All in the Family turned Archie Bunker into a household name. And the series also made its star, Carroll O’Connor a very rich man.
We’ll tell you how rich, but first, some O’Connor details. He was an ex-pat living in Rome when he received a call from All In The Family creator Norman Lear. This was in 1968. Lear wanted O’Connor to fly to New York and be in his new series. Lear based Archie, in part, on his own father.
But O’Connor wasn’t convinced he wanted to be in the new show. He requested a round-trip ticket back to Italy and asked for some changes to the Archie Bunker character. Can you imagine the show without O’Connor?
Now, can you imagine the TV landscape without All In the Family? It took almost three years to get the show on air. ABC didn’t like the show’s subject matter, so the network rejected the pilot. CBS put it on the air in January, 1971. Movie viewers were introduced to O’Connor months before All In the Family when he portrayed a general in the Clint Eastwood war drama, Kelly’s Heroes.
We know the show was groundbreaking on social issues. It hit subjects like sex, race and class head-on. And according to Biography.com, the show also was groundbreaking in the seemingly minor details. The site reported that “Americans never saw couples sleeping in the same bed or heard a toilet flush on television before All in the Family.”
All In The Family Ranked As No. 1 In National Ratings For Five Straight Years
Americans adored the show. It ranked No. 1 in the ratings from 1971-76. And it became the first show in the Nielsen ratings to own the top spot for five consecutive years. The Archie Bunker character still seems relevant today. Think about it — he played a conservative working man who lauds the Republican president and thinks all Democrats are communists.
O’Connor won four Emmys for Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series for All in the Family. But his career wasn’t all about the comedy. Sure, he then starred in the series spinoff, Archie Bunker’s Place. That show was a compromise between CBS and Lear. CBS wanted the show to continue after Edith Stapleton, who played Archie’s goofy wife Edith, left the series in 1979. But rather than let All in the Family continue without Stapleton, Lear created another show with Archie.
O’Connor’s final big series was In the Heat of the Night. He also produced it. That show also was ground-breaking. It was a procedural police drama based in Sparta, Miss., in the late 1960s. O’Connor starred as Sparta’s police chief Bill Gillespie. He has a close relationship with Virgil Tibbs, a Black man who integrates the town’s police department, working as its chief of detectives.
O’Connor won an Emmy in 1989 for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series. In all, O’Connor won five Emmys, with nine nominations.
He died in 2001 of a heart attack at the age of 76. At the time of his death, CelebrityNetWorth.com estimated that O’Connor’s fortune was worth $20 million.