When All in the Family comes up, many people immediately think of Archie Bunker. His bigotry and the way he dealt with his family made for thousands of laughs over the years. He remains at the top of many lists of favorite television characters. However, the real comedy came from Archie’s wife and perfect foil, Edith. Think about it. If Edith wouldn’t have been so sweet and well-meaning, Archie would have been more off-putting than funny. Jean Stapleton was a masterful actress with a long career before she was Edith Bunker. But, like many people who step into high-profile roles, fans couldn’t see Jean without seeing her “dingbat” character from All in the Family.
It might have been for this reason that she was all but completely ignored when she first appeared on Hollywood Squares. The late actress spoke about her experience on the quiz show and her All in the Family character with The New York Times back in 1972.
All in the Family Star Ignored on Hollywood Squares
For those unfamiliar with Hollywood Squares, the premise of the show is pretty simple. The game board is set up like a tic tac toe match. Each square contains a celebrity. The host asks the celebs questions and the two contestants have to decide whether or not the given answer is correct. Contestants’ correct answers give them control of the square.
The All in the Family star appeared on the Hollywood Squares episode that aired on January 31, 1972. Stapleton sat in the squares with Desi Arnaz, Cliff Arquette, Wally Cox, Lynda George, Harry Guardino, Suzanne Pleshette, Charles Nelson Reilly, and Burt Reynolds, according to IMDb.
According to the interview, Jean Stapleton didn’t get a single question until the end of the show. Stapleton blamed her All in the Family character for that. She said she assumed that the contestants thought she was a “dingbat” in real life as well.
Jean Stapleton discussed her All In the Family character with The Archive of American Television before her death in 2013. The interviewer asked her how she would describe Edith Bunker to someone who didn’t know her. Stapleton didn’t have to think long about her reply. She said, “Well, a very compassionate individual [with a] peculiar way of coming to things and thoughts. Not very bright, not well-educated but with a great sense of wisdom and heart.”
Stapleton went on to say that her All in the Family character was fun and had a great sense of joy about her. Edith, Jean said, also had a great love for everyone. Furthermore, Edith had a perception about people that was instinctual and intuitive but not intellectual. In short, Edith Bunker was much more than just a “dingbat.”