How many shows in history can claim to have made the kind of impact on our everyday lives the way All in the Family did? This show makes us laugh many times, and it also makes us sad, but most importantly, it makes us take a look at ourselves and think about we act towards others.
The purpose of a character like Archie Bunker was not created for the sole purpose of offending people. The character, brilliantly portrayed by the late, great Carroll O'Connor, was meant to point out such problems as bigotry in society, not to encourage it.
Some people were offended by Archie's bigotry when All in the Family first premired on January 12, 1971. There were also a number of people who thought it was wonderful to see such truth on television, which was a nice break from the clean-cut shows of the 1950s that Americans were used to.
The heads at CBS were required to put the following warning on for the first six episodes, lest the public be offended by what they saw: (They needn't have bothered--hardly anyone watched it on its first night--The public found it in the summer reruns, however, and that was when it got noticed!)
"WARNING: The program you are about to see is ALL IN THE FAMILY. It seeks to throw a humorous spotlight on our frailties, prejudices and concerns. By making them a source of laughter, we hope to show--in a mature fashion--just how absurd they are."--CBS-TV January 12, 1971
Archie's hot temper and offensiveness were balanced out by his kind loving wife, Edith, played by Jean Stapleton. The cast was rounded out by Rob Reiner and Sally Struthers, who played Mike and Gloria Stivic. Archie constantly referred to his liberal son-in-law as "Meathead" because the two of them disagreed on almost everything, and this was Archie's way of telling Mike that he thought of him as being dead from the neck up---a Meathead.
There were also discussions on that show that were rarely ever discussed on television before, such as rape, breast cancer, menopause, sexual preferences (gays & lesbians) and miscarriage. There were also some episodes that focused on death, and then there were the majority of episodes that focused on race relations.
Even today, there are many who still find Archie to be foul-mouthed and offensive. The best way to enjoy this show is not to take what Archie says personally. After the premire of All in the Family, people could identify themselves with Archie Bunker, or they knew someone who was an Archie Bunker. By the same token, there were a lot of people who could identify with Edith, Mike, and Gloria. This also points out the realness of these characters. We have feelings for them, and with the excellent chemistry of the actors, they seem to be a real family with problems that everyone could identify with at one time or another.
Meet the Bunkers
Name of Actor: Carroll O'Connor Born: Bronx, NY on August 2, 1924
Character: Archibald "Archie" BunkerDied: June 21, 2001 (see comments by the
others under each of their entries.)
Carroll O'Connor played a very convincing Archie Bunker, but the actor and the character had great differences. For instance, Carroll was a liberal in real life, but conservative Archie was constantly having arguments with his liberal son-in-law Michael Stivic. Carroll was also against prejudices, but Archie was known for his bigotry. (Afterall, Archie's blood-type, fittingly, was AB-;i.e. Archie Bunker negative!)<--When Archie needed a blood transfusion, wouldn't you know that the only other matching blood type would come from a black nurse?
Though he seemed like someone who nobody could get along with, Archie was really a nice guy at heart, who loved his family very much. While he rarely opened up to his loved ones on the show, he was still a human being with human qualities. When he did open up to them, however, you could really feel his pain.
Name of Actress: Jean Stapleton Born: New York, NY on January 19, 1923
Edith Bunker was a true example of unconditional love. No matter what Archie ever said or did could make her stop loving him. There was the time that Edith knew that Archie had an affair with a waitress, and then he lied right to her face after she confronted him about it. After a few days apart, Archie asks Edith if she would hold it against him for the rest of his life. She says she wouldn't because if she did, then it would also be for the rest of her life.
Jean Stapleton portrayed Edith Bunker in a way that no other actress could. She had that innocent look to her that brought her character to life. The character of Edith was referred to as the "Dingbat" by Archie, but she wasn't dumb. She was a kind, loving, and forgiving person who saw past Archie's unkind remarks.
Edith and Archie met when Archie was sticking straws up his nose (and in front of Edith's disapproving cousin, Maude)! (See tribute below)
When All in the Family became Archie Bunker's Place in the fall of 1979, Jean Stapleton returned that season as Edith Bunker, but made few appearances. Jean felt that her character had been played out, and she did not want to be typecasted as Edith Bunker. Carroll O'Connor suggested that Edith suffer a fatal stroke. Jean agreed to it, so at the start of the eleventh season, Edith had already died of a stroke, and Archie was left to raise Edith's niece Stephanie Mills, who was abandoned at the Bunkers' home at the beginning of the ninth season. Archie also had a difficult time expressing his grief for the loss of Edith. It wasn't until he was left alone sitting in the bedroom over a month later that he grieved for her. "You had no right to leave me that way, Edith, without giving me just one more chance to say I love you."
