Jewish World Review June 14, 2013/ 6 Tamuz, 5773
Edith Bunker, 90: Death of a fictional character
By Paul Greenberg
"She was a lovely woman." I can almost hear my big sister Lillian's distinctive voice summing up
Yes, that'd be how Lillian might sum up Edith: a lovely woman. For my sister was a Southern girl transplanted from Shreveport to
It's quite a melange, my sister's lingo: Born in
The living quarters along the avenue were above the stores lined up below. Their occupants could have represented a history of American immigration displayed shop by shop in one long, winding downtown block. And full of families like the Bunkers. Yes, she was a lovely woman, Edith.
But in her adopted
Besides, like most husbands, Archie was subject to the civilizing influence of his wife, though he would never admit it, even and especially when he was bowing to it. Don't let his accent fool you. Archie is a familiar type, mutatis mutandis, in these latitudes, too. He didn't mean a single ugly word he said, not really.
At first impression Edith might have seemed a little dim, maybe a lot dim, but it would be more accurate to say her thoughts were, well, a little cloudy. But the cloud she lived under was so bright with good intentions, it illuminated her -- and the whole family.
When you think about it, it was Edith, who was supposed to be a dummy, who was the most reasonable member of the family. Hers was a wisdom that has nothing to do with intelligence and everything to do with love, which conquers all.
When watching the reruns, don't be misled by Edith's mannerisms -- the way she was always running, or anyway shuffling as fast as she could, to get Archie a beer, shooing guests away from his favorite beat-up easy chair, and smiling apologetically at guests when he would say something stupid, which was regularly.
Edith's voice, which could carry all the way to
If you could get past the sentimentality its writers confused with depth, "All in the Family" was a sound sociological study of a whole layer of American life during the '70s even before the '70s were over. And it was Edith who was key to it.
Edith's death the other day at 90 -- yes, I know there's a rumor she actually died at 52, peacefully in her sleep of a stroke, departing with the '70s in 1980. But that was on another and lesser show, the justly forgotten sequel, "
Ms. Stapleton might have been closer to the mark if she had described Archie and the rest of the family as being under Edith's tutelage -- because even they showed signs of growing up thanks to her. Diametrically contrary to
Many actresses have played bimbos on stage and screen, and some may not have been acting, but it takes a remarkably smart one to play a dingbat -- Archie's affectionate nickname for Edith -- with all the intelligence, breadth and sensitivity that Ms. Stapleton brought to the role of Edith.
How very much like Edith. The actress was able to play Edith intuitively -- and superlatively. Their backgrounds matched. It was only when she analyzed Edith's social significance in the confused America of the 1970s that the actress misspoke. For what would
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