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'Reds' Actress Maureen Stapleton 1925-2006


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'Reds' Actress Maureen Stapleton 1925-2006

by Dennis McLellan

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Maureen Stapleton in 'Private Sessions'

LENOX, Massachusetts - Maureen Stapleton, the acclaimed stage, screen and television character actress who won an Academy Award for her supporting role in the 1981 film "Reds," died Monday, March 13. She was 80. Stapleton, a longtime smoker, died of complications from respiratory ailments at her home in Lenox, Massachusetts, said her daughter, Katharine Allentuck Bambery. She had been ill for about two years.

Stapleton once noted that her friend Marilyn Monroe, a fellow Actor's Studio member whose talent she admired, was not taken seriously as an actress because of her beauty. "I never had that problem," Stapleton said. "People looked at me on stage and said, 'Jesus, that broad better be able to act.'"

During her more than 50-year career, Stapleton was known as an outstanding character actress who excelled in dramatic and comedic roles. At the heart of her acting was what one critic referred to as her "remorseless honesty."

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Maureen Stapleton in 'The Rose Tattoo'

Stapleton's breakthrough role came in 1951, when she played the grieving, love-struck Sicilian American widow, Serafina delle Rose, in the original Broadway production of Tennessee Williams' "The Rose Tattoo." The role earned Stapleton her first Tony Award. She went on to play leading roles in Williams' "27 Wagons Full of Cotton" in 1955 and "Orpheus Descending" in 1956.

"On stage, you couldn't take your eyes off her," actor-comedian Dom DeLuise, a longtime friend, told The Times on Monday. "She was a grand actress, and she had something that made it all seem like she was making it up."

Among Stapleton's many Broadway credits are Lillian Hellman's "Toys in the Attic," and "Plaza Suite" by Neil Simon. "I just loved her," Simon told The Times on Monday. "She was just a wonderful person to work with and personally she had the most marvelous sense of humor. She was so unique

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