*Jean Stapleton on Carroll O'Connor: "It is part of an actor's craft to use one's pool of experiences and emotions, and Carroll certainly did that with Archie...For the first 13 weeks of the show, I just shut up, sat back and listened because being around Carroll was like taking a wonderful master class."
Meet the Stivics
Name of Actor: Rob Reiner Born: Bronx, NY on March 6, 1947
Character: Michael Stivic
Mike and Archie could rarely agree on anything. Mike was a liberal and an atheist---two facts that drove Archie crazy. Archie believed that anyone whose opinion was different than his own was a Meathead, hence, Mike Stivic's famous nickname. (Dumb Polack was another nickname that Archie gave his son-in-law, which was in referrence to the fact that Mike was Polish.) Being a liberal, though, Mike could understand Archie's point-of-view when it really mattered. One instance was when Archie had forged Edith's signature in order to get a mortgage loan to buy Kelcy's Bar (which then became Archie's Place). Edith felt betrayed and angry with Archie, but when Mike stopped over to talk to her, he explained to his mother-in-law that Archie needed a chance to realize his dream. After all, why would Archie had done such a thing if he didn't want it so badly?
*Rob Reiner on Carroll O'Connor: "Carroll set the tone of how we were to work on All in the Family. He was very inclusive--he allowed everybody to participate, and say what they wanted...He really was a thoughtful and intelligent person who cared about injustice. Whatever we all felt--whether it was about the Vietnam War or race issues or women's issues, those things got into the show and he was part of creating that freedom."
Name of Actress: Sally Struthers Born: Portland, OR on July 28, 1948
Character: Gloria Stivic
As Archie and Edith's only child, Archie always called Gloria "Little Girl." After getting married to Mike Stivic, she tended to side with Mike more than her own father. She was very uncertain about religion. Her husband was an atheist, her father was a Protestant, and her mother was Episcopalian. She agreed with Mike that there was no proof that a God had ever existed, but Gloria was upset when her mother decided she didn't want to go to church anymore after the death of a close family friend. She was also angry with Archie after he took her and Mike's only son, Joey Stivic, to a church and baptized Joey himself.
During the eighth season, Rob Reiner and Sally Struthers decided that it would be their last season on All in the Family. Mike got a call from California letting him know that he got a new job as a professor there. Saying "good-bye" to the Bunkers was not easy for either of the Stivics. Gloria said "good-bye" to Edith, after which Archie said, "Come on, stop slobbering in the living room." Then Gloria looked at her father and said, "I love you, daddy!" The two hugged and Archie said, "Well, your daddy certainly loves you."
*Sally Struthers on Carroll O'Connor: " Carroll was my father...on screen as well as off....We were a family of four, now we're a family of three...It doesn't feel the same.I shared an incredible time and space with Carroll "
Mike's final words to Archie were, "I know you always thought I hated you, but I love you."
Nobody really had to "act" during those last few scenes.
Meatheads have sat in Archie's chair since May 11, 2002.
This page was last updated on: March 29, 2013
Common Archie Words Archie Bunker was always known for his strange vocabulary. The underlined words are the Archie words that came up in several episodes, followed by what the word really was:
(Archie tries to convince the Head of Personnel not to fire him)
"My job ain't got nothing to do with thinking, and I'm very good at it."
(Archie is doing a cross-word puzzle)
"A four-letter Italian word for good-bye...BANG."
(Archie has witnessed a robbery, but the victim was Silician)
"Them Silcians is famous for two things: Spaghetti and revenge."
(Archie is ready to leave with Mike to go fishing, but Mike is still sleeping)
"Oh, look at this...Rip van Meathead!"
(Archie tries to defend Nixon)
"He didn't lie! He just forgot to tell the truth."
(Edith is going through the change of life, and Archie is telling Mike and Gloria what the doctor said)
"For the next few weeks, we can't expect to see the regular ol' Dingbat flying around. Until these here pills take affect, we'll be looking at Super-Dingbat!"
(Archie can't take Edith's menopause any longer)
"I know all about your women's problems, Edith! If you're going to change, you're going to do it now! And I'm giving you just thirty seconds! Now come on! Change!"
(Mike climbs into bed with Archie and pours himself a glass of water, but accidently spills it on Archie's leg. Archie was asleep until then)
Archie: "You got into bed with me to do this here?"
Mike: "It was an accident!"
Archie: "No, with little Joey, it would be an accident. With you, it's a dishonorable discharge!"
(There is a blackout throughout Queens, NY)
"Let's hear it for Con-Edison."
(Archie, Mike and Gloria give it the raspberry.)
