‘All in the Family’: The Real Reason Carroll O’Connor Was Missing at the Beginning of Season 5

Carroll O’Connor is best known for playing Archie Bunker in the hit comedy All in the Family. Episodes wouldn’t be the same without his presence. However, there was a time when O’Connor was missing at the beginning of season 5. Here’s what Showbiz Cheat Sheet knows about what happened.

Norman Lear initially ‘thanked God’ for Carroll O’Connor

Carroll O'Connor | Art Zelin/Getty Images
Carroll O’Connor | Art Zelin/Getty Images

All in the Family creator, Norman Lear, told the Los Angeles Times his first meeting with O’Connor went very well. He knew right away he was the perfect actor for the role. Right after O’Connor read for the part, Lear said he offered up a prayer of thanks.

“Carroll O’Connor walked into my office, we shook hands, we sat down at a table, took out a script and started reading Archie Bunker. And as the character was later wont to say, ‘Case closed,’” he told the publication. “I looked up to the heavens and said, ‘Thank God, Archie has arrived.’”

Why Carroll O’Connor was missing at the beginning of ‘All in the Family’ Season 5

Jean Stapleton and Carroll O'Connor | Ron Eisenberg/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Jean Stapleton and Carroll O’Connor | Ron Eisenberg/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Although Lear was overjoyed to have O’Connor play the lead role in All in the Family, things quickly soured. Communication didn’t always go smoothly on the set. O’Connor reportedly had disagreements with Lear. They couldn’t agree on the creative direction of the show, which led to frequent clashes.

At one point, O’Connor left the show in response to a contract dispute. He wanted a higher salary, but was denied. After O’Connor left, he also demanded $64,000 in back pay, according to Entertainment Weekly.

O’Connor was missing from a few shows in season 5. Among them were episodes 8 and 9 (titled “Where’s Archie?” and “Archie is Missing”) which were about Edith getting worried after Archie disappears while traveling to a convention held in Buffalo. These episodes were a way to cover up the fact that O’Connor had walked off the show. Lear and O’Connor eventually came to an agreement and he returned to the series.

Lear told Lena Dunham during a Sundance Film Festival interview that working with O’Connor was difficult, reports The Hollywood Reporter. Once All in the Family was starting to wind down, he said O’Connor was the only one who didn’t want to end the show. The other cast members were ready to call it quits, but O’Connor reportedly wanted to continue filming episodes.

“The only one who didn’t [want to stop] was Carroll, and he was the most difficult,” Lear told Dunham. “It was very difficult dealing with him as Archie Bunker. I worshipped the ground he walked on; there couldn’t be another Archie Bunker in the history of the world. He inhabited it like no one else could. Having said that, it was very difficult.”

O’Connor eventually moved on to do the spinoff Archie Bunker’s Place. The show aired from 1979 to 1983.

Sally Struthers also left the show briefly

O’Connor isn’t the only cast member who decided to walk off the show. Sally Struthers, who played Archie’s daughter, Gloria, didn’t want to continue playing the same character indefinitely, reports The New York Times. One season, after the show went on hiatus for the summer, she decided not to return.

Lear responded by getting an injunction to prevent Struthers from working for anyone else during the remainder of her contract (three years). She eventually came back to work after she was allowed to miss four of the show’s 24 episodes.

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