Norman Lear based Archie Bunker off of his own father
You know how they always say write what you know? Well, Norman Lear seemed to take that advice and it almost certainly turned him into a star. You might already know that the television series All in the Family was based on a British sitcom Till Death Us Do Part, but it obviously wasn't a complete verbatim reflection of the original series. It turned out that when developing the show's characters, Norman Lear added some of his secret spice to create the character of Archie Bunker: He based parts of him off of his own father.
In Norman Lear's autobiography, Even This I Get To Experience, Lear discussed his sometimes contentious relationship with his father, H.K Lear. Despite this, he wrote, "Despite all the hurts and disappointments, how I loved my father. I wrote love letters to him all my life, many of them in All in the Family, in which Archie has so many of my father's characteristics."
Lear specifically recalled his father's favoring of bicarbonate of soda, a trait which Archie shared. He recalled, "In an episode of All in the Family, when Edith brought Archie the bicarb he shouted for, Mike said, 'Look at him, he's a robot. He swallows the potion, and exactly fourteen seconds later' — finger snap — the heartburns gone.' Archie drank and fumed, waving Mike off as he enthusiastically counted the seconds in his face. On fourteen exactly, much to his relief and chagrin, a long, mellifluous belch erupted out of Archie."
Moreover, Lear revealed that a well-known Edith-Archie exchange was actually borrowed from his parents' relationship when his mother would become frustrated with his father. He said, "'Jeanette!' [Lear's mother] he screamed, the veins in his neck bulging as he stood over her with his nose all but pressing hers. 'Stifle!' And off he went."
Lear also recalled a moment when a visitor inquired about buying the Lear family's armchair from them. He wrote, "At one point, someone I didn't know (but instantly disliked) offered to buy my father's red leather chair — the throne from which he had controlled the radio dial on our floor model Atwater Kent, just as, forty years later, Archie would control the Bunker family's TV viewing from his living room armchair."
While Lear's relationship with his father was complicated, to put it lightly, there was clearly a lot of love involved that led to a lot of inspiration, not solely within All in the Family. Lear wrote of his father, "If H.K. was a marvel of sorts, so were Archie Bunker, George Jefferson, and Maude Findlay, among others. They were all entertaining marvels, examples of what I now think of as the H.K gene."
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