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from the Museum of Broadcast Communications Encyclopedia of Television
Best known for his portrayal of cantankerous Archie Bunker on the long-running CBS series All in the Family, Carroll O'Connor has been one of television's most recognized actors for over twenty years. For his work on All in the Family and In the Heat of the Night the actor has received five Emmy Awards, eight Emmy nominations, a Golden Globe Award and a Peabody Award.
O'Connor's acting career began while he was a student in Ireland in the 1950s. Following on experiences in American and European theatre, he established himself as a versatile character actor in Hollywood during the 1960s. Between films he made guest appearances on television programs such as the U.S. Steel Hour, Kraft Television Theatre, the Armstrong Circle Theatre and many of the filmed series hits of the 1960s. But O'Connor became a television star with his portrayal of outspoken bigot Archie Bunker, the American archetype whose chair now sits in the Smithsonian Institution.
In 1968, ABC Television, which had the first rights to the series, financed production of two pilot episodes of All in The Family (then under the title Those Were the Days). But the network's trepidation about the program's socially controversial content led ABC to reject the show. Producer Norman Lear sold the series to CBS, where All in The Family was broadcast for the first time on 12 January 1971 with O'Connor as Archie Bunker. By using humor to tackle racism and other sensitive subjects, All in The Family changed the style and tone of prime time programming on television. It may also have opened the door for political and social satires such as Saturday Night Live and other controversial programs.
Throughout its thirteen seasons the show gained immense popularity (in its heyday, it was said to have reached an average of fifty million viewers weekly), and maintained a groundbreaking sense of social criticism. Archie Bunker's regular stream of racial epithets and malapropisms catalyzed strong reaction from critics. All in the Family was attacked by conservatives who thought that the show made fun of their views, and by liberals who charged that the show was too matter-of-fact about bigotry. The show's successor Archie Bunker's Place, was broadcast on CBS from 1979 TO 1983, and the earlier show also begat two successful spinoffs, Maude and The Jeffersons, one of television's longest-running series about African Americans.
From 1988 to 1994 O'Connor starred in and served as executive producer and head writer for the hit prime time drama In the Heat of the Night. Set in fictional Sparta, Mississippi, but shot on location in Covington, Georgia, In the Heat of the Night may be seen as a continuation of O'Connor's association with television programs designed to function as social commentary by addressing issues of racism and bigotry. O'Connor plays Bill Gillespie, a Southern police chief whose top detective (played by Howard Rollins) is African American. In its 1993 season, the show also featured the marriage of Chief Gillespie to an African American city administrator. The series has received two NAACP Image Awards for contributing positive portrayals of African Americans on television. When the series version of In the Heat of the Night ended, O'Connor produced several made-for-television-movies using the same locations and characters. In 1995, O'Connor's son and co-star on In the Heat of the Night, Hugh O'Connor died of a drug overdose. O'Connor chose to speak out publicly about his grief and his views on the legalization of drugs, and gave a number of well-publicized interviews on these topics on television. He continues to devote much of his time to the social problems surrounding drug addiction.
Bennetts, Leslie. "Carroll O'Connor as Detective Chief." The New York Times, 20 March 1985.
Du Brow, Rick. "Thriving in the Heat of Adversity Despite Heart Bypass Surgery and the Personal Problems of his Co-Star Howard Rollins, Carroll O'Connor is Happy in his Work." Los Angeles Times, 17 March 1990.
Farber, Stephen. "An Actor Stands In As Writer." The New York Times, 9 January 1989.
Lamanna, Dean. "Carroll O'Connor: These Are the Days." Ladies' Home Journal (New York), October 1991.
CARROL O'CONNOR. Born in New York City, U.S.A., 2 August 1924. Died 21 June 2001. Educated at the University of Montana; National University of Ireland, B.A., 1952; University of Montana, M.A., 1956. Married: Nancy Fields, 1951, child: Hugh (deceased). Stage actor in Ireland, 1950-54; substitute teacher in New York, 1954-56; appeared in plays Ulysses in Nightown, 1958, and The Big Knife, 1959; appeared as a character actor in numerous motion pictures, 1961-71, including Fever in the Blood, 1961, Cleopatra, 1963, and Kelley's Heroes, 1970; star of television series All in the Family, 1971-79; star of Archie Bunker's Place, 1979-83; co-executive producer and star of In the Heat of the Night, 1987-94. Recipient: Golden Globe Award; Emmy Awards for best actor, 1973, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1989; George Foster Peabody Award, 1980; named to Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame, 1990. Address: Lionel Larner Ltd., 130 West 57th St., Suite 10A, Culver City, California 10019.
