‘All in the Family’: Carroll O’Connor Reveals the Best Part About Playing Archie Bunker

by Joe Rutland
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Carroll O’Connor found playing Archie Bunker on “All in the Family” was the best role of his career from an actor’s standpoint.

“I’ve always said that it’s the best part that I’ve ever played,” O’Connor said in an interview with the Academy of American Television. “I don’t think I’ll ever find as good a part as that.”

“I enjoyed playing the chief down in Georgia (in O’Connor’s other series, a TV version of the Rod Steiger-Sidney Poitier film “In The Heat of the Night”) more,” O’Connor said. “But I know, from an actor’s standpoint, which was the better part.”

O’Connor won four Emmy Awards as “Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series” for his work on the Norman Lear-produced CBS comedy. He won the awards in 1971, 1976, 1977, and 1978. He received a Golden Globe Award in 1972 for “Best Actor – Television Series Musical or Comedy.”

In 1990, O’Connor was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame for his contributions to the industry.

He also was a veteran of movies, too. O’Connor played in the 1969 film “Kelly’s Heroes” along with two of his personal friends, Telly Savalas and Don Rickles. Savalas would find TV fame himself, playing Lt. Theo Kojak in CBS’s cop drama “Kojak.”

‘All in the Family’ Gave ‘Maude’ Quite The Boost

Much like “All in the Family,” “Maude” took up topics that were sometimes controversial in the 1970s. It made a star out of Bea Arthur, who would go on and find more fame on TV in “The Golden Girls.”

Yet it was her one-episode appearance on “All in the Family” that really secured a spinoff for Maude Findlay.

Even more, the back-and-forth between Maude and Archie was so beautiful that viewers wanted more of her.

They received it as Lear cranked up his creative production machine and got “Maude” on CBS’s prime-time schedule.

Arthur had a background on Broadway, winning a Tony Award in 1966 for playing Vera Charles in “Mame.” In addition, she secured Emmy Awards in 1977 for “Maude” and 1988 for “The Golden Girls.”

But give it up for O’Connor and Arthur, who made a script come to life and launch Maude Findlay into television sets all over America.

Lear Explains Why O’Connor ‘Disliked Every Script’

Now Lear and O’Connor butted heads a lot, including one time where the actor walked out in a salary dispute.

But it appears that “All in the Family” scripts were the disdain of the Archie Bunker actor’s life.

Lear, who has produced multiple hit shows and a few misses on TV, writes in his memoir that working with O’Connor on All in the Family was beyond difficult. What did they fight over? Usually around O’Connor being unhappy with Bunker and the scripts.

“For the next eight years, Carroll would continue to dislike every script at the start,” Lear wrote in Even This I Get to Experience. “It was nothing but fear, and blind anger was his only defense. Certainly, he bettered many a scene with it, but it needn’t have taken his belligerence to get there.”

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