Acting Legend Maureen Stapleton Dies
Her son said Stapleton had been a lifelong smoker, the Associated Press reports. Friends also knew Stapleton as a very strong drinker – and an outspoken personality.
Among her more famous comments – publicly uttered when she accepted the New York Film Critics Award for her role as Emma Goldman in the 1981 movie Reds – was that the only reason she ever went into showbiz "was because I wanted to f--- (actor) Joel McCrea."
Stapleton also won the Oscar for that film. Her other memorable screen roles included playing Dick Van Dyke's comically overbearing mother in the 1963 movie musical Bye Bye Birdie (despite only being six months older than Van Dyke); the wife of the suicide victim in 1970's Airport; and the lonely widow in the 1975 TV movie Queen of the Stardust Ballroom.
Brought up in a strict Irish Catholic family with an alcoholic father, Stapleton left home in Troy, N.Y., immediately after high school, reports AP. With $100 to her name, she came to New York and began studying at the Herbert Berghof Acting School and later at the Actor's Studio.
At age 24, she hit it big on Broadway as Serafina Delle Rose in Tennessee Williams's The Rose Tattoo, and won a Tony Award. She appeared in numerous other stage productions, including Lillian Hellman's Toys in the Attic and Neil Simon's The Gingerbread Lady, for which she won her second Tony in 1971.
In her 1995 autobiography, Hell of a Life, she wrote of a chaotic private life that included two failed marriages, numerous affairs, years of alcohol abuse and erratic parenting for her two children.
Professionally, however, hers was often an enviable career. "I've been asked repeatedly what the 'key' to acting is," she would say, "and as far as I'm concerned, the main thing is to keep the audience awake."
In addition to Allentuck, Stapleton is survived by a daughter, Katharine Bambery, of Lenox and a brother, Jack Stapleton, of Troy, N.Y.
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