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 Carroll O'Connor

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Carroll O'Connor

  • Birth 2 Aug 1924 New York, New York County (Manhattan), New York, USA
  • Death 21 Jun 2001 Culver City, Los Angeles County, California, USA
  • Burial Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, USA
  • Memorial ID 22815

Actor. He is best remembered as the bigoted Archie Bunker in the CBS television sitcoms "All in the Family" (1971 to 1979) and "Archie Bunker's Place" (1979 to 1983), as well as the southern Police Chief Bill Gillespie in the NBC/CBS television crime drama "In the Heat of the Night" (1988 to 1995). He was born John Carroll O'Connor in Manhattan, New York City, New York, the oldest of three sons of an Irish-American lawyer. In 1941 he attended Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, but dropped out when the United States entered World War II. He attempted to enlist in the US Navy but was rejected and enrolled in the US Merchant Marine Academy in 1942 and became a merchant seaman. In 1946 he attended the University of Montana at Missoula, Montana, where he worked as an editor for the school newspaper and met his future wife, Nancy Fields, at a campus production of "Life With Father." He left the University to assist his younger brother Hugh get into medical school at University College, Dublin, Ireland. In 1951 he graduated from the University of Montana with degrees in drama and English and began acting in theatrical productions in New York City and Dublin. He worked in theater in Europe until 1954 when he returned to New York City. In 1956 he returned to the University of Montana and received a Master's Degree in speech. His attempts to obtain roles on Broadway failed and he taught high school English until 1958, when he finally landed a role in the Off-Broadway production "Ulysses In Nighttown". He followed that with a Broadway production of "God and Kate Murphy" that was directed by Burgess Meredith, in which he was both an understudy and an assistant stage manager. He made his television acting debut as a character actor on two episodes of "Sunday Showcase," which led to other roles on such television series such as "The Americans," "The Eleventh Hour," "Gunsmoke," "Bonanza," "The Fugitive," "The Wild Wild West," "Armstrong Circle Theatre," "Death Valley Days," "The Great Adventure," "The Man from U.N.C.L.E.," "Dr. Kildare," "I Spy," "That Girl," "Premiere," and "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea." Late in his career, he appeared on several episodes of "Mad About You" as the father of actress Helen Hunt's character. He was living in Italy in 1968 when producer Norman Lear first asked him to come to New York to star in a pilot he was creating for ABC called "Justice For All," with him playing the character of Archie Justice, a lovable yet controversial bigot. After three pilots done between 1968 to 1970, a network change to CBS, and the last name of the character changed to Bunker, the new sitcom was renamed "All in the Family," that would ultimately address racial issues, ethnicities, religion, and other topics that were prevalent during the time. The show was based on the BBC's "'Til Death Us Do Part," with Bunker based on the character of Alf Garnett, but somewhat less abrasive. Not expecting the show to be a success, he requested that Lear provide him with a return airline ticket to Rome as a condition of his accepting the role, so that he could return to Italy when the show failed. However, the show became the highest-rated television program on American television for five consecutive seasons. While his own political views were liberal, he understood the Bunker character and played him not only with bombast and humor but with touches of vulnerability. While he was famous for his misuse of the English language, he was highly educated and cultured and was an English teacher before he turned to acting. For the 10th season, the show was renamed "Archie Bunker's Place" and it ran four more years. Altogether, he played the role of Archie Bunker for 13 years in 307 television episodes. In 1988 he starred as Sparta, Mississippi, Police Chief Bill Gillespie, a tough veteran Mississippi cop in television's "In the Heat of the Night," based on the 1967 movie of the same name, and cast his son Hugh O'Connor as Officer Lonnie Jamison in the show. In 1989, while working on the set, he was hospitalized and had to undergo open heart surgery, which caused him to miss four episodes at the end of the second season. In July 1991 he, along with Jean Stapleton, Rob Reiner and Sally Struthers were reunited to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of "All in the Family." In 1999 he published his autobiography "I Think I'm Outta Here." He died in Culver City, California from a heart attack brought on by complications from diabetes at the age of 76. During his career he appeared over 30 motion pictures and made for television films, including "Cleopatra" (1963), "Hawaii" (1966), "Waterhole #3" (1967), "The Devil's Brigade" (1968), "Kelly's Heroes" (1970), and "Return to Me" (2000). His honors and awards include the 1972 Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Television Series Musical or Comedy, "All in the Family," the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series (1971, 1976, 1977, and 1978), "All in the Family," the 1989 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, "In the Heat of the Night," the 1989 Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Television Series Drama, "In the Heat of the Night," the 1990 Television Academy Hall of Fame induction for contributions to the television industry, and the NAACP Image Award for Best Dramatic Series (1992 and 1993), "In the Heat of the Night." In March 2000, he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He was a lifetime member of The Actors Studio.

Bio by: William Bjornstad

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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 25 Jun 2001
  • Find A Grave Memorial 22815
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Carroll O'Connor (2 Aug 1924–21 Jun 2001), Find A Grave Memorial no. 22815, citing Westwood Memorial Park, Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .