Maureen Stapleton was an American actress of films, television and theatre. Her acting as Emma Goldman, an anarchist in the epic film ‘Reds’ earned her an Oscar for best supporting actress. ‘The Playboy of the Western World’ was her debut performance for Broadway productions. She won her first Tony Award for portraying the character of Serafina, an Italian-American widow in the play ‘The Rose Tattoo’. Her performance in ‘Plaza Suite’ established her as a serious actress. After performing in plays like ’27 Wagons Full of Cotton’ and ‘Orpheus Descending’, she acted in successful films like ‘Lonelyhearts’. This film marks her outstanding performance as a deceitful man eater. She also won several prestigious awards for her realistic acting in the film 'Reds'. Films like ‘Interiors’ earned her wide acknowledgement as a versatile actress. Besides portraying the role of an aged woman in the film ‘Cocoon’, she left a mark in television world by acting in television series like ‘ Last Wish’. Apart from that, she also appeared in television series ‘Playhouse 90' and 'Medic'. In 1981, she was inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame. She published her autobiography "A Hell of a Life" in 1995. The film ‘Living and Dining’ was her last film.
Childhood & Early Life
Born as Lois Maureen Stapleton in Troy, New York, United States, she was brought up in an orthodox Irish American Catholic family. His alcoholic father John P. Stapleton left her mother when Maureen was five.
She received her early education from Troy High School. After reaching New York at the age of eighteen, she took admission at Herbert Berghof’s acting school. Besides attending acting classes, she used to work as a waitress. For a brief period, she also worked as a nude model for artists.
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Her first performance for Broadway was a revival of ‘The Playboy of the Western World’ in which she acted in a small role. Later, she performed in ‘Bird Cage’ under the direction of Harold Clurman.
She met several young actors like Marlon Brando and Montgomery Clift when she joined the Actors Studio in 1947. The year 1950 marks an important milestone for her acting career.
In that year, she was cast as the lead character of the play ‘The Rose Tattoo’ opposite Eli Wallach. In 1955, she acted in ’27 Wagons Full of Cotton’. In the next year, she performed in ‘Orpheus Descending’. Both of these plays were authored by Tennessee Williams.
Released in 1958, the film ‘Lonelyhearts’ was her first performance in Hollywood film.. She presented the emotional turmoil of a woman whose insane husband is planning to blow up a plane in the film 'Airport' , released in 1970. The film received huge success.
In 1975, her television film ‘Queen of the Stardust Ballroom’ shows her as an aged lonely widow in love with a postal worker whom she met at a local dance hall.
In 1978, her portrayal of the character of Pearl in the film ‘Interiors’ earned her a nomination for Oscar. Released in 1985, the film 'Cocoon' shows her as an elderly woman who gets back her youth in an encounter with space aliens.
Later, she shifted to Lenox, Massachusetts. In 1992, she acted in a television series titled 'Last Wish' where she acted as a woman dying of ovarian cancer. In 1994, her film 'The Last Good Time' appeared.
In this film she acted as Ida Cutler. In 1997, she acted in the film 'Addicted to Love', a romantic comedy film. She made her last film appearance through 'Living and Dining', released in 2003.
She skilfully portrayed the role of an Italian- American widow in the play ‘The Rose Tattoo’. The first performance of this play was organised in February of 1951. She earned instant fame as an actress for presenting the widow’s coarse nature and emotional upheaval with subtlety.
Awards & Achievements
For her commendable acting in a supporting role of the film ‘Lonelyhearts’ , her name was nominated for prestigious Academy Award and also for a Golden Globe.
She won her first Emmy Award for the film ‘Among the Paths to Eden’, released in 1967. As far as her second Emmy is concerned, she received it for ‘Queen of the Stardust Ballroom’, a television film.
Her effective portrayal of the character of Emma Goldman, an anarchist and author, in the film 'Reds' earned her an Oscar in the category of best supporting actress. The film was released in 1981.
Personal Life & Legacy
She became an alcoholic after acting in a stressful character in the play ‘The Rose Tattoo’. She was under medical treatment for anxiety. She was also afraid of using elevators and airplanes.
She married Max Allentuck, a manager of a theatre producer. With Max, she had two children, Daniel and Katharine. After her divorce with Max, she developed a romantic relationship with David Rayfiel, a playwright whom she later married.
At that time, she used to drink heavily due to her guilt and anxiety over her divorce with Max. With David her married life lasted only for three years.
At the age of 43, she was in a relationship with 81 year old George Abbott, a Broadway director. They broke up after ten years. She breathed her last on account of respiratory ailments at the age of 80.
This renowned American actress was diagnosed with paranoia. Due to which she feared that someone in the audience would kill her while performing on stage.