‘All in the Family’: Jean Stapleton Revealed the Depth of Edith and Archie Bunker’s Relationship

by Joe Rutland

Fans have been watching the relationship between Edith and Archie Bunker forever on “All in the Family.” One star reveals what it was like.

Jean Stapleton, who played long-suffering wife Edith on the CBS sitcom, talked about it during an interview for the Archive of American Television.

“On the surface, he was that incredible, ignorant bigot,” Stapleton said. “But, of course, she saw more than that.”

Stapleton said that Edith and Archie were in love and Edith, specifically, was in love with that man.

‘All in the Family’ Star Said Edith, Archie Had Some Tender Moments

“Of course, I guess they had, we had some tender moments that were dramatized perhaps more off-camera,” she said. “Or I should say in the unreal life we’re dramatizing.”

Looking upon the marriage, Stapleton said there was something “that was very sweet.” She points toward “All in the Family” shows like one celebrating their 25th anniversary. She also mentions there were tender moments between Edith and Archie.

“Tender moments which were not all dramatized but, of course, a person like that does have tender moments,” she said. “It’s a mixture of quality so, I presume, that is part of their relationship which wasn’t seen on screen a lot.”

The show itself took on subject matters that, in the 1970s, were stretching beyond social norms. One of the most memorable “All in the Family” episodes revolves around Edith being involved in an attempted rape. The subject matter is a part of a two-part “Edith’s 50th Birthday” episode.

In this episode, you can see Archie be there for his wife in a way far beyond his bluster. The material is something that, in 1977, drew viewers’ attention to a serious subject. Lear and the show’s writers were not afraid to tackle issues like rape.

Stapleton Asked Show Creator Norman Lear To Kill Off Edith Character

Stapleton played Edith Bunker for eight seasons on “All in the Family.” She also reprised the role for a short time on the spinoff, “Archie Bunker’s Place.” Stapleton, though, became tired of playing the role and asked show creator Norman Lear to kill off the character.

He did and she never appeared again on the show. But Stapleton’s contribution to sitcom TV is still being watched by millions of people around the world.

Jean Stapleton died on May 31, 2013, at 90 years old. She also enjoyed quite a career on stage, too, but people still identify her with the Edith Bunker role. When she died, the lights on Broadway were dimmed for one minute in her honor. That type of respect from the stage community isn’t done for everyone.

Maybe it was from a mixture of her work on TV and the stage that earned Stapleton the ultimate salute from the Broadway community.