|First appearance||"Meet the Bunkers"|
(All in the Family)
January 12, 1971
|Last appearance||"I'm Torn Here"|
(Archie Bunker's Place)
April 4, 1983
|Created by||Norman Lear|
|Spouse||Edith Baines (1948-1980; her death)|
|Children||Gloria Bunker (daughter)|
Archibald "Archie" Bunker is a fictional character from the 1970s American television sitcom All in the Family and its spin-off Archie Bunker's Place, played by Carroll O'Connor. Bunker, a main character of the series, is a World War II veteran, blue-collar worker, and family man. Described as a "lovable bigot," he was first seen by the American public when All in the Family premiered on January 12, 1971, where he was depicted as the head of the Bunker family. In 1979, the show was retooled and renamed Archie Bunker's Place; it finally went off the air in 1983. Bunker lived at the fictional address of 704 Hauser Street in the borough of Queens, in New York City.
All in the Family got many of its laughs by playing on Archie's bigotry, although the dynamic tension between Archie and his liberal son-in-law, Mike, provided an ongoing political and social sounding board for a variety of topics. Archie appears in all but seven episodes of the series (three were missed because of a contract dispute between Carroll O'Connor and Norman Lear in Season 5).
Archie was modeled after Norman Lear's father Herman Lear and on Alf Garnett from the BBC1 sitcom Till Death Us Do Part. In 1999, TV Guide ranked Archie Bunker number 5 on its 50 Greatest TV Characters of All Time list. In 2005, Archie Bunker was listed as number 1 on Bravo's 100 Greatest TV Characters, defeating runners-up such as Ralph Kramden, Lucy Ricardo, Fonzie, and Homer Simpson. Archie's chair is in the permanent collection of the National Museum of American History.
Archie has a gruff, overbearing demeanor, largely defined by his bigotry towards a diverse group of individuals: blacks, Hispanics, "Commies", gays, hippies, Jews, Asians, Catholics, "women's libbers", and Polish-Americans are frequent targets of his barbs. As the show progresses, it becomes apparent that Archie's prejudice is not motivated by malice, but is rather a combination of the era and environment in which he was raised and a generalized misanthropy. Archie himself is depicted as a hard worker, loving father, and basically decent man; nevertheless, he is bad-tempered and frequently tells his long-suffering wife Edith to "stifle yourself" and "dummy up". Series creator Norman Lear admitted that this is how his father treated Lear's mother.
As the series progressed, Archie mellowed somewhat, albeit often out of necessity. In one episode, he expresses revulsion for a Ku Klux Klan-like organization which he accidentally joins. On another occasion, when asked to speak at the funeral of his friend Stretch Cunningham, Archie--surprised to learn that his friend was Jewish--overcomes his initial discomfort and delivers a moving eulogy, closing with a heartfelt "shalom". In 1978, the character became the guardian of Edith's stepcousin Floyd's nine-year-old daughter, Stephanie (Danielle Brisebois) and came to accept her Jewish faith, even buying her a Star of David pendant.
Archie was also known for his frequent malapropisms and spoonerisms. For example, he refers to Edith's gynecologist as a "groinacologist" and to Catholic priests who go around sprinkling "incest" (incense) on their congregation, whereas he referred to incest itself as "committing 'insects' in the family". Archie repeatedly called President Richard M. Nixon "Richard E. Nixon". By the show's second season, these had become dubbed "Bunkerisms", "Archie Bunkerisms", or simply "Archie-isms".
The actor who played Bunker, Carroll O'Connor, was Irish Catholic, and Norman Lear modeled the character on his Jewish father, but Bunker's own ethnicity is never explicitly stated, other than identifying him as a WASP; over the course of the series, he mocks or belittles not just most minorities (including blacks, Hispanics, Latinos, Jews, and Asians), but also most white ethnic groups as well, including the English, Germans, Irish, and Polish.
Archie, a Christian belonging to the Episcopalian denomination, often misquotes the Bible. He takes pride in being religious, although he rarely attends church services and constantly mispronounces the name of his minister, Reverend Felcher, as "Reverend Fletcher". (When Edith inevitably corrects him, he dismisses the error with "Whatever".)
He is a compulsive gambler, who, in earlier years, frequently lost his entire weekly paycheck in poker games, as related by Edith in the Season 4 episode "Archie the Gambler"; he quit only when Edith threatened to leave him, taking then three-year old Gloria with her.
