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Maureen Stapleton

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Also Known As: Lois Maureen Stapleton Died: March 13, 2006
Born: June 21, 1925 Cause of Death: chronic pulmonary disease
Birth Place: Troy, New York, USA Profession: actor, model, waitress

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Although not consider a beauty, Maureen Stapleton has become a star of stage, screen and television in a career that has spanned some forty years and is noted for her strong, earthy portrayals of somewhat unstable women that have earned her critical praise and accolades.The Troy, New York native dropped out of college at age 18 and moved to NYC to pursue an acting career. After studying with Herbert Berghof and at the Actors Studio, Stapleton made her Broadway debut in the 1946 revival of Sean O'Casey's "The Playboy of the Western World". Within five years, she delivered a star-making performance as the blowzy Serafina delle Rose in Tennessee Williams' "The Rose Tattoo" (1951), which earned her a Featured Actress Tony Award. Throughout her career, Stapleton was predominantly known as a stage actress. Among her other memorable roles were Lady in "Orpheus Descending" (1957) and Amanda Wingfield in "The Glass Menagerie" (1965 and 1975), both by Williams. She had two triumphs in plays by Neil Simon: playing three roles in "Plaza Suite" (1968) and the title role in "The Gingerbread Lady" (1970). For her role as an alcoholic singer in the latter, she earned a Best Actress Tony Award. Her last stage role to...

Although not consider a beauty, Maureen Stapleton has become a star of stage, screen and television in a career that has spanned some forty years and is noted for her strong, earthy portrayals of somewhat unstable women that have earned her critical praise and accolades.

The Troy, New York native dropped out of college at age 18 and moved to NYC to pursue an acting career. After studying with Herbert Berghof and at the Actors Studio, Stapleton made her Broadway debut in the 1946 revival of Sean O'Casey's "The Playboy of the Western World". Within five years, she delivered a star-making performance as the blowzy Serafina delle Rose in Tennessee Williams' "The Rose Tattoo" (1951), which earned her a Featured Actress Tony Award. Throughout her career, Stapleton was predominantly known as a stage actress. Among her other memorable roles were Lady in "Orpheus Descending" (1957) and Amanda Wingfield in "The Glass Menagerie" (1965 and 1975), both by Williams. She had two triumphs in plays by Neil Simon: playing three roles in "Plaza Suite" (1968) and the title role in "The Gingerbread Lady" (1970). For her role as an alcoholic singer in the latter, she earned a Best Actress Tony Award. Her last stage role to date was in support of Elizabeth Taylor (in her stage debut) in the 1981 revival of Lillian Hellman's "The Little Foxes."

Stapleton made her feature debut in "Lonelyhearts" (1958) as a frustrated woman who seduces Montgomery Clift's callow journalist earning an Oscar nod as Best Supporting Actress. She subsequently gave effective and wide-ranging performances, typically as frowzy, unkempt woman in films including Sidney Lumet's "The Fugitive Kind" (1960), "Airport" (1970), which earned her a second Oscar nomination as the worried wife of saboteur Van Heflin, and "Plaza Suite" (1971), recreating one of her stage roles. In Woody Allen's somber, Bergmanesque "Interiors" (1978), Stapleton injected liveliness and warmth as Pearl, a slightly coarse widow romanced by E.G. Marshall to the horror of his daughters. Her performance won her citations as Best Supporting Actress from both the New York and Los Angeles Film Critics and earned her a third Academy Award nomination. In 1981, she was Lauren Bacall's tart-tongued secretary Belle Goldman in "The Fan" and a less revolutionary, more maternal Emma Goldman in Warren Beatty's "Reds," which finally earned her an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Other memorable roles include as Wilford Brimley's wife in "Cocoon" (1985) and its disappointing 1988 sequel, as Barbra Streisand's mother, in denial over her daughter's past, in Martin Ritt's "Nuts" (1987) and as a flirtatious neighbor of Armin Mueller-Stahl in Bob Balaban's "The Last Good Time" (1994).

On TV, Stapleton appeared frequently in the 1950s in episodes of "Studio One," "Kraft Playhouse" and "Playhouse 90". She received an Emmy for "Among the Paths to Eden" (ABC, 1967) and won acclaim in the title role (opposite Charles Durning) of "The Queen of the Stardust Ballroom" (CBS, 1974). Stapleton co-starred as Big Mama with Laurence Olivier and Natalie Wood in Tennessee Williams' "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" (NBC, 1976), was the abandoned wife of Ed Asner in the award-winning "The Gathering" (ABC, 1977), played the Nurse to Gloria Vanderbilt in "Little Gloria . . . Happy at Last" (NBC, 1982), was the overbearing mother of Victor Garber's pianist in "Liberace: The Man Behind the Music" (CBS, 1988) and was the terminally ill mother of journalist Betty Rollin (Patty Duke) in "Last Wish" (ABC, 1992). Stapleton's distinctive voice has been used in several documentaries including "Lincoln" (ABC, 1992) and "P.T. Barnum: America's Greatest Showman" (Discovery Channel, 1995).

