We celebrate the life today of the late actor Carroll O’Connor, whose portrayal of bigoted yet not mean-spirited Archie Bunker on the groundbreaking CBS sitcom All in the Family made him and the program an absolute American institution of television, taking otherwise taboo subjects like impotence, rape, unemployment, menopause, sex, and of course, politics and societal attitudes and changes, and brought them right into 1970’s living rooms, in an America that was radically going through many makeup changes during that turbulent decade. O’Connor, who died on June 21, 2001, would have been 90 years old today.
For O’Connor, an actor who had been in varied productions such as the big budget overblown spectacle Cleopatra to working with James Garner’s gumshoe detective in Marlowe, to the hilariously irascible General Colt in the Clint Eastwood led war comedy, Kelly’s Heroes, getting the role of Archie Bunker was the actor’s coup of a lifetime. Although he had been in the aforementioned films and various television productions to boot, O’Connor was not even near the household name he would become in the lieu of his breakthrough performance on the breakthrough sitcom.
Jean Stapleton, best remembered for her portrayal of the long suffering, yet always sympathetic and scatterbrained wife of TV’s Archie Bunker on the seminal 1970s sitcom All in the Family, has died of natural causes in New York City, according to the LA Times. She as 90.
Stapleton, who was an actress first weaned on dramatic roles in her career, found a place in television lore as the character of Edith Bunker on the CBS sitcom, which ran from 1971-1979 and was the number one television show for five years during that run early on. She portrayed the character with a heart of gold and a running, ditzy mouth and attitude which sometimes became rather grating, especially on her husband Archie, the rotund, blowhard bigot who had opinions for everyone and everything in his difficult life, except himself of course. Played by the late Carroll O’Connor, he and Stapleton exhibited a chemistry which was able to successfully parlay such guises as hilarity, drama, pathos, candor, silliness, and intensity. The two of them, along with Sally Struthers (who played their daughter Gloria) and Rob Reiner (who played Gloria’s husband Mike), were one of television’s finest ensembles, and they all went through a road with their characters life which spoke about themes such as impotence, political unrest and uneasiness, pollution, abortion, homosexuality, inflation; in fact, no subject was taboo, and the show pushed the envelope of what was once forbidden to discuss on television, let alone a situation comedy right to the forefront of the American fabric, no doubt aided and abetted by the skillful acting by the foursome.