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The Only Actors Still Alive From The Cast Of All In The Family

Norman Lear and Bud Yorkin were new to sitcoms when they started working on an American version of "Till Death Us Do Part," a British show about a grouchy racist and his long-suffering family. Carroll O'Connor was cast as mouthy patriarch Archie Bunker and Jean Stapleton got the role of his wife Edith. Sally Struthers (daughter Gloria) and Rob Reiner (son-in-law Michael) rounded out the cast and CBS was ready to go, but the press questioned whether a show about a foul-mouthed bigot was needed. "We think it would be good for television and good for the country," Yorkin told The Marion Star in 1970. Privately, however, they were concerned about the possible reaction.

Speaking to Grant Magazine, Sally Struthers recalled how Norman Lear still had doubts right up until the last moments. "It's either going to be a big hit, and you will be recognized everywhere you go," he reportedly said, "or the public is going to be up in arms with the way Archie talks, with all his racial slurs, and it's going to be off the air after tonight, and we'll all be out of a job." The show went on to be nominated for a whopping 55 Emmys, winning 22 of them. It spawned an incredible seven spinoffs ("Maude," "Good Times," "The Jeffersons," "Archie Bunker's Place," "Checking In," "Gloria," and "704 Hauser"), becoming a cultural touchstone and phenomenon that still reverberates today.

We've lost many "All in the Family" cast members over time, including Archie and his better half Edith, but some are thankfully still with us.

Rob Reiner (Michael Stivic)

As the son of Carl Reiner, Rob Reiner didn't have to look far for inspiration growing up. He told CBS Sunday Morning that some of the "great comic minds of the second half of the 20th century" used to hang out at his house. "Woody Allen and Mel Brooks and Neil Simon and all these people [came to see] my dad." He even met Norman Lear, but they didn't work together until "All in the Family." Reiner made the rounds on other network shows (such as "That Girl," "Gomer Pyle: USMC," and even "Batman") before he embodied Archie Bunker's liberal son-in-law, Michael "Meathead" Stivic. While Reiner was aware that they "were doing something special," he admitted to Boston Arts Diary that "none of us expected it to be the success that it was."

After he and Sally Struthers "moved to California" at the end of Season 9, Reiner started to shift away from acting to what he is perhaps better known for — being a director. He made "This Is Spinal Tap" with the help of Lear, now considered a classic. So are many of his other works: "Stand By Me," "The Princess Bride," "When Harry Met Sally," and more serious fare like "Misery" and "A Few Good Men," which was nominated for best picture in 1993. He even produced a little show called "Seinfeld." And yet, after all his successes, Reiner still gets called "Meathead" all the time. "I'll have to win the Nobel Prize and then it'll still say 'Meathead Wins Nobel Prize,'" he told The Washington Post. "It doesn't matter what I do."

Sally Struthers (Gloria Bunker-Stivic)

When casting the role of Archie and Edith's daughter Gloria, Norman Lear remembered seeing Sally Struthers on "The Smothers Brothers Summer Show," he told The Hollywood Reporter. "I just loved her look, something about the way she composed herself," he said. "So, I brought her in to read." The competition was tough, including Rob Reiner's partner, Penny Marshall, but in the end, Struthers was the best fit. She didn't have much in common with the character, however, and she actually attempted to leave the series in 1975. Her contract was upheld and she returned to work for another three years before she called it quits. "The public needs a breather from me and I need a breather from myself and Gloria," she told The Sentinel at the time. "I'm glad I'm leaving the show before Gloria goes through menopause."

She did return for guest appearances on "Archie Bunker's Place" and starred in a short-lived spin-off featuring her character, "Gloria," and Struthers remained very much in the public eye trying to save children around the world with those ubiquitous TV ads. In the years that followed her departure from the show, she became more grateful for her experience on it. "I get all these offers, and that wouldn't have happened if I hadn't been on 'All in the Family,'" she told Grant Magazine. "I've been beyond fortunate." She would make herself known to newer generations, voicing Rebecca Cunningham on Disney's "Tail Spin," and later as the beloved and mouthy Babette Dell on "Gilmore Girls." The show reunited her with "Family" friend, Liz Torres.