In 1995, she co-authored her memoirs, A Hell of a Life, which detailed a chaotic life and career that included two failed marriages, many affairs and years of alcohol abuse. As the years passed, the public saw less of Stapleton on screen. From the mid-1990s on through the new millennium, she appeared in only two features, playing the thankless role of a guidance counselor in the indie-produced "Wilbur Falls" (1997), then grandmother to a jealous woman (Meg Ryan) who cannot get over losing her French restaurateur boyfriend (Tcheky Karyo) in the insipid romantic comedy "Addicted to Love" (1997). Then as she grew older, her notorious phobias-fears of opening nights, flying and elevators-forced her into retirement and seclusion. Stapleton spent her waning years in Lenox, Massachusetts with friends and family, while accepting retrospective honors and fundraising for various causes. On March 13, 2006, she succumbed to chronic pulmonary disease. She was 80.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Addicted to Love (1997) Nana
2.
 Wilbur Falls (1997) Guidance Counselor
3.
 Last Good Time, The (1994) Ida Cutler
4.
 Trading Mom (1994) Mrs Cavour
5.
 Passed Away (1992) Mary Scanlan
6.
 Last Wish (1992) Ida Rollin
7.
 Miss Rose White (1992) Tanta Perla
8.
 Auntie Sue (1989) Auntie Sue
9.
 Doin' Time on Planet Earth (1988) Harriet
10.
 Hello Actors Studio (1988) Herself
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1943:
Moved to New York and worked as model and waitress while attending classes at Herbert Berghof Studios
1945:
First TV appearance, "H.R. 8438: The Story of a Lost Boy" on "Armstrong Circle Theater" (NBC)
1946:
Broadway debut in "Playboy of the Western World"
1951:
First starring role on Broadway in Tennessee Williams' "The Rose Tattoo"
1952:
TV debut as panelist on series, "What Happened?"
1955:
Appeared in off-Broadway production of Williams' play "Twenty-Seven Wagons Full of Cotton"
1957:
Played Lady Torrance in Williams' "Orpheus Descending"
1959:
Feature film debut, "Lonelyhearts"; earned first Oscar nomination
1960:
Co-starred with Anna Magnani, Marlon Brando and Joanne Woodward in Sidney Lumet's "The Fugutive Kind", the film adaptation of Williams' "Orpheus Descending"
1965:
First played Amanda Wingfield in Williams' The Glass Menagerie"
1966:
Recreated her role in revival of "The Rose Tattoo"
1968:
First collaboration with Neil Simon, "Plaza Suite"; played three roles
1970:
Starred in Neil Simon's play "The Gingerbread Lady"
1970:
Received a nomination for her supporting role in George Seaton's "Airport"
1971:
Recreated one of her stage roles in feature version of "Plaza Suite"
1974:
Played the title role in the acclaimed TV-movie "Queen of the Stardust Ballroom"
1975:
Received a Grammy nomination in the Best Spoken Word for her recording of "To Kill a Mockingbird"
1978:
Won acclaim for her performance in Woody Allen's "Interiors"
1978:
Succeeded Jessica Tandy on Broadway in "The Gin Game"
1981:
Portrayed anarchist-writer Emma Goldman in Warren Beatty's "Reds"
1981:
Last Broadway performance to date, Birdie in the revival of "The Little Foxes" starring Elizabeth Taylor
1981:
Inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame (April)
1984:
Played Ma Kelly in Amy Heckerling's "Johnny Dangerously"
1985:
Part of an ensemble in Ron Howard's sci-fi feature "Cocoon"
1988:
Reprised role for "Cocoon: The Return"
1995:
Published memoirs, "A Hell of a Life", co-written with Jane Scovill
1997:
Played Meg Ryan's Nana in the comedy "Addicted to Love"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Actors Studio: New York , New York -
Siena College: Loudonville , New York - 1943
Herbert Berghof Studio: New York , New York - 1944

Notes

"She says her friend Marilyn Monroe couldn't get taken seriously as an actress because of her beauty; Stapleton had a different problem. 'People looked at me onstage and said, Jesus, that broad better be able to act.'"--From PEOPLE, October 23, 1995

She received the National Institute of Arts and Letters Award in 1969.

The theater at the Hudson Valely Community Coolege in Troy, NY is named in honor of Stapleton.

Companions close complete companion listing

husband:
Max Allentuck. Producer. Married July 22, 1949; divorced in February 1959; born c. 1911; died on October 22, 1995.
husband:
David Rayfiel. Screenwriter; playwright. Married in July 1963; divorced c. 1966.
companion:
George Abbott. Producer; director; writer. Together c. 1968-78; born in 1887; died in 1995.

Family close complete family listing

father:
John Stapleton. Alcoholic; died c. 1960.
mother:
Irene Stapleton. Secretary. Died in 1970.
son:
Daniel Allentuck. Born in 1950.
daughter:
Katherine Bambery. Born in 1954.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

Bibliography close complete biography

"A Hell of a Life" Simon & Schuster

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