Tribute: Maureen Stapleton

154322__stapleton_lAsked what she wanted inscribed on her gravestone, Maureen Stapleton once said, ”A very distant date.” Alas, that date has arrived; the Oscar-winning actress died today at age 80. Paradoxically, Stapleton always seemed old; in her late 30s, she starred in Bye Bye Birdie as the mother of Dick Van Dyke, who was only a few months her junior. Stapleton (no relation to All in the Family star Jean Stapleton) played memorable older dames in movies like Airport, Cocoon, The Money Pit, and especially Reds, in which her performance as 1910s radical Emma Goldman won her the Academy Award. She was also a celebrated stage actress who won her first Tony at 24 for Tennessee Williams’ The Rose Tattoo.

Her 1995 autobiography A Hell of a Life is the rare celebrity memoir that’s a must-read. Not only did she have juicy dish about practically everyone of importance of her era from Hollywood and Broadway — including Marilyn Monroe, Marlon Brando, Nancy Reagan, Laurence Olivier, and Burt Lancaster, who she once drunkenly tried to slug at a Hollywood party — but she was also endlessly quotable about herself. After she won her Oscar for Reds (her first win after four nominations), a reporter asked her backstage how it felt to be acknowledged as one of the greatest actresses in the world. She replied, ”Not nearly as exciting as it would be if I were acknowledged as one of the greatest lays in the world.” A hell of a life, all right.

addCredit(“Maureen Stapleon: AP”)

Comments (5 total) Add your comment
  • MaryAnn

    How could you leave out the old dame she played in Johnny Dangerously, where she was Micheal Keaton’s mom? Actually, she was only 29 in that one.
    A good riff on her always playing older, that time she got to play a younger woman.

  • Karen

    When we were kids, my sister and I used to incessantly watch The Electric Grandmother, in which she played the titular character. It was one of our favorites.

  • Nancy

    My favourite role of Ms. Stapleton’s was a tv movie called Queen of The Stardust Ballroom. She played a recently widowed woman who starts a new life despite the disapproval of her sister and daughter. The movie was a bit sentimental, but my mom, my sister and I never missed it when it came on tv. If you can get past the singing (the songs aren’t very good), it’s a great rainy day love story.

  • st├ęphane

    I was deeply touched upon learning the death of this great dame and one of the greatest actress ever. I’ll never forget her amazing work in Interiors, wich her presence only brings breath of fresh air in this clautophobic family. Just her presence. The smile in her eyes. The wicked sense that she’s always ready to crack up a dirty joke or take you tenderly in her motherly arms in a calming embrase.
    Thank you Miss Stapleton.
    You really were one of a kind.
    And we will be deeply miss…xxx…

  • cmqtaon rfdba

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