Carroll O'Connor Biography
Claim to Fame: Actor
DOB: August 2, 1924
Died: June 21, 2001
Diabetes Type: unknown
Carroll O’Connor was born in 1924 in Bronx, New York. His father was an attorney and his mother was a school teacher. O'Connor's first career of choice was journalism, but the outbreak of World War II inspired him to enlist in the Navy, where he was rejected. He enrolled instead in the Merchant Marine Academy, then changed his mind and became a merchant seaman.
After the war, O'Connor returned to his original ambition - becoming a journalist, but a trip to Dublin in 1950 changed the course of his life, as he discovered the acting profession. While attending college in Dublin, he began appearing in productions of the Gate Theater and also at the Edinburgh Festival, where he played Shakespearean roles. Moving back to the U.S., O'Connor and his wife, Nancy Fields, whom he married in 1951, became substitute teachers in New York (O'Connor from 1954 to 1956) while he looked for acting jobs. His break came when he was cast in Burgess Meredith's production of James Joyce's Ulysses. O'Connor got a role in which he received favorable notice from the critics, and that, in turn, led to his breakthrough part, as a bullying, greedy studio boss in an off-Broadway production of The Big Knife.
O'Connor soon found himself on television where he established himself on the small screen as a good, reliable character actor. He worked in everything from Westerns to science fiction. He also appeared in several unsold television pilots during the 1960s, including The Insider with David Janssen and Luxury Liner, starring Rory Calhoun, playing character roles. O'Connor also did a pilot of his own, Walk in the Night, in which he co-starred with Andrew Duggan.
In 1971, O'Connor took on a starring role in the sitcom All in the Family, which became the highest-rated television program in America for five years. In 1968, ABC Television, which had the first rights to the series, financed production of two pilot episodes of All in The Family (then under the title Those Were the Days). But the network's trepidation about the program's socially controversial content led ABC to reject the show. Producer Norman Lear sold the series to CBS. The sitcom addressed many societal issues, from racism to religious diversity. O’Connor became the top-billing star of the 1970’s, and went on to win four Emmys for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series, in 1972, 1977, 1978, and 1979. The series was finally canceled in 1979.
O’Connor went on to reprise his role as Archie Bunker in the show Archie Bunker’s Place, which ran from 1979 to 1983. In early 1988, O’Connor starred as the chief of police in the film In the Heat of the Night. During this time he was dealing with his son’s drug addiction problems as well as his own health issues. In 1989 he underwent open-heart surgery.
In 1995 O’Connor lost his son to a tragic suicide after the young man’s battle with drug addiction. Three years later, O’Connor underwent heart surgery for the second time to reduce the risk of a stroke. In March of 2000, O’Connor received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his great television success.
On June 21, 2001, Carroll O’Connor died of a heart attack in Culver City, California. The heart attack was brought on from complications of diabetes.
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