June 1, 2013

Goodbye to Jean Stapleton.

The actress — who played the "slow-witted, big-hearted and submissive — up to a point — housewife on the groundbreaking series 'All in the Family'" — was 90.
Her father, Joseph, was an advertising salesman; her mother, Marie Stapleton, was a concert and opera singer, and music was very much a part of her young life. Young Jeanne was a singer as well, which might be surprising to those who knew Ms. Stapleton only from “All in the Family,” which opened every week with Edith and Archie singing the song “Those Were the Days.” Ms. Stapleton’s screechy half of the duet was all Edith; the actress herself had a long history of charming musical performances. She was in the original casts of “Bells are Ringing” and “Damn Yankees” on Broadway in the 1950’s, and “Funny Girl,” with Barbra Streisand, in the 1960’s, 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 App├ętit.” On television, she sang with the Muppets.
Here's the audio of Stapleton singing "If A Girl Isn't Pretty."

ADDED: Here's an interview with her from 2000. At about the 6-minute mark, she talks about first meeting Carroll O'Connor when the 2 were cast in an episode of the TV show "The Defenders."

36 comments:

Chip S. said...

She had a voice for mime.

The Godfather said...

The reason "All in the Family" was a good show that exceeded despite objectives of Norman Lear was that Jean Stapleton and Carroll O'Connor made their cartoonish characters real and (no matter how hard we tried to resist) lovable.

The Godfather said...

oops, I meant "succeeded despite the objectives"

Chip S. said...

Nothing succeeds like excess.

Bender said...

That great liberal Normal Lear was something, wasn't he? From shuckin' 'n jivin' black folk on Good Times and The Jeffersons to screeching dim-witted women on All in the Family, he really helped to advance the cause of both, didn't he?

bpm4532 said...

I think she played more innocent than slow-witted.

what a show!

Ann Althouse said...

"She had a voice for mime."

I think she was deliberately screech-singing for "Those Were the Days."

Listen to "If a Girl Isn't Pretty," the song from "Funny Girl" that I linked to.

Chip S. said...

I did.

it's what prompted my comment.

Chip S. said...

OK, I actually only listened to the first 30 seconds. That was all I could take.

Ann Althouse said...

"I think she played more innocent than slow-witted."

But it is slow to be that old and that innocent.

Anyway, the audience loved it when she finally came around and figured out that Archie was wrong about any of the many things he was wrong about.

That was a mode of education, because you knew Archie was wrong, and you were supposed to see that on your own. Edith would figure it out and state it plainly once in a while, and by then everyone knew what they were supposed to already know and enjoyed the satisfaction of hearing Edith say it.

Bob_R said...

Chip - The accent and the screeching are clearly part of the act. Listen to the pitch and the articulation. Here she is on the Muppets. A much more unaffected vocal performance.

Bob_R said...

On second thought, "unaffected" is a strange word to use for a performance that is clearly the work of a well trained vocalist.

Steven said...

The woman in that interview doesn't look like she's almost 80.

Actually, I saw Fred Willard in a fairly recent TV show (an episode of "Castle") the other day and was surprised to see on Wikipedia how old he is. But I suppose if he fit my expectation of an average almost-80 year old, he wouldn't still be on TV. Though Bob Newhart looked his age on The Big Bang Theory a few weeks ago. He's still Bob Newhart, mind you, but he definitely looks old.

Michael K said...

She was great in "You've got Mail." When Meg Ryan was closing the shop, she was worried about the three employees, one of whom, Birdie, is old. Birdie says, "Don't worry about me. I bought Microsoft at six."

edutcher said...

Always very good, she knew when to walk out on Norman Lear.

The Godfather said...

The reason "All in the Family" was a good show that exceeded despite objectives of Norman Lear was that Jean Stapleton and Carroll O'Connor made their cartoonish characters real and (no matter how hard we tried to resist) lovable.

No, there was just enough truth in them that people could look aand say, "That's us. That's Uncle Joe and Aunt Stella. My God, that's Granddad". They were so good people watched even though they realized Norman Lear was spitting on them and everything they believed in.

Carroll O'Connor (his ego notwithstanding) was an excellent character actor and they knew how to bounce off each other.

AReasonableMan said...

Very sweet woman. Fucking awful song.

Humperdink said...

Eedit (as Archie would call her) has finally been "stifled".

Joe said...

One thing people don't know is that All in the Family was based on the British show Till Death Us Do Part.

Normal Leer wasn't as creative as his myth. Almost all of his shows were very derivative.

Hagar said...

Edith was neither slow-witted nor submissive. She knew whom she had married and she knew who was boss when push came to shove.

campy said...

And of course, the audience knew Archie was wrong about everything because he was the only one of the 4 people in the house who ever had to use the toilet.

dc said...

After watching All in the Family for a decade Reagan cleaned Carter's clock.I don't think the show had the effect Lear was hoping for.I think a lot of credit goes to meathead.

David said...

Edith was not submissive.

She was extremely patient, and skilled at negotiating embarrassing situations.

She loved Archie enough to save him from himself.

harrogate said...

She did a great job on what was a great show, one that had real depth and had things to say. Not enough of those anymore.

CatherineM said...

I don't think they would make All in the Family today. The professionally offended groups wouldn't get the joke. They never do.

That's one thing you can say about Leer is he thought his audience was smart enough to get it.

I also don't think Edith was slow. My dad and I were just talking about that recently (as we discussed Michael saying to Archie, "You think every guy in glasses is a queer" and Archie says, "No, a guy in glasses is a four-eyes!") My dad said how could he stay married to such a moron. I just think she was a pollyanna - always thinking the best of everyone and slow to consider the worst. Especially about Archie.

Great show,

CatherineM said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TrST_LozY6w

CatherineM said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7dKpHtc9F9M

This is much better.

Bob_R said...

I don't think many of you are giving Lear enough credit. He produced a show that portrayed the people he opposed as good people who were mistaken. He didn't portray them as evil. Attitudes changed in the direction he wanted. Perhaps he had something to do with that.

Do you think that today's crop of lefties - the baby boomer lefties - respect their opponents in the way that Lear respected his? I don't. And I don't think they will win as many arguments as Lear's generation.

sane_voter said...

I never knew that the line in the song was "gee our old LaSalle ran great" until I watched the interview. Hadn't heard of LaSalle as a car model.

edutcher said...

Bob_R said...

I don't think many of you are giving Lear enough credit. He produced a show that portrayed the people he opposed as good people who were mistaken. He didn't portray them as evil. Attitudes changed in the direction he wanted. Perhaps he had something to do with that.

Lear wasn't stupid. he knew somebody as corrosive as Alf Garnett (the Archie in "Till Death Us Do Part") would never sell in the US, so he softened it.

I think a lot of the credit goes to Carroll O'Connor and Jean Stapleton.

wyo sis said...

from a sociological standpoint I think the most important thing she said is that a show like Archie Bunker couldn't be produced today. That says a lot of not very good things about the state of our public discourse. Puritans of all stripes are a danger to freedom.

The character of Edith reminds me a lot of my sister who is deaf. She reads lips and has never learned any kind of sign language. She is brilliant, but a lot of information gets past her initially. When she finally understands the nuances she missed the first time she can be fiercely incisive and gently but firmly correct herself and everyone around her.

EMD said...

Brilliant show that kind of backfired on Lear. He didn't realize how much American would take to Carroll O'Connor's portrayal of Bunker.

What's fun is to watch the 3 different pilots of the show and see how terrible the original Mike and Glorias are. It wasn't until they cast Struthers and Reiner did it really work. Third time was the charm.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8DR01-hMf_s

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qlboZuvBFNM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sf0sgaB3mkc


traditionalguy said...

Great show, very well written, and I truly loved the actress in question. RIP magnificent Jean.

rcocean said...

Most people don't respect Lear because he didn't have a lot of creative talent. His shows were either ripoffs of British shows or highly derivative. He was a good businessman.

He was one step ahead of the other Hollywood producers in taking advantage of the lowered standards. America was ready for toilet jokes, insult humor, yelling matches, and watered down leftism. And Norman was there to supply it.

You can give him credit for hiring some good minority comics, but event that is balanced against his paying them below market wages or not listening to their concerns.

How actors who worked in his shows had any affection for him afterwards? Frederick Karl Pruetzel committed suicide, and Red Foxx and Caroll o'Connor hated his guts.

Jay said...

because you knew Archie was wrong,

I actually always thought he was right.

Note: my maternal grandfather called my dad "Meathead" for about 20 years...

Old RPM Daddy said...

I always thought the joke was on Meathead, in the long run. How can one not feel some sympathy for Archie, who, after a hitch in the Army in WWII, works on the loading dock in in a cab for decades, only to watch his daughter marry a blowhard grad student who moves into their house?

Baron Zemo said...

Archie was wrong?