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Sally Struthers on Her 'All in the Family' Role That Made Her Famous

Busayo Ogunjimi
Jul 16, 2022
02:00 A.M.
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It has been over fifty years since "All In The Family" star Sally Struthers graced the big screens with her charm and starred as Gloria Bunker Stivic in the classic series. Struthers became a living legend but never forgot the role that skyrocketed her to stardom.

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Sally Struthers, one of the stars of "All In The Family," always knew her place was in the movie industry and wanted to make a difference. Today, she is an award-winning actress, producer, voice-over artist, and activist. Her passion for the film industry began long before she was cast on TV.

Struthers was born in Portland, Oregon. Her father was a surgeon, but she was interested in acting. So after her high school education, she relocated to Los Angeles to study at Pasadena Playhouse College of Theater Arts.

Sally Struthers arrives at Lifetime's "Christmas Harmony" premiere at Harmony Gold Theater on November 7, 2018 in Los Angeles, California | Source: Getty Images

Sally Struthers arrives at Lifetime's "Christmas Harmony" premiere at Harmony Gold Theater on November 7, 2018 in Los Angeles, California | Source: Getty Images

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At the College, she bagged a scholarship as the "most promising student." Struthers continued performing in regional stock plays until landing TV roles in commercials and series.

In 1970, she appeared in different shows, including "Tim Conway Comedy Hour," "The Smothers Brothers Summer Show," and "Five Easy Pieces." The following year, she landed her groundbreaking role in "All In The Family."

Struthers acted alongside Carroll O'Connor and Jean Stapleton, who played her conservative parents, Archie and Edith. Her husband, Mike, was played by Rob Reiner.

Sally Struthers attends Young Musicians Foundation Mother-Daughter Fashion Show on March 10, 1982 at the Beverly Hills Hotel in Beverly Hills, California | Source: Getty Images

Sally Struthers attends Young Musicians Foundation Mother-Daughter Fashion Show on March 10, 1982 at the Beverly Hills Hotel in Beverly Hills, California | Source: Getty Images

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She took a break from TV series and ventured into films but later returned, reprising her role as Gloria in "Gloria." However, fans did not find it captivating enough. So after a year, the show went off the air.

The actress moved to cartoons, thrilling audiences with her high-pitched voice as a voice-over artist. A few years later, she continued her TV appearances in comedy films and musicals.

Sally Struthers, circa 1982 | Source: Getty Images

Sally Struthers, circa 1982 | Source: Getty Images

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SALLY STRUTHERS'S ROLE IN "ALL IN THE FAMILY"

"All In The Family" is a comedy classic that aired from 1971 to 1979. It focused on a man and his family, including his wife, daughter, and son-in-law. The Norman Lear production touched on sensitive issues in society. Still, it provided room for a good laugh.

Fans fell in love with Struthers's character Gloria Bunker Stivic. That same role earned her nominations and two Emmy Awards. But after seven seasons, she stepped away from the show to pursue other projects. She initially landed film roles, but then they reduced in number.

Despite the disappointment, Struthers managed to remain relevant, and she worked on different projects. Even though she has numerous film credits to her name, fans will never forget that the living legend was once Gloria Bunker Stivic, whose iconic role in "All In The Family" made her famous.

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"All In The Family" cast in the early 1970s | Source: Getty Images

"All In The Family" cast in the early 1970s | Source: Getty Images

Similarly, Struthers is not quick to forget her breakthrough role. Last year, she had an honest interview with CloserWeekly. At 74, the actress leads a very different lifestyle compared to her younger years. She delved into her time on "All in the Family."

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Struthers revealed that she never knew that the series would be life-changing. In fact, she was stricken with hopelessness after being yanked off the cast of the "Tim Conway Comedy Hour."

The producer complained that she made the show look cheap. Even though she was devastated, Struthers continued to audition and eventually landed a spot on Lear's comedy show after a hard-to-forget audition (due to her raspy voice).