Danielle Brisebois (Stephanie Mills)

When Rob Reiner and Sally Struthers left "All in the Family," there was a void in the Bunker household, and in Season 9 it was filled by a precocious relative of Edith's, who was basically left on their doorstep. Carrol O'Connor loved Danielle Brisebois' performance in the original Broadway production of "Annie," and he got her written into the show as Stephanie Mills. In 1979, Brisebois told The Republic: "I'm not as fresh as Stephanie. I have my moments, but Mom won't let me get away with being fresh." When "Family" ended, she followed O'Connor on his misadventures as a barkeep in "Archie Bunker's Place." Brisebois soldiered on in network television for a little while longer, but watching herself on the soap opera "Days of Our Lives" opened her eyes. "If I was going to be an actress, that wasn't the sort of actress I wanted to be," she told The Greenville News.

She moved onto the next phase of her career — music. Brisebois released her debut album in 1994, "Arrive All Over You," with the help of musician Gregg Alexander, and the two would later form the band The New Radicals, best known for their hit "You Get What You Give." Brisebois would go on to help pen Natasha Bedingfield's "Unwritten," and in 2015, along with Alexander, earned an Academy Award nomination for the track "Lost Stars" from John Carney's film "Begin Again." She told USA Today: "We weren't expecting it. It's not one of those things you let yourself expect or believe, so it's just a really great honor."

Liz Torres (Teresa Betancourt)

Liz Torres studied drama at NYU and by the mid-70s she was a regular on the show "Phyllis." Norman Lear spotted her on "The Tonight Show" and wrote her into "All in the Family" as Puerto Rican hospital clerk Teresa Betancourt, who assists Archie before surgery and later rents a room in his home. Torres and O'Connor shared more than barbs and laughs, as she learned he once taught at the same New York high school she attended. Apparently, it was a rather rough school. "Girls would go into the washroom and disappear for three years," Torres told the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

Accepting the role was a no-brainer for Torres. "I'm one of those actresses who never turns down a part, no matter how small," she told the Los Angeles Times in 1994. "I don't have the luxury of picking and choosing. I take everything." While she acknowledges that she has "an impressive bio" (she's done shows like "The Wonder Years" and "Scandal," and has Emmy nominations for "The Famous Teddy Z" and "The John Larroquette Show"), Torres "never had financial success," she said. "I'm just somebody who works." She worked for Lear again on "The Jeffersons" and later reunited with Sally Struthers on "Gilmore Girls." Torres, who plays fan favorite Miss Patty, told Starry Mag that they hadn't seen each other in the interim years. "We picked up right where we had left off," she said. "I think we finished the sentence we started thirty years ago."

Estelle Parsons (Blanche Hefner / Dolores Mancheney Fencel)

Almost a decade after winning an Oscar for "Bonnie & Clyde," Estelle Parsons joined "All in the Family" as another Blanche, and as a Dolores, too. Yes, she played two different characters: Dolores Mancheney Fencel, a former high school flame of Archie's, in Season 7, and then, two seasons later, she appeared as Blanche Hefner, wife of Bunker's buddy Barney. She also made an appearance in the spin-off "Archie Bunker's Place." Parsons recalled that "it was fun to be on that show. Norman Lear of course is a reigning genius, another reigning genius of television. It was great, great to work on that show."

Parsons is a pro on the stage, having netted five Tony Award nominations over four different decades and directed several productions herself. Even in her 90s, she's still popping up on television. She played Babe on a trio of "Grace and Frankie" episodes, and even reprised her role as Roseanne's mom on the sitcom of the same name in 2018. She has also played the character on the spin-off show "The Conners." Parsons said that she is always "lucky in TV, because they're always very happy to have me there. The soundmen like me because I speak loud. And the actors like me because I'm serious about my work, and I show up on time and do it. I don't have much time for Hollywood's frippery. Usually I'm welcomed with open arms and I like that."

Clyde Kusatsu (Rev. Chong)

Early in his career, Clyde Kusatsu (a Hawaiian native of Japanese descent) was often relegated to parts playing to Asian stereotypes, but he would make the most of every opportunity he got. When he popped up on "All in the Family" as the reverend who Archie wants to baptize his grandson, he gave Archie Bunker a taste of his own medicine. "In one scene he calls me Mr. Ching," Kusatsu told Hawaii Forward. "My character says that wasn't my name. Then Archie calls me Mr. Chang and I say it's Chong and Archie says, 'Whatevers.' Later in the episode my character calls Archie 'Mr. Binker,' and he says 'It's Bunker,' and I say, 'Whatevers.'"