1971-79 All In the Family
1979-83 Archie Bunker's House
1987-94 In the Heat of the Night
1994 Party of Five
1969 Fear No Evil
1987 The Father Clements Story
1994 In the Heat of the Night: A Matter of Justice
1995 In the Heat of the Night: Grow Old with Me
1995 In the Heat of the Night: By Duty Bound
1972 Of Thee I Sing
1973 Three for the Girls
1977 The Last Hurrah
1981 Man, Myths and Titans (writer)
1991 All in the Family 20th Anniversary Special
Fever In the Blood, 1961; By Love Possessed, 1961; Lad a Dog, 1961; Lonely are the Brave, 1962; Cleopatra, 1963; Not With My Wife, You Don't, 1966; Warning Shot, 1967; What Did You Do in the War, Daddy?, 1968; Marlowe, 1969; Death of a Gunfighter, 1969; Kelly's Heroes, 1970; Doctors' Wives, 1971; Law and Disorder, 1985
Ulysses in Nightown, 1958; The Big Knife, 1959; Brothers, 1983; Home Front, 1984
- Carroll O’Connor on how All in the Family didn't change television, as its breakthroughs remained one-of-a-kind
Clip begins at: 14:49, Duration: 00m 41s
- Carroll O’Connor on “Archie Bunker” as the best part he ever played, even next to In the Heat of the Night's "Chief Bill Gillespie"
Clip begins at: 10:25, Duration: 00m 22s
- Carroll O’Connor on “the best experience” he ever had as an actor, performing at Dublin’s Gate Theatre
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- Carroll O’Connor on learning how to play comedy from Micheál MacLiammóir, at the Gate Theatre, which he later used in his characterization of Archie Bunker
Clip begins at: 08:37, Duration: 02m 29s
- Carroll O’Connor on the creation of the All in the Family spin-off Archie Bunker’s Place and deciding on the death of Edith (in season two)
Clip begins at: 23:27, Duration: 05m 39s
- Part 1
- On his background and childhood pursuits, including: reading, sports, movies, and radio
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- On his first appearances on stage; on his mentor at University College in Dublin (UCD); on his studies at Wake Forest College in North Carolina
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- On serving in the United States Merchant Marines; on his post-WWII studies at the University of Montana
Clip begins at: 17:25
- Part 2
- On traveling with his brother Hugh to Dublin in 1950; on taking the stage name George Roberts until Cyril Cusack insisted take back his own name; on appearing at Dublin's Gate Theatre
Clip begins at: 0:5
- On his television debut on the BBC
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- On returning to New York as a struggling actor; on his American television debut on Kraft Television Theater: "A Bit of Love"; on quitting acting and teaching drama; on his return to acting
Clip begins at: 16:26
- On appearing in "Ulysses in Nighttown" which put him on the map in the New York theater; on Burgess Meredith
Clip begins at: 23:12
- Part 3
- On Zero Mostel and the role he played in "Ulysses in Nighttown"; on the reception of "Ulysses in Nighttown" abroad; on his take of the James Joyce source material and production
Clip begins at: 0:29
- On landing a part in the dramatic television production Sacco-Vanzetti, which led to his screen debut in A Fever in the Blood; on TV appearances in the 1960s, including Armstrong Circle Theatre and That Girl
Clip begins at: 10:18
- On contributing as a writer to his television roles; on Desi Arnaz, who cast him in a pilot; on the claim that he'd been up for the role of "The Skipper" in Gilligan's Island; on his initial involvement with All in the Family
Clip begins at: 19:24
- Part 4
- On collaborating on the characterization of Archie Bunker with Norman Lear; on his contentious working relationship with Norman Lear; on "Archie Bunker"
Clip begins at: 0:0
- On All in the Family co-star Jean Stapleton; on filming the All in the Family pilots; on the perception of "Archie Bunker" by the viewing public
Clip begins at: 12:40
- On working with All in the Family co-stars Rob Reiner and Sally Struthers; on "Archie Bunker's" malaprops and character nicknames; on why he re-wrote the material he was given
Clip begins at: 22:55
- Part 5
- On Archie Bunker's relationship to the characters of the Jeffersons, the Lorenzos, and Maude; on Norman Lear's contribution to the writing of All in the Family
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- On the effect of the series' success on Norman Lear and the cast; on suggesting Paul Bogart to direct All in the Family ; on initial All in the Family director John Rich
Clip begins at: 08:07
- On walking off All in the Family during its run; on the introduction of child actress Danielle Brisebois as "Stephanie Mills"; on some of the classic episodes of All in the Family
Clip begins at: 13:50
- On the donation of Archie and Edith's chairs from the set of All in the Family to the Smithsonian Institution; On the creation of Archie Bunker's Place
Clip begins at: 22:07
- Part 6
- On the Archie Bunker's Place episode that reveals Edith Bunker's death, "Archie Alone"; on casting Martin Balsam's real-life actress-daughter Talia Balsam in an episode of Archie Bunker's Place that mirrored their real life, "Murray's Daughter"
Clip begins at: 0:17
- On the end of Archie Bunker's Place; on the spin-off series Gloria
Clip begins at: 12:33
- On writing and starring in the TV movie The Last Hurrah: fighting for director Vincent Sherman, and on the reaction to the piece by critics, some not to his liking
Clip begins at: 22:52
- Part 7
- On the start of In the Heat of the Night ; on the casting of Howard Rollins; on O'Connor's displeasure with the series' early producers and scripts
Clip begins at: 0:9
- On In the Heat of the Night receiving accommodation from the NAACP; on the cast and guest stars; on his Emmy win; on his favorite episode and Rosalynn Carter's response to it's anti-capital punishment message
Clip begins at: 12:06
- On In the Heat of the Night 's move from NBC to CBS; on the TV movie The Father Clements Story; on his guesting on Party of Five
Clip begins at: 22:27
- Part 8
- On appearing on Mad About You; on writing his autobiography
Clip begins at: 0:13
- On his advice to aspiring actors; on the legacy of All in the Family; on accolades he's received
Clip begins at: 10:19
- On how he'd like to be remembered; on his theory as to why CBS Chairman William S. Paley never socialized with him; on the writers of All in the Family and other colleagues; on his wife Nancy
Clip begins at: 17:12