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Lois Maureen Stapleton (June 21, 1925 – March 13, 2006) was an American actress in film, theater and television. She was also elected to the American Theatre Hall of Fame.

Early life

Stapleton was born in Troy, New Yorkmarker, the daughter of Irene (née Walsh) and John P. Stapleton, and grew up in a strict Irish American Catholic family. Her father was an alcoholic and her parents separated during her childhood. She had a brother, Jack. Stapleton began acting in theater after finishing high school and rapidly gained respect as both a dramatic and comedic actress.


Stapleton moved to New York Citymarker at the age of eighteen, and did modeling to pay the bills. She once said that it was her infatuation with the handsome Hollywood actor Joel McCrea which led her into acting. She made her Broadwaymarker debut in the production featuring Burgess Meredith of The Playboy of the Western World in 1946. Stepping in because Anna Magnani refused the role due to her limited English, Stapleton won a Tony Award for her role in Tennessee Williams' The Rose Tattoo in 1951. (Magnani's English improved, however, and she was able to play the role in the film version, winning an Oscar.) Stapleton played in other Williams' productions, including Twenty-Seven Wagons Full of Cotton and Orpheus Descending (and its film adaptation, The Fugitive Kind), as well as Lillian Hellman's Toys in the Attic. She won a second Tony Award for Neil Simon's The Gingerbread Lady, which was written especially for her, in 1971. Later Broadway roles included "Birdie" in The Little Foxes opposite Elizabeth Taylor and as a replacement for Jessica Tandy in The Gin Game.

Stapleton's film career, though limited, brought her immediate success, with her debut in Lonelyhearts (1958) earning a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. She appeared in the 1963 film version of Bye Bye Birdie, in the role of Mama Mae Peterson, with Dick Van Dyke, Janet Leigh, Paul Lynde and Ann-Margret. She was nominated again for an Oscar for Airport (1970) and Woody Allen's Interiors (1978). She won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Reds (1981), directed by Warren Beatty, in which she portrayed the Lithuanian-born anarchist, Emma Goldman. She ended her acceptance speech with the quip "I would like to thank everyone I've ever met in my entire life."

Stapleton won a 1968 Emmy Award for her performance in Among the Paths of Eden. She was nominated for the television version of All the King's Men (1959), Queen of the Stardust Ballroom (1975), and The Gathering (1977). Her more recent appearances included Johnny Dangerously (1984), Cocoon (1985) and its sequel Cocoon: The Return (1988).

Personal life

Stapleton's first husband was Max Allentuck, general manager to the producer Kermit Bloomgarden, and her second, playwright David Rayfiel, from whom she divorced. She had a son, Daniel, and a daughter, Katherine, by her first husband. Her daughter, Katherine Allentuck, garnered good reviews for her single movie role, that of "Aggie" in Summer of '42 (Stapleton herself also had a minor, uncredited role in the film as the protagonist's mother, though only her voice is heard, she does not appear on camera).

Stapelton suffered from anxiety and alcoholism for many years and once told an interviewer, "The curtain came down and I went into the vodka." She also said that her unhappy childhood contributed to her insecurities. In 2006, Maureen Stapleton, who was a heavy smoker, died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease at her home in Lenox, Massachusettsmarker, at the age of 80.

In 1981 Hudson Valley Community Collegemarker in Stapleton's childhood city of Troy, New Yorkmarker dedicated a theater in her name.

Stapleton is not related to the actress Jean Stapleton (best known for her role as Edith Bunker on the hit CBS-TV ground-breaking comedy show All in the Family).


Year Film Role Other notes
1958 All the King's Men TV; Nominated - Emmy Award
Lonelyhearts Fay Doyle Nominated - Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
Nominated - BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Nominated - Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress - Motion Picture

1959 The Fugitive Kind Vee Talbot
1961 Vu du pont Beatrice Carbone aka A View from the Bridge
1963 Bye Bye Birdie Mama Mae Peterson
1967 Among the Paths to Eden Mary O'Meaghan TV; Emmy Award
1969 Truman Capote's Trilogy Mary O'Meaghan Reprise of Emmy winning 1967 role
1970 Airport Inez Guerrero Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress - Motion Picture
Nominated - Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
1971 Plaza Suite Karen Nash Nominated - Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress - Motion Picture
Summer of '42 Hermie's mother Voice (Uncredited)
1972 Dig Mother
1974 Voyage to Next Mother Earth Voice
1975 Queen of the Stardust Ballroom Beatrice 'Bea' Asher Nominated - Emmy Award
1977 The Gathering Kate Thornton Nominated - Emmy Award
1978 Interiors Pearl Nominated - Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
Nominated - Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress - Motion Picture
1979 The Runner Stumbles Mrs. Shandig
Lost and Found Jemmy
1981 Reds Emma Goldman Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Nominated - Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress - Motion Picture

The Fan Belle Goldman
On the Right Track Mary the Bag Lady
1982 The Electric Grandmother Grandmother TV
1984 Johnny Dangerously Ma Kelly
1985 Cocoon Marilyn Luckett
1986 Heartburn Vera
The Cosmic Eye Mother Earth Voice
The Money Pit Estelle
1987 Nuts Rose Kirk
Made in Heaven Aunt Lisa
Sweet Lorraine Lillian Garber
1988 Liberace: Behind the Music Frances Liberace TV
The Thorns Peggy/Mrs. Hamilton TV series
Doin' Time on Planet Earth Helium Balloon Saleslady
Cocoon: The Return Marilyn 'Mary' Luckett
1989 B.L. Stryker Auntie Sue (1 episode) Nominated - Emmy Award
1992 Lincoln Sarah Bush Lincoln TV, voice
Miss Rose White Tanta Perla Nominated - Emmy Award
1994 Trading Mom Mrs. Cavour, the Gardener
The Last Good Time Ida Cutler
1995 Road to Avonlea Maggie MacPhee - 1 episode Nominated - Emmy Award
1996 My Universe Inside Out Voice
1997 Addicted to Love Nana
1998 Wilbur Falls Wilbur Falls High Secretary
2003 Living and Dining Mrs. Lundt


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