Kusatsu would appear as Rev. Chong in two more "All in the Family" episodes, impressing Rob Reiner's dad Carl, who called him "funny" and cast him in his film "Oh, God!" (1977). He would make a name for himself as a reliable character actor over the decades, notching over 300 credits. He plied his trade on both iterations of "Hawaii 5-0" and also appeared in "Star Trek: The Next Generation," which he credited for always offering "better equal opportunities for a lot of actors of color." Kusatsu reunited with Sally Struthers to play her husband on the sitcom "Still Standing," with Rob Reiner for his 2005 film "Rumor Has It," and with Norman Lear, for a reflection on his career with the SAG-AFTRA Foundation, a foundation close to his heart.

Janis Paige (Denise)

Janis Paige was "crestfallen" when she lost out on an "All in the Family" guest spot to Estelle Parsons. The show found an even better role for her, however, an infamous one that landed Archie "his one and only kiss away from Edith," she told the Miami Herald. As the waitress Denise, she served up sultry sweetness, calling Bunker "my super burger with everything." Audible gasps could be heard in the studio audience when they kissed. Paige recalled how the taping ran 11 minutes over but Norman Lear didn't want to cut a thing, instead expanding it into a two-part episode. "I got hate mail," Paige said of the reaction to the big kiss. "It was terrible [laughs]... But what an opportunity."

In addition to acting (her last credit was on a 2001 episode of "Family Law"), Paige had a successful career in cabaret (even after losing her voice). She was even a game audience member herself, being one of the first to be on the receiving end of Don Rickles comedy insults. She's had three husbands, with the third, lyricist Ray Gilbert, most famous for writing the Oscar-winning song "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah." To this day he still earns royalties from it through his music company, Ipanema Music Co. In 2020, Paige released "Reading Between the Lines: A Memoir," and in 2022 (like her "All in the Family" producer Norman Lear) she will be turning 100 years old.

James Cromwell (Stretch Cunningham)

Archie's funny co-worker, Stretch Cunningham, was a mythical figure often talked about in the Bunker household, but had never made an appearance on the show until Season 5. When star Carrol O'Connor demanded a raise and then walked off the show, James Cromwell came in as Stretch, who had traveled with Archie to a conference, lost him, and returned to tell his family. They were going to kill Archie off, as Cromwell told the AV Club. "I was to move into the house," he said. "And of course Carroll settled." Stretch died off screen two seasons later, with Archie giving the eulogy.

Cromwell toiled on television after that, including on many a Lear production, like the short-lived "Hot l Baltimore." He told the Standard-Speaker: "As an older character actor, you have to accept a lot of junk or go unemployed for long periods of time. Both options drive me crazy." That all changed when he took a chance on a talking pig movie. He gave some humanity to 1995's  "Babe," earning himself an Oscar nomination (and becoming a vegan in the process). He went on to appear in the likes of "L.A. Confidential," "The Green Mile," "Six Feet Under," "The Artist," and "Succession."

In 2013, Cromwell won an Emmy for his turn as Arthur Arden in "American Horror Story." That same year, he told HuffPost that it was a good thing that Stretch got killed off when he did. "I would have been like the Fonz," he said. "I would have always been known as Stretch."

Norman Lear (Creator)

"All in the Family" is an appropriate title for this beloved show: Norman Lear saw bits of Archie Bunker in his own father. In 2012, Lear told the Los Angeles Times that he and Bud Yorkin took inspiration from their own home environments. "We paid a lot of attention to what was going on inside our families. What were our kids' problems, what were our problems and what were the problems we were reading about every day that impacted us and impacted our friends."

Lear wrote, produced, created, and/or developed hundreds of shows during his career, including "Sanford and Son," "One Day at a Time," and "Silver Spoons," and he executive produced Rob Reiner's films "Stand By Me" and "The Princess Bride." The patriotic and proud American owns a copy of the Declaration of Independence, was bestowed with the National Medal of the Arts, and earned the disdain of both Jerry Falwell and Richard Nixon.

Even today, Lear shows no signs of slowing down: His name is attached to over a dozen projects at the time of this writing. He is also still fighting the good fight off screen, hoping for a better tomorrow for America with "freeness and opportunity for all." In the end, he's happy and proud to have given others so much joy through his works, telling The Hollywood Reporter how much he loves "strangers stopping to tell me what it meant to the family to laugh together."