Stapleton made her Broadway debut in 1946 and five years later won a Tony Award for "The Rose Tattoo." Established as a respected thespian, she was cast in a supporting role in her first film, Lonelyhearts (1958), and earned an Academy Award nomination. In 1970, she received another Oscar nod for Airport, and in 1978 she was nominated for her work in Interiors. For the 1981 epic Reds, Stapleton received the Best Supporting Actress statuette.
Stapleton's other noteworthy efforts include Cocoon (1985), Heartburn (1986), Nuts (1987) and Addicted to Love (1997). She also won an Emmy for the 1967 TV movie Among the Paths to Eden. She died March 13, 2006.