Montana’s Link to La La Land: Featured…Carroll O’Connor
Fans of the Hollywood scene, featured this time around on Montana's Link to La La Land, is Carroll O'Connor. He is best known for his roles as Archie Bunker on the sitcom All In the Family and the television version of The Heat of the Night as Chief William "Bill" Gillespie. O'Connor wasn't born or raised in Montana. Still, as illustrated in the online version of the New York Times, after a bout as a merchant marine, he made his way to the Treasure State in the late 1940s to attend college in Missoula at what was at the time Montana State University (the University of Montana by 1965). Although O'Connor did not major in drama at the U, he participated in plays during his time there and worked as an editor for the college newspaper, The Montana Kaiman. He even met his future wife, Nancy, while in Missoula. O'Connor eventually graduated from the University of Dublin with an emphasis in Irish history and English literature.
By 1952, he caught the acting bug in a big way and eventually landed significant television roles impacting pop culture and society today. The first sitcoms (situation comedies) to raise awareness about equality were those from the 1970s. Groovy, right? It was a sign of the times and world events, brought social issues to light in sitcoms such as M*A*S*H, Good Times, One Day at a Time, Alice, Barney Miller, Maude and The Jeffersons, which was, in fact, a spin-off of none other than All in the Family. Norman Lear produced most of these sitcoms, with All in the Family being top on that list. Regardless of realizing it, All in the Family with Carroll O'Connor, starring as Archie Bunker, was technically a half-hour sociology class viewed by millions of people in an evening slot once a week from 1971 to 1979. The hard truth is that his character was a bigoted, set-in-his-ways individual who was quick to blurt out his dislike for what he believed was a pinko, new-fangled world around him. Viewers were either outraged with him or on the same page as him. Regardless, the antics about his "meathead" son-in-law, his made-up phrases, and his constant frustration with his wife, Edith, made most of us laugh. That's the world of entertainment, for sure. It helps us think about our surroundings differently, whether we realize it or not.
An article in The Guardian before O'Connor passed away at the age of 76 in 2001 stated that he was nothing like his alter ego, Archie Bunker. He was described in real life to be an introvert and intellect who had been instrumental in helping raise social awareness and concern for equal rights over the years. Yet, old school and rough around the edges, it's intriguing that the incredible actor Carroll O'Connor once graced the college halls of Missoula, Montana!