When first introduced on All in the Family in 1971, Archie is the head of a family consisting of his wife Edith (Jean Stapleton), his adult daughter Gloria (Sally Struthers), and his liberal son-in-law, college student Michael "Mike" Stivic (Rob Reiner), with whom Archie disagrees on virtually everything; Archie frequently characterizes Mike as a "dumb Polack" and usually addresses him as "Meathead" because, in Archie's words, he is "dead from the neck up". During the show's first five seasons, Mike and Gloria live with Archie and Edith so that Mike can put himself through college. Upon Mike's graduation, he and Gloria move into their own home next door, allowing Archie and Mike to interact nearly as much as they had when they were living in the same house.
Archie was born in Baltimore on May 20, 1924, to parents David and Sarah. He is a Taurus. Information on his siblings is inconsistent, as three are mentioned, and Archie is seen talking on the phone to his younger brother Fred in "Cousin Oscar" (as well as Fred's daughter Debbie Marie), but during season 6 episode "Archie Finds a Friend", he states that he is an only child. Two later episodes (one during season 8 and another during season 9) feature Fred (played by Richard McKenzie) and it is now suggested[when?] that Fred is Archie's only sibling. Another of Fred's daughters, Linda, visited during the third season (she briefly dated the Bunkers' neighbor Lionel in "Lionel Steps Out"). Archie's father David is said to be an only child while his mother Sarah has one brother named Roy Longstreet that Archie liked more than his own parents.
Two of Archie's cousins are depicted: Oscar, who dies off-camera in the Bunker house during a visit, and cousin Bertha (played by Peggy Rea, who appears in the same episode), apparently a somewhat distant cousin, as Archie does not recognize her.
Archie celebrates his 50th birthday in a 1974 episode and the character is last seen on the final episode of Archie Bunker's Place, entitled "I'm Torn Here", on April 4, 1983. In season 5, during a three-episode stretch where Archie's whereabouts are unknown, it is revealed that he attended Flushing High School and lettered in baseball.
While locked in the storeroom of Archie's bar (Archie's Place) with Mike in the season 8 All in the Family episode "Two's a Crowd", a drunk Archie confides that as a child, his family was desperately poor, and he was teased in school because he wore a shoe on one foot and a boot on the other, so kids nicknamed him "Shoe-booty". In the same episode, Mike learns that Archie was mentally and physically abused by his father, who was also the source of his bigoted views. Yet, Archie then goes on to vehemently defend his father, who he claims loved him and taught him "to do good". It is revealed that Archie's father was a brakeman for the Long Island Rail Road, when Archie receives his father's pocket watch from his formerly long-estranged brother, Alfred ("Fred"), who later appeared in two All in the Family episodes, "Archie's Brother" and "The Return of Archie's Brother", and the Archie Bunker's Place episode "Father Christmas".
When Fred visits Archie in the "Archie's Brother" episode, it is revealed that they had not seen each other in the 29 years since Archie and Edith's wedding, although they apparently had communicated over the years via phone (two early episodes, "Cousin Oscar" and "Lionel Steps Out", depict phone conversations between Archie and Fred). Their long estrangement was fueled by a petty argument, apparently out of a sibling rivalry of sorts going back to their childhood. Fred visits Archie for support because he[who?] is about to go into the hospital for a major operation, and the two seem to reconcile. However, in Fred's return trip to visit Archie and Edith, he arrives with a beautiful 18-year-old wife named Katherine. This leads to a heated discussion, which erupts into an argument between Archie and Fred over "May-September romances" and places another strain on the relationship between Archie and Fred, who storms angrily out of the Bunker home with his teen bride. Archie and Fred apparently are estranged for the next three-plus years. Putting a further strain on the relationship was the 1981 arrival of Fred's 18-year-old daughter, Barbara ("Billie") Denise Miller, who is also upset over her father's marriage to someone not even three years older than she is (although in Archie Bunker's Place, Billie begins dating someone 15 years her senior). Fred visits again for Christmas in 1982, finally revealing to everyone why he left his first wife and found love with Katherine.
Archie is a World War II veteran who had been based in Foggia, Italy for 22 months. During a doctor's appointment it is stated that Archie had an undistinguished military record for his non-combat ground role in the Air Corps, later called the Army Air Forces, which at the time was a branch of the United States Army. He received a Good Conduct Medal and, in the All in the Family episode "Archie's Civil Rights", it is disclosed he also received a Purple Heart for being hit in his buttocks by shrapnel.
