‘Archie Bunker’s Place’: Jean Stapleton Once Recalled Hilarious Story After Edith Bunker Death Episode

by Matthew Wilson
Photo credit: CBS via Getty Images

Edith Bunker’s death on “Archie Bunker’s Place” made for a hilarious encounter behind the scenes for Edith actor Jean Stapleton. A fan was shocked to see Stapleton the day after the episode aired.

Stapleton starred on “All In the Family” for eight seasons. But she decided to leave the show after Season Eight and producers retooled the series to focus solely on the Archie Bunker character. For the first season of “Archie Bunker’s Place”, Edith was an often mentioned but rarely seen presence. But in Season Two, the creators killed off Edith.

Stapleton was staying at a hotel the night the episode aired. The show killed off Edith off-screen and featured a tearful monologue from Archie Bunker. One of the hotel’s maids watched the episode and was shocked to see Stapleton alive and in the flesh the next day.

“It was very moving, marvelous. So I saw that [episode], that night in Winston, Salem,” Stapleton told Foundation Interviews. “The next morning the maid entered the room. She saw me and dropped her jaw. And she said, ‘My God, I thought you were dead.'”

But it definitely made for a hilarious story in retrospect. Stapleton’s fan encounter also showed how much the actor became associated with her sitcom character.

‘Archie Bunker’s Place’ Killed Off Edith

For her part, Stapleton didn’t shed many tears at the loss of her sitcom character. The show’s producers called Stapleton about killing off the character. They felt Edith boxed in Archie as a character since she didn’t have an actual presence on the show anymore. They decided to make Archie Bunker a widower so he could date again.

But creator Norman Lear struggled to kill off his creation. It took some convincing from Stapleton to finally make the move.

“He could not say yes to allow Edith to die in a script so Archie can get on with his life. Norman said on the phone, ‘I just haven’t been able to say yes to this,’” Stapleton recalled. “So I brought it down to this is. I said to Norman, ‘Norman, you realize that she is only fiction.’ There was a long pause. And I thought I hurt this dear man that I love so much. And then the voice came back, ‘To me, she isn’t.’”

So, the show killed off Edith Bunker in a moment that was emotional for many fans. “Archie Bunker’s Place” never managed to be as popular as its predecessor. But it did last for four seasons.