It’s always fun to see when stars of one show appear in earlier roles. For one “All in the Family” star, that is CBS’s western “Gunsmoke.”
Carroll O’Connor, before he started playing Archie Bunker on CBS’s situation comedy, shows up in two different episodes. Also, don’t expect to see O’Connor as you may have a visual of him from “All in the Family” in a white shirt and pants. He’s even wearing a goatee and facial hair in one of them.
Shocking, right? Anyway, O’Connor appears in a 1966 episode called “The Wrong Man.” He plays Hootie Kyle, a man who has a hot temper. Kyle believes he was cheated out of $30 in a card game, so he punches out the guy he lost to and gets his money back.
But trouble looms when he goes to return those $30 to Marshal Matt Dillon, played by James Arness. Kyle learns that the man he punched out was murdered. That’s not good as it leaves Kyle as a suspect. What happens? Well, you have to catch the episode to find out.
O’Connor Plays Major In Role Before ‘All in the Family’
O’Connor, again before “All in the Family” hits CBS, also appears in a 1967 episode called “Major Glory.” He’s looking quite different, too, from that previous episode. Victor French, who is best-known for playing in “Little House on the Prairie,” plays Sergeant Spear who caught two soldiers deserting. Now Spear is using that information as potential blackmail.
Spear and the soldiers come into Dodge City. Well, Spear ends up having a run-in with Festus, played by Ken Curtis. Those two soldiers end up stabbing Spear. O’Connor, who plays Maj. Glenn Vanscoy in the episode, gets in the middle of it all. Vanscoy demands Dillon turn over the man who clashed with Spear. In the end, Festus turns himself over to Vanscoy.
How does this “Gunsmoke” episode end? Again, you have to catch it and see. When you see O’Connor in this episode, take note that he’s cleaned up quite a bit.
Norman Lear Hadn’t Called O’Connor Yet For Archie Bunker Role
Actors needed to work wherever they could find parts. Seeing O’Connor in “Gunsmoke” episodes may surprise some people. O’Connor had not received the call from “All in the Family” show creator Norman Lear yet. That would not happen until a few years later when Archie Bunker roared his way onto television sets.
Lear would meet with O’Connor out in Los Angeles. Before he did, though, there was another famed actor Lear thought was a good fit for Archie.
Mickey Rooney, a veteran actor from movies and television, was in the back of Lear’s mind. Before leaving New York, Lear called Rooney’s agent to see if he could chat with Rooney.
Lear did talk with Rooney about “All in the Family.” Lear said Rooney kept chatting in the third person. Rooney told Lear, “If you got something for the Mick, just tell ’em.” Well, Lear listened a little more and heard Rooney run down his show idea. Needless to say, Lear hung up, flew to Los Angeles, and the rest is TV history.