(Archie is locked in his basement and is so drunk, he thinks that God has come to get him. "God" turns out to be a black oil man. Archie kneels before him)
"Forgive me, Lord! The Jeffersons was right!"
(Edith has taken an interest in Catholicism, and she attends mass with her friend, Irene Lorenzo. Archie does not approve of this)
Archie: "Did someone wave a stick at you and splash you with water?"
Edith shakes her head "no".
Archie: "Did you have to get on your knees and kiss anybody's rings?"
Edith shakes her head "no".
Archie: "DID YOU EAT A COOKIE?!!"
Edith: "No, Archie, the only thing I had tonight was ice cream."
(Archie finds out that Edith's cousin Liz was a lesbian)
Archie (To Edith, asking her something) : "Les..."
Edith , interrupting him: "Liz!"
Archie: "Same thing..."
(Archie on opportunities)
"A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity like this only comes around once or twice in a lifetime!"
The Bunkers' Chairs
I visited the Smithsonian Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. on July 11, 2002. The main reason for my visit was to see Archie and Edith's chairs, which are pictured below.
The Bunkers' Chairs
"All in the Family," which ran from
1971 to 1979, was one of
television's most popular and
influential programs. Creative in
many respects, it shattered a long
tradition in television comedies of
portraying only happy families
living in a world without social strife.
Producer Norman Lear made
conflicts and wounds in American
life the targets of the show's biting
Archie Bunker, played by Carroll O'Connor.
was the bigoted centerpiece of the program
and a living symbol of intolerance and ignorance.
Archie fought fiercely with his son-in-law, Mike,
portrayed by Rob Reiner, and his daughter,
Gloria, played by Sally Struthers.
Their battlegrounds were the very issues dividing American society
--ethnic prejudice, women's liberation, and racism. The show's humor revealed the limits of Archie's bigotry, as well as the self-righteousness of his children. The antidote to Archie's fears and prejudices was the innocence and generosity of his wife, Edith, portrayed by Jean Stapleton.
Remembering Carroll O'Connor
I remember coming back home from Hawaii in the early morning of June 21,2001. I didn't know anything had happened until I sat down to watch Nick-at-Nite later that evening. I was watching Three's Company when a commercial break came up. During the break, Nick-at-Nite showed some clips of Archie Bunker dancing around on All in the Family. I knew as soon as I saw those clips that something was wrong. The last thing they showed was a still photo and the words: "Those were the days. Carroll O'Connor 1924-2001" I didn't want to believe it, but after hearing the same sad news from another source, I knew it was true.
June 22, 2004: Yesterday marked the third anniversary of Carroll's passing. I hope his wife is holding up okay. Both her husband and her son are gone.
Those were the days, and you are truly missed, Carrol...
Below is a tribute to Mike Evans (Lionel).
I was surprised (to say the least) when I was watching the Emmys with my mother, only to find out that the actor I had come to know as Lionel Jefferson had died.
My first thought (which I said out loud) was "He couldn't have been that old!"
He wasn't ---he was 57.
He died of throat cancer...He never was around for 2007..he died a few weeks before the "new" year. (I didn't find out until it was on the Emmys.)
I highly recommend this site if you're a fan of All in the Family. It has a much longer list of words than what you see on the left, and it has more AITF topics than I can even begin to list.
Now hear the extended version of the All in the Family theme!
Archie Bunker for President
Given the way the 2008 election panned out, Archie remains my choice. (Either Archie or Curly Howard)
Tributeto Allan Melvin (Barney)
It came as a shock to me, but apparently Allan Melvin, who played Archie's pal, Barney Hefner, has died at age 84
He was born on February 18, 1922, he lost his life to cancer on January 17, ironically also in Los Angeles.
He became "Al the Plumber" for a sucessful Liquid Plumr commercial in the 1970s, lasting for 15 years.
Rememerbering Bea Arthur
It would be untrue if I were to say I agreed with the liberal views of "Maude," but being that she played the cousin of Edith, I feel I must say something about her anyway. All in the Family creator Norman Lear says "I owe Bea Arthur about 16 years. That's how much she added to my life...Bea was glorious and utterly unique."
Norman Lear on Carroll O'Connor: "He was an extraordinary talent and a wonderful man and also difficult in that he didn't like most of everything he read..."He wanted everything rewritten. We would have these fierce arguments. . . . And all of his resistance was there in the performance, and it made it more than it was on the page."
Larry Hagman on Carroll: "He was my mentor...I never made a move without asking him-like for my Dallas deal." (He felt he should get more money, since he was the star.)
In the Heat of the Night
I promised myself if my All in the Family page got to around 5000 hits, I would begin work on Carroll's later series.