Maureen Stapleton

Active - 1958 - 2003  |   Born - Jun 21, 1925 in Troy, New York, United States  |   Died - Mar 13, 2006   |   Genres - Drama, Comedy, Romance

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Biography by AllMovie

A highly respected character actress of stage, screen, and occasional television, Maureen Stapleton has specialized in playing slightly unkempt, earthy, and/or eccentric women in dramas and comedies. Born June 21, 1925, Stapleton grew up dreaming of becoming a thespian like her idol Joel McCrea, and she went on to work her way through the Herbert Berghof Acting School as a waitress and a model. She made her Broadway debut in Burgess Meredith's production of The Playboy of the Western World (1946) and found herself a Broadway sensation five years later when she starred in Tennessee Williams' The Rose Tattoo, which earned her a Tony Award. This led to a successful stage career in which Stapleton often appeared in Williams' plays.

Stapleton made her feature film debut playing a deeply disturbed advice columnist in Lonelyhearts (1958), a role that won her a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination. Throughout her career she would receive two more Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominations, for her work in Airport (1970) and Woody Allen's first drama, Interiors (1978), before winning the award for playing Emma Goldman in Reds (1981). Stapleton continued to appear on the screen throughout the 1980s and 1990s, showing up in such films as Cocoon (1985), Heartburn (1986), and the black comedy Addicted to Love (1987). She also continued to act on television, her notable efforts ranging from the romantic drama Queen of the Stardust Ballroom (1975) to the highly acclaimed Miss Rose White in 1992.

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  • Moved to New York City at the age of 17 with $100 in her pocket.
  • Studied at New York's famed Actors Studio alongside classmates Marlon Brando and Marilyn Monroe.
  • Worked a number of odd jobs (salesgirl, hotel clerk, artists' model) while she studied acting.
  • Won the National Institute of Arts and Letters Award in 1969.
  • Was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame in 1981.
  • Published A Hell of a Life: An Autobiography in 1995.
  • Openly discussed her alcoholism (for which she was treated at a psychiatric facility) and her various phobias, including a lifelong fear of airplanes.