‘All in the Family’: Who Was the ‘Real Life’ Archie Bunker?

by Madison Miller
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The show “All in the Family” revolved around a working-class father and his beloved family.

The show has often been regarded as one of the greatest television series in history. Through the show, topics that weren’t normally discussed on TV like racism, abortion, sexuality, and the Vietnam War were all brought up.

In a lot of ways, the show owes its success to Carroll O’Connor, who plays Archie Bunker. His character and the show became so popular that people can even go visit Archie and Edith Bunker’s chairs in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

So where did the show get inspiration for the character Archie Bunker?

Who was Archie Bunker?

On the show, he is a working man living in Queens. His wife and two kids share their strong opinions with him. Both his daughter and son have more progressive views on the world comapred to a traditional Archie Bunker.

There is no clear inspiration for the character, however, he was partially inspired by the show creator’s father. Norman Lear said that he had a difficult childhood, most of which had to do with his father. He was frequently in legal trouble and had a lot of the same prejudices as Archie Bunker.

In an interview with NPR, Lear said that his father would often call him the “laziest white kid he ever met.” Then Norman Lear would scream back, ” How can you put down a whole race of people just to call me lazy?”

Lear was often frustrated with his father because he loved him dearly, but he was terribly flawed. “You hear me talk about him lightly because I cannot make him a villain, you know?”

Other Influences

In no way was Archie Bunker’s character completely based on Lear’s father or any other figure. At the end of the day, he’s a fictional character.

However, “All in the Family” also drew inspiration from “Till Death Do Us Part.” Bunker was partially inspired by the character Alf Garnett. While the show had distinct differences, the two characters did have some strong similarities.

The two father figures both had a less-than-stellar relationship with their wives sometimes as well as some deep prejudices. They also had tempers and an attitude toward their sons-in-law.

However Archie’s character was a softie in many ways. He was open to change and learning new things.

The Actor Behind Archie Bunker

While there were several inspirations behind the character, Carroll O’Connor is the one who brought him to life.

While he played a conservative character on TV, O’Connor was liberal himself. According to IMDb, O’Connor was “quiet, cultured, well-educated.” His political leanings were liberal. His co-star, Rob Reiner, once said that O’Connor was more liberal than himself.

The show was meant to call out older beliefs and introduce more liberal-leaning topics to viewers.

O’Connor played Archie Bunkers on “All in the Family,” “Archie Bunker’s Place,” and “Gloria.”

H/T: Showbiz CheatSheet

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