to a point -- housewife on the groundbreaking series "All in the Family," made her, along with Mary Tyler Moore and Bea Arthur, not only one of the foremost women in television comedy in the 1970s but a symbol of emergent feminism in American popular culture.
Ms. Stapleton, though never an ingénue or a leading lady, was an accomplished theater actress with a few television credits when the producer Norman Lear, who had seen her in the musical Damn Yankees on Broadway, asked her to audition for a new series. The audition, for a character named Edith Bunker, changed her life.
For three or four months, hampered by mixed reviews, the show struggled to find an audience, but when it did, it became one of the most popular shows in television, finishing first in the Nielsen ratings for five consecutive seasons and winning four consecutive Emmy Awards for outstanding comedy series. Ms. Stapleton won three Emmys of her own, in 1971, '72 and '78.
Ms. Stapleton had a long history of charming musical performances. She was in the original casts of Bells are Ringing on Broadway in the 1950s and Funny Girl, with Barbra Streisand, in the 1960s, in which she sang "If a Girl Isn't Pretty" and "Find Yourself a Man." Off Broadway in 1991, she played Julia Child, singing the recipe for chocolate cake in the mini-musical Bon Appétit. On television, she sang with the Muppets.
Ms. Stapleton studied and performed with the American Actors' Company, whose alumni include Horton Foote and Agnes DeMille, and did a great deal of summer stock. She toured opposite Frank Fay in Harvey, and was the understudy for Shirley Booth in the touring company of Come Back, Little Sheba. Even during her television heyday, Ms. Stapleton's schedule almost always included summer shows because her husband, William Putch, whom she married in the late 1950s, operated the Totem Pole Playhouse in Pennsylvania.
In the movies, Ms. Stapleton reprised her roles in "Bells Are Ringing" and "Damn Yankees," and she appeared in "Something Wild" (1961) as the well-meaning neighbor of a rape victim (Carroll Baker) and as a secretary in "Klute" (1971), a thriller about a detective and a call girl starring Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland.
"All in the Family" was Ms. Stapleton's first television series, but before that she had appeared as a guest on several shows, including "Dr. Kildare," "My Three Sons," "Car 54, Where Are You?" and the courtroom drama "The Defenders."
Perhaps the most significant work of her later life, however, was Off Broadway, where she performed in challenging works by Mr. Foote (The Carpetbagger's Children), John Osborne (The Entertainer) and Harold Pinter (Mountain Language, The Birthday Party) to sterling reviews.
Source: The New York Times