It’s been more than fifty years since the Sally Struthers “All in the Family” star graced the big screens with her charm, starring Gloria Bunker Stivic in the classic series. Struthers became a living legend but never forgot the role that propelled her to stardom – in her story.
Sally Struthers, an “All in the Family” actress, always knew her place was in the movie industry and wanted to make a difference. Today, she is an award-winning actress, producer, voiceover and activist. Her passion for the film industry started long before she moved to television.
Struthers was born in Portland, Oregon. Her father was a surgeon, but she was interested in acting. So, after high school, she moved to Los Angeles to study at the Pasadena Playhouse College of Theater Arts.
Sally Struthers arrives at the premiere of Lifetime’s ‘Christmas Harmony’ at Harmony Gold Theater on November 7, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. | Source: Getty Images
In College, she won a scholarship as the “most promising student”. Struthers continued to act in regional actions until he landed television roles in commercials and series.
In 1970, she appeared on different shows, including “Tim Conway Comedy Hour”, “The Smothers Brothers Summer Show”, and “Five Easy Pieces”. The following year, she landed her breakthrough role in “All in the Family.”
Struthers starred alongside Carroll O’Connor and Jean Stapleton, who played her conservative parents: Archie and Edith, and her husband, Mike, played by Rob Reiner.
Sally Struthers attends the Young