Jean Stapleton, who played TV's Edith Bunker, dies at age 90

Sat Jun 1, 2013 11:12pm EDT
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By Barbara Goldberg

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Actress Jean Stapleton, best known for her Emmy-winning role as the good-hearted housewife Edith Bunker in the groundbreaking 1970s television comedy "All in the Family," has died at age 90, her family said on Saturday.

Stapleton died on Friday of natural causes at her home in New York City, her son, film and television director John Putch, said in a statement.

"It is with great love and heavy hearts that we say farewell to our collective Mother, with a capital M," Putch and his sister, Pamela Putch, said in a joint statement. "Her devotion to her craft and her family taught us all great life lessons."

The actress won three Emmys, U.S. TV's highest honor, for her role as Edith, the long-suffering, unsophisticated but understanding wife of the reactionary and often racist Archie Bunker, played by the late Carroll O'Connor, in the hit TV sitcom.

"All in the Family," inspired by the British program "Till Death Us Do Part," was a success with audiences even as it helped usher in a new era for U.S. television by confronting contentious topics such as racism, the Vietnam War and the feminist movement.

Archie, a working-class New Yorker, often clashed over politics and social issues with his adult daughter, Gloria, and his liberal son-in-law, Michael Stivic, whom he called "Meathead."

Edith spoke in a nasal, high-pitched voice, and seemed confused at times by the social changes going on around her. Her gentle nature contrasted with her husband's mean streak. Although Archie often called her a "dingbat," she patiently stood by him.

In a nod to the generational conflict on display in the show, the program, aired on CBS, began with Archie and Edith at a piano singing the nostalgic "Those Were the Days."   Continued...

Actress Jean Stapleton poses for photographers as she arrives for the premiere of the new comedy film "Michael" in Beverly Hills, California, in this December 19, 1996, file photo. REUTERS/Fred Prouser/Files