Stapleton in 1977.
January 19, 1923
New York City, New York
|Spouse(s)||William H. Putch
(m.1956-1983; his death)
She is best known for her portrayal of Edith Bunker, the long-suffering, yet devoted wife of Archie Bunker (played by Carroll O'Connor) and mother of Gloria Stivic (played by Sally Struthers), on the 1970s situation comedy All in the Family. Stapleton was also seen occasionally on the All in the Family follow-up series, Archie Bunker's Place, but, tired of the role, asked to be written out after the first season.
Born in New York City, the daughter of Joseph E. Murray (a billboard advertising salesman) and Marie Stapleton Murray (a singer), she attended Hunter College. She began her career in 1941 in summer stock, aged 18, and made her New York debut in American Gothic, an Off-Broadway play.
She was featured on Broadway in several hit musicals, such as Damn Yankees, Funny Girl, Bells Are Ringing, and Juno. She guest starred in many television series, including the role of Rosa Criley in the 1963 episode "The Bride Wore Pink" on NBC's medical drama about psychiatry, The Eleventh Hour.
Her early work on television included roles in Starlight Theater, Robert Montgomery Presents, Lux Video Theater, Woman with a Past, The Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse, Dr. Kildare, The Patty Duke Show, Car 54 Where Are You?, Dennis the Menace, and Naked City. On an episode of The Defenders broadcast on 1 December 1962, Jean Stapleton guest-starred with future television husband Carroll O'Connor.
In 1979, she appeared in the original Canadian production of the musical Something's Afoot, which was later broadcast on Showtime. In 1982, Stapleton portrayed Eleanor Roosevelt in a television production of the First Lady's later life. In 1998, and for a few years afterward, Stapleton took her "Eleanor" characterization to live theaters, now adapted as a one-woman show. She co-starred in Bagdad Cafe with Whoopi Goldberg, the television series based on the movie of the same name.
Her awards for All in the Family include three Emmys and two Golden Globes. She was offered a role in the feature film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory as Mrs. Teevee (the role went to Nora Denney), but she declined because it coincided with the production of the All in the Family pilot.
Stapleton appeared in made-for-TV movies and feature films such as Klute, the comedy Cold Turkey and the Faerie Tale Theatre episode "Cinderella" as the fairy godmother and as the Giant's Wife in "Jack and the Beanstalk". She also had a recurring role on television's Scarecrow and Mrs. King as a British spy. She appeared in the educational series Beakman's World as Beakman's mother, "Beakmom".
In 1996, she played opposite John Travolta, portraying the eccentric rooming house owner, Pansy Milbank in Nora Ephron's hit Michael. Stapleton also appeared in the 1998 feature You've Got Mail as a close co-worker in whom Meg Ryan's character confides. Stapleton appeared on the CBS television series Touched by an Angel as an angel named Emma.
In the 1990s Stapleton played the role of Mrs. Piggle Wiggle in a children's series of the same name based on the books by Betty MacDonald. The show was created by Shelley Duvall and lasted only one season. The series is available on video.
In 1996, she appeared in the Everybody Loves Raymond episode "I Wish I Were Gus" playing Ray's Aunt Alda. That same year, she also appeared in the Murphy Brown episode "All in the Family" playing Miles's grandmother, Nana Silverberg. Making a debut in the world of video games, Stapleton was the voice of Grandma Ollie on KinderActive, Turner Pictures, and New Line Cinema's venture "Grandma Ollie's Morphabet Soup." The game won a Teacher's Choice Award from Learning Magazine. In 1998, Stapleton guest-starred in the Jean Smart sitcom, Style & Substance, playing a former television chef who has since "lost her marbles."
She reunited on-camera with O'Connor on Donny and Marie Osmond's talk show on April 24th, 2000, a little over a year before O'Connor's death. When the show's hosts asked her to perform in Edith Bunker's voice, she jokingly told them that she only does so "for pay". Stapleton later told the Archive of American Television that she does not like to replicate in casual settings the voices and mannerisms of characters whom she's created, as she feels that it trivializes and detracts from the characters as originally created.
Personal life 
For 30 years, Stapleton's husband William Putch (1924-1983) directed a summer stock theater, Totem Pole Playhouse, at Caledonia State Park in southern Pennsylvania. Stapleton performed occasionally at the theatre with the resident company.
Stapleton's brother, Jack Stapleton, was a stage actor. Her cousin is actress Betty Jane Watson. As of 2013, at the age of 90, Stapleton is officially retired.
- "Biography for Jean Stapleton". Retrieved 2010-03-07.
- Michael Karol. Funny Ladies. p. 46.
- Betty Goodwin (January 5, 1986). "Jean Stapleton: 'Stardom isn't a Goal'". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-03-07.
- Robert Faires (November 10, 2000). "Image of a First Lady". Austin Chronicle. Retrieved 2010-03-07.
- List of Primetime Emmy Award winners
- Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle (TV Series 1994)
- "I Wish I Were Gus" at the Internet Movie Database
- "All in the Family" at the Internet Movie Database
- New York Times (November 25, 1983)
- Jean Stapleton at the Internet Movie Database
- Jean Stapleton at the Internet Broadway Database
- Jean Stapleton at the Internet Off-Broadway Database
- Archive of American Television Interview with Jean Stapleton (2000)