Tri States Public Radio Staff
Sat June 1, 2013
Jean Stapleton, Who Played Edith Bunker, Dies
Originally published on Sat June 1, 2013 5:28 pm
"She had been a veteran of stage, film and television when she was cast in the CBS sitcom opposite Carroll O'Connor's loud-mouthed, bigoted Archie Bunker, who often addressed her as 'dingbat.' She won three Emmys for the role.
"'The benign, compassionate presence she developed made my egregious churl bearable,' O'Connor wrote of Stapleton in his 1998 autobiography. He died in 2001."
Stapleton was 90.
In an interview with the Archive of American Television, Stapleton said before she took the Edith Bunker role, she was "apolitical."
But surrounded by activists in Los Angeles, things changed.
"I began to get a little educated and became somewhat of an activist," she said.
Her character became an icon of the women's rights movement. Activists took out an ad calling Edith Bunker a second-class citizen. The series also took on bigotry. Edith was the tolerant one and her husband was the bigot.
In the interview with the archive, Stapleton said the series uncovered bigotry through humor.
"Humor reduces it to nothing," she said.
We'll leave you with one of the iconic scenes of the show, when Archie and Edith show up to Lionel Jefferson's engagement party. Lionel, their neighbor's son, was engaged to a woman whose father is white and mother is black:
Update at 6:17 p.m. ET: Rob Reiner And Norman Lear Statements:
Rob Reiner, who played the Bunkers' liberal son-in-law on All in the Family, issued this statement about Stapleton's death:
"Jean was a brilliant comedienne with exquisite timing. Working with her was one of the greatest experiences of my life. My thoughts are with her family."
Norman Lear, who wrote and produced the sitcom, said Stapleton helped him to see his own "frailties and humanity." In a statement, he continued:
"No one gave more profound 'How to be a Human Being' lessons than Jean Stapleton. Goodbye Edith, darling."