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Joan Copeland, stage and screen actress and sister of playwright Arthur Miller, dies at 99

UPDATED: Wed., Jan. 5, 2022

Actress Joan Copeland attends press interviews at the 19th Annual Hamptons International Film Festival on Oct. 16, 2011 at the Maidstone Hotel in East Hampton, New York. Copeland died Tuesday at 99.  (Courtesy of Nick Stepowyj)
Actress Joan Copeland attends press interviews at the 19th Annual Hamptons International Film Festival on Oct. 16, 2011 at the Maidstone Hotel in East Hampton, New York. Copeland died Tuesday at 99. (Courtesy of Nick Stepowyj)
By Joseph Wilkinson New York Daily News

NEW YORK – Joan Copeland, the Broadway, film and TV actress and sister of playwright Arthur Miller whose career spanned more than six decades, died Tuesday in Manhattan. She was 99.

Copeland died peacefully in her sleep at 5:47 a.m. at her home in New York, her son Erik Kupchik and his wife Geralen Silberg-Kupchik told the Daily News.

“She lived an amazing life,” Silberg-Kupchik said. “In addition to her brilliant career, she was a wonderful mother. And we’re going to miss her very much.”

Copeland, Marilyn Monroe’s sister-in-law for five years, was best known for her work on Broadway, starring in the 1976 revival of “Pal Joey” and delivering a Drama Desk Award-winning performance in 1980’s “The American Clock.”

That star turn came in a unique role: She played her own mother, and her brother was the playwright.

“Arthur didn’t write the part for me but it’s one of the few roles I didn’t have to audition for my brother,” Copeland told the Southampton Press in 2012. “I’ve had to audition for several of his plays and he always treated me as an actress, not a sister.”

Copeland starred in only one other of Miller’s plays to make it to Broadway, “The Price” in 1968.

“It’s been said that blood is thicker than water, but whoever said it was not a writer,” she said in 2012.

But Copeland earned credits for other productions: “Detective Story” (1949), “Not For Children” (1951), “Tovarich” (1963), “Something More!” (1964), “Coco” (1969), “Two By Two” (1970) and “Checking Out” (1976).

Copeland made her film debut in 1958’s “The Goddess.” She played a small role in the movie, which was based on the life of Monroe, her sister-in-law at the time. Miller and Monroe were married from 1956 to 1961.

Copeland moved seamlessly between stage, screen and TV. She appeared in soap operas, “Search for Tomorrow” and “How to Survive a Marriage” in the 1960s and ’70s while also working on films including “Roseland,” “It’s My Turn” and “A Little Sex” into the 1980s. TV viewers probably knew her best for her work on “Law & Order” as Judge Rebecca Stein. She also had a small voice role in the 2003 Disney animated film “Brother Bear.”

Copeland married George Kupchik in 1946, and they remained together until his death in 1989. In addition to Erik and Geralen, Copeland is survived by niece Rebecca Miller and her husband, English actor Daniel Day-Lewis.

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