Maureen Stapleton

Actor, Model, Waitress
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 ... Read more »
Born: 06/20/1925 in Troy, New York, USA


Actor (62)

The Lives of Lillian Hellman 1998 - 1999 (TV Show)


Wilbur Falls 1998 (Movie)

Guidance Counselor (Actor)

Addicted to Love 1997 (Movie)

Nana (Actor)

Avonlea 1989 - 1997 (TV Show)


P.T. Barnum: America's Greatest Showman 1995 - 1996 (TV Show)


The Last Good Time 1995 (Movie)

Ida Cutler (Actor)

Trading Mom 1994 (Movie)

Mrs Cavour (Actor)

Lincoln 1992 - 1993 (TV Show)


Passed Away 1992 (Movie)

Mary Scanlan (Actor)

Street Scenes: New York on Film 1991 - 1992 (TV Show)


Auntie Sue 1988 - 1989 (TV Show)


Cocoon: the Return 1988 (Movie)

Mary Luckett (Actor)

Doin' Time on Planet Earth 1988 (Movie)

Harriet (Actor)

Hello Actors Studio 1988 (Movie)

Herself (Actor)

Natalie Wood 1987 - 1988 (TV Show)


The Thorns 1987 - 1988 (TV Show)


Made in Heaven 1987 (Movie)

Aunt Lisa (Actor)

Nuts 1987 (Movie)

Rose Kirk (Actor)

Sweet Lorraine 1987 (Movie)

Lillian (Actor)

Heartburn 1986 (Movie)

Vera (Actor)

The Money Pit 1986 (Movie)

Estelle (Actor)

Cocoon 1985 (Movie)

Mary Luckett (Actor)

Sentimental Journey 1984 - 1985 (TV Show)


Family Secrets 1983 - 1984 (TV Show)


Johnny Dangerously 1984 (Movie)

Mrs Kelly (Actor)

The Cosmic Eye 1984 (Movie)


America and Lewis Hine 1983 (Movie)

of Margaret Byington (Voice)

Montgomery Clift 1981 (Movie)

Herself (Actor)

On the Right Track 1981 (Movie)

Mary (Actor)

Reds 1981 (Movie)

Emma Goldman (Actor)

The Fan 1980 (Movie)

Belle Goldman (Actor)

The Gathering, Part II 1979 - 1980 (TV Show)


Lost and Found 1979 (Movie)

Jemmy (Actor)

Arthur Miller on Home Ground 1978 (Movie)

Herself (Actor)

Interiors 1978 (Movie)

Pearl (Actor)

The Gathering 1977 - 1978 (TV Show)


The Runner Stumbles 1978 (Movie)

Mrs Shandig (Actor)

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof 1976 - 1977 (TV Show)


There's Always Room 1976 - 1977 (TV Show)


Plaza Suite 1971 (Movie)

Karen Nash (Actor)

Airport 1970 (Movie)

Inez Guerrero (Actor)

Trilogy 1969 (Movie)

Mary O'Meaghan (Actor)

Bye Bye Birdie 1963 (Movie)

Mama Peterson (Actor)

Car 54, Where Are You? 1961 - 1963 (TV Show)


A View From the Bridge 1961 (Movie)

Beatrice (Actor)

The Fugitive Kind 1960 (Movie)

Vee Talbott (Actor)

Lonelyhearts 1958 (Movie)

Fay Doyle (Actor)

Old Knickerbocker Music Hall 1948 - 1949 (TV Show)


The Times Square Story 1948 - 1949 (TV Show)


Last Wish (TV Show)


Letters From Frank (TV Show)


Liberace: Behind the Music (TV Show)


Miss Rose White (TV Show)


Private Sessions (TV Show)


Sentimental Journey (Movie)


Tell Me Where It Hurts (TV Show)



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.


George Abbott Play Author

together c. 1968-78 born in 1887 died in 1995

Max Allentuck

married July 22, 1949 divorced in February 1959 born c. 1911 died on October 22, 1995

Daniel Allentuck

born in 1950 father, Max Allentuck

Katherine Bambery

born in 1954 father, Max Allentuck

David Rayfiel Screenplay

Married in July 1963 divorced in 1966

John Stapleton

alcoholic died c. 1960

Irene Stapleton

died in 1970


Siena College

Loudonville , New York 1943

Herbert Berghof Studio

New York , New York 1944
studied with Herbert Berghof; school is now called HB Studio

Actors Studio

New York , New York



Played Meg Ryan's Nana in the comedy "Addicted to Love"


Published memoirs, "A Hell of a Life", co-written with Jane Scovill


Reprised role for "Cocoon: The Return"


Part of an ensemble in Ron Howard’s sci-fi feature "Cocoon"


Played Ma Kelly in Amy Heckerling’s "Johnny Dangerously"


Portrayed anarchist-writer Emma Goldman in Warren Beatty's "Reds"


Last Broadway performance to date, Birdie in the revival of "The Little Foxes" starring Elizabeth Taylor


Inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame (April)


Succeeded Jessica Tandy on Broadway in "The Gin Game"


Won acclaim for her performance in Woody Allen's "Interiors"


Received a Grammy nomination in the Best Spoken Word for her recording of "To Kill a Mockingbird"


Played the title role in the acclaimed TV-movie "Queen of the Stardust Ballroom"


Recreated one of her stage roles in feature version of "Plaza Suite"


Starred in Neil Simon's play "The Gingerbread Lady"


Received a nomination for her supporting role in George Seaton’s "Airport"


First collaboration with Neil Simon, "Plaza Suite"; played three roles


Recreated her role in revival of "The Rose Tattoo"


First played Amanda Wingfield in Williams' The Glass Menagerie"


Co-starred with Anna Magnani, Marlon Brando and Joanne Woodward in Sidney Lumet's "The Fugutive Kind", the film adaptation of Williams' "Orpheus Descending"


Feature film debut, "Lonelyhearts"; earned first Oscar nomination


Played Lady Torrance in Williams' "Orpheus Descending"


Appeared in off-Broadway production of Williams' play "Twenty-Seven Wagons Full of Cotton"


TV debut as panelist on series, "What Happened?"


First starring role on Broadway in Tennessee Williams' "The Rose Tattoo"


Broadway debut in "Playboy of the Western World"


First TV appearance, "H.R. 8438: The Story of a Lost Boy" on "Armstrong Circle Theater" (NBC)


Moved to New York and worked as model and waitress while attending classes at Herbert Berghof Studios

Bonus Trivia


"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.


"There are many roads to good acting," Stapleton, known for her straightforwardness, said in her 1995 autobiography, Hell of a Life. "I've been asked repeatedly what the 'key' to acting is, and as far as I'm concerned, the main thing is to keep the audience awake."