Sammy Davis Jr. gave Archie Bunker the kiss of a lifetime on All in the Family
Sammy Davis Jr. could do much more than just a little song and dance. With a career expanding across six decades, he was one of the most versatile artists of his time.
Davis Jr. was a singer, a dancer, an actor and an impressionist. But perhaps the most impressive skill of them all was being able to charm Archie Bunker.
When Davis Jr. planted a kiss on the cheek of Archie Bunker in his 1972 guest appearance on the All in the Family episode "Sammy's Visit," it created history for the hit '70s sitcom.
This season two episode featured Davis Jr., who played himself. In the episode, Davis Jr. forgets his briefcase in the back of Archie's cab, and then pays the Bunker household a visit to get it back.
But of course, the episode's most memorable moment became known as the "kiss of infamy."
This is Archie's reaction to the quick kiss:
The scene was filmed in front of a live studio audience and became one of the show's longest standing ovations, estimated at 38 seconds. This moment also gathered some of the biggest laughs in TV history.
"The comedy and the way it attacks prejudice really appeals to me," Davis Jr. said in a 1972 interview with Calgary Herald. "But we haven't seen Archie in contact with a black celebrity. He fawned all over me in the show but his prejudice still comes through."
With each sarcastic or offensive statement Archie dished out to Davis Jr. throughout the episode, Davis Jr. gave it right back.
According to the interview, Davis Jr. had this to say to Carroll O'Connor, who played Archie Bunker, after the episode had finished filming:
"Even though you play that man your goodness comes through like an arrow. You're not that good an actor."
In an interview with The Television Academy, John Rich, the director of All in the Family, said Davis Jr.'s appearance in All in the Family was a one in a million story.
According to the interview, Davis Jr.'s appearance stemmed from his guest spot on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, where he expressed interest in coming on All in the Family. Rich said Davis Jr., cast and crew all counted to three and the shot began.
One, two, three, and...
"... Bang! He's kissing, and we went in and Archie took that look of surprise," Rich said. "And then the audience just went beserk. We had to cut the laugh, it was so long."
Producers thought the audience would love Archie Bunker's unexpected reaction to the kiss, and they weren't wrong. Archie's reaction turned into one of the best reactions from a live audience ever.
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