"All in the Family" cast: Carroll O'Connor, Jean Stapleton holding Corey M. Miller, Rob Reiner and Sally Struthers | Source: Getty Images

"All in the Family" cast: Carroll O'Connor, Jean Stapleton holding Corey M. Miller, Rob Reiner and Sally Struthers | Source: Getty Images

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Although she mentioned that her voice might have made her audition unforgettable, Struthers confessed that after seeing Reiner and his girlfriend waiting to be auditioned, she felt dejected. But her resolve was impressive. In her words:

"I knew they were a couple and thought I didn't stand a chance. But thinking that made the nervousness leave my body, and I went in and did what they asked."

The actress said "no" when asked if she shared similar traits with her on-screen character. She compared their backgrounds, including birthplace, household, spiritual beliefs, and marriage choices—there were no similarities.

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 "All in the Family" cast members Sally Struthers (as Gloria Bunker Stivic), Justin Draeger (as Joey Stivic) and Rob Reiner as Michael Stivic | Source: Getty Images

"All in the Family" cast members Sally Struthers (as Gloria Bunker Stivic), Justin Draeger (as Joey Stivic) and Rob Reiner as Michael Stivic | Source: Getty Images

SALLY STRUTHERS ON THE CAST'S RELATIONSHIP OFF-SCREEN

The "All In The Family" cast worked in sync and never opposed each other, on-screen and off-screen. Struthers maintained that they had a fantastic connection, and the cast was a perfect fit.

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According to the actress, they had respect for each other. She revealed that Stapleton, her on-screen mom, was a humble person who stayed true to her religious beliefs as a Christian Scientist. Struthers explained that Stapleton never wasted time complaining or giving negative comments; she was always full of optimism and was willing to work.

Her connection with O'Connor, her on-screen dad, was on another level. The 74-year-old revealed that she lost her biological dad before the show and that she connected with O'Connor while filming.

Jean Stapleton (as Edith Bunker) and Sally Struthers (as Gloria Bunker) in "All In The Family" | Source: Getty Images

Jean Stapleton (as Edith Bunker) and Sally Struthers (as Gloria Bunker) in "All In The Family" | Source: Getty Images

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He and his real-life wife, Nancy, became close to the actress and even introduced her to the man she married, William Rader. The Emmy winner believed she "gained a father again by doing that show." As the series wrapped up, Struthers was filled with conflicting emotions; her cast members had become her family. She said:

"It was emotional, but it wasn't sad. I didn't have any idea at the time how much I would miss it. Whenever I see an episode on TV now, I stop for a second. As soon as I see Carroll or Jean, I get so sad that I have to change the channel."

Carroll O'Connor (as Archie Bunker), Sally Struthers (as Gloria Bunker Stivic) and baby as "Joey Stivic" are shown in the "Mike's Move" episode of "All In The Family" on January 16, 1976 | Source: Getty Images

Carroll O'Connor (as Archie Bunker), Sally Struthers (as Gloria Bunker Stivic) and baby as "Joey Stivic" are shown in the "Mike's Move" episode of "All In The Family" on January 16, 1976 | Source: Getty Images

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Nonetheless, the "All In The Family" star never regretted her time on the show. Instead, she cherishes the friendships developed during that time and remains grateful for being a part of the historic show.

The actress compared her time on other shows to her Gloria days and confessed she did not make connections like on "All In The Family." However, she acknowledged that such an experience doesn't happen to "too many actors."

Archie Bunker (Carroll O'Connor) is stopped in mid-speech as he and his tearful, long-suffering wife Edith (Jean Stapleton) hear that their daughter Gloria (Sally Struthers) is going to have a baby | Source: Getty Images

Archie Bunker (Carroll O'Connor) is stopped in mid-speech as he and his tearful, long-suffering wife Edith (Jean Stapleton) hear that their daughter Gloria (Sally Struthers) is going to have a baby | Source: Getty Images

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HOW "ALL IN THE FAMILY" CHANGED SALLY'S LIFE

Struthers acknowledged that "All In The Family" gave her life a 360-degree spin. She became a recognized actress whose fame traveled across borders. The actress was excited about this as it gave her the opportunity to meet with dignitaries from the US and abroad.

However, the TV icon said that there was a flipside to her celebrity status — she never enjoyed as much privacy as when she was a newbie in the industry. In all, the actress was still thankful for her time on the comedy series, which gave her a real family, and friendship money could never buy.

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