Beloved, multi-talented, and awardwinning TV, movie, and stage actress Jean Stapleton died Friday of natural causes at her NYC home, her family announced today. She was 90. Whether playing blue collar Archie Bunker’s dingbat wife Edith on All In the Family or patrician President Franklin D Roosevelt’s First Lady Eleanor, Stapleton brought authenticity, grace, dignity, and humor to every varied role. Even more interestingly, she was middle-aged when she hit her professional stride. Born Jeanne Murray in 1923, she received 3 Emmys for her portrayal as Bunker’s wife in Norman Lear’s groundbreaking 1970s sitcom but asked to be written out of the first season of the spinoff Archie Bunker’s Place. Reuniting with Carroll O’Connor in 2000 for Donny and Marie Osmond’s talk show, Stapleton declined the hosts’ request to ‘do’ Edith Bunker. Stapleton later told the Archive of American Television that she felt replicating in casual settings the voices and mannerisms trivialized and detracted from the characters as originally created. She began her showbiz career in 1941 at age 18 in summer stock and made her New York debut off Broadway. It wasn’t long before she was featured on Broadway in several hit musicals, and began guest starring on TV series both comic and dramatic, thus demonstrating her wide range. As much for Edith Bunker, she also will always be remembered for portraying Eleanor Roosevelt in a 1982 TV production. And then, in 1998 and for a few years afterward, Stapleton starred in a one-woman show portraying that First Lady. She kept coming back to series TV: in recurring roles on Scarecrow And Mrs King and the educational series Beakman’s World and Touched By An Angel. She co-starred with Whoopi Goldberg in the short-lived Bagdad Café based on the movie. She was featured on Everybody Loves Raymond and Murphy Brown. She also appeared in feature films such as Klute, Michael, and You’ve Got Mail.
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- Edith Bunker