Archie married Edith Bunker 22 years before season 1. Later recollections of their mid-1940s courtship do not result in a consistent timeline. On the flashback episode showing Mike and Gloria's wedding, Archie tells Mike that his courtship of Edith lasted two years and hints that their relationship was not consummated until a month after their wedding night. Edith elsewhere recollects that Archie fell asleep on their wedding night and reveals that their sex life has not been very active in recent years. On another occasion, Edith discusses Archie's history of gambling addiction, which caused problems in the early years of their marriage. Archie also reveals that when Edith was in labor with Gloria, he took her to Bayside Hospital on the Q5 bus because "the subway don't run to Bayside".[clarification needed]
According to Edith, Archie's resentment of Mike stems primarily from the fact that Mike was attending college, while Archie had been forced to drop out of high school during the Great Depression to help support his family. Archie does not take advantage of the G.I. Bill to further his education, although he does attend night school to earn a high school diploma in 1973. Archie is also revealed to have been an outstanding baseball player in his youth. His dream was to pitch for the New York Yankees but he had to leave high school to enter the workforce.[why?] His uncle got him a job on a loading dock after World War II, and by the 1970s he was a foreman.
Although he is a Protestant, Archie seldom attends church, despite professing strong Christian views. The original pilot mentions that in the 22 years Archie and Edith were married, Archie had only attended church seven times (including their wedding day) and that Archie had walked out of the sermon the most recent time, disgusted with the preacher's message (which he perceived as leftist). Archie's religiosity often translates into "knee-jerk" opposition to atheism or agnosticism (which Mike and Gloria variously espouse), Catholicism, and Judaism; by the time of Archie Bunker's Place, Archie's antisemitism has mostly disappeared in part due to being increasingly associated with Jews such as his adopted daughter Stephanie and business partner Murray Klein.
Archie is a Republican and an outspoken supporter of Richard Nixon, as well as an early (1976) supporter of Ronald Reagan; he correctly predicts Reagan's election in 1980. During the Vietnam War, Archie dismisses peace protesters as unpatriotic and has little good to say about the Civil rights movement. Despite having an adversarial relationship with his black neighbors, the Jeffersons, he forms an unlikely friendship with their son Lionel, who performs various odd jobs for the Bunkers and responds to Archie's patronizing racial views with sarcastic quips that usually go over Archie's head.
The later spinoff series 704 Hauser features a new, black family moving into Bunker's old home. The series is set in 1994 but does not indicate whether Bunker, who would have been 70 by this time, is still alive. His now-adult grandson, Joey Stivic, appears briefly in the first episode of the series and references his grandfather, but doesn't state whether he's still alive at this point.
Such was the name recognition and societal influence of the Bunker character that by 1972, commentators were discussing the "Archie Bunker vote" (i.e., the voting bloc comprising urban, white, working-class men) in that year's presidential election. In the same year, there was a parody election campaign, complete with T-shirts, campaign buttons, and bumper stickers, advocating "Archie Bunker for President". In May 1973, RCA Records' trade advertisement for Archie and Edith's debut single, a recording of "Oh, Babe, What Would You Say?", carried the tagline "John and Yoko, move over", referring to the artist-activists John Lennon and Yoko Ono.
The character's imprint on American culture is such that Archie Bunker's name was still being used in the media in 2008, to describe a certain group of voters who voted in that year's U.S. presidential election. Commentating on BBC Newsnight, political commentator Conrad Black referred to Donald Trump as having secured the "Archie Bunker vote" during the 2016 presidential election.
Norman Lear originally intended that Bunker be strongly disliked by audiences. Lear was shocked when Bunker quietly became a beloved figure to much of middle America. Lear thought that Bunker's opinions on race, sex, marriage, and religion were so wrong as to represent a parody of right-wing bigotry.
Sammy Davis, Jr., who was both black and Jewish, genuinely liked the character. He felt that Bunker's bigotry was based on his rough, working-class life experiences and that Bunker was honest and forthright in his opinions, showing an openness to changing his views if an individual treated him right. In 1972, Davis appeared in episode 21 of season 2 of All in the Family, and later appeared in episode 19 of season 1 of spin-off Archie Bunker's Place.