This one hurts, especially for any of us who came of age (or were alive, period) in the ’70s.
If you were alive in the ’70s, you knew about Jean Stapleton, and you watched All in the Family. (If you didn’t it, you were dead, even if you happened to be living.)
Other than to send my best thoughts, I’ll say that her warbling on the epic show intro (below) is an indelible part of my personal soundtrack. I know I’m not alone.
I could offer some additional thoughts, but there’s no chance I could do Jean –and the immortal role she owned as Edith Bunker– justice better than Neil Genzlinger does in his New York Times tribute, HERE.
Here’s a tasty excerpt:
Unlike some television actors who need time to grow into their roles (time that, in these days of the quick hook, networks often don’t give them), Ms. Stapleton delivered a well-defined Edith right from the start. Is there a more classic Edith laugh line than the one she casually flung in original pilot (there were two abortive pilots before the one that sold the series), in which Archie and Edith are celebrating their anniversary, and Archie schools his son-in-law about the good-old abstinence days?
“When me and your mother-in-law was going around together keeping company, two whole years it was, there was nothing,” Archie says. “I mean nothing. Not till the wedding night.”
And Edith interjects, “And even then.”
But what set Ms. Stapleton’s work in the show apart was her ability to create a character who was not imprisoned by her own daffiness. There have been plenty of female airheads on television: bikinied bimbos, empty-headed housewives, batty old broads. But only a few have been able to make the kinds of transitions from the comic to the dramatic that were asked of Ms. Stapleton in “All in the Family.”
Another nice tribute HERE.
Let there be no question: for so many of us innocent and impressionable TV-watchers, our worlds were different, and better, for having had Edith Bunker show us that a big heart and a kind soul were the keys to a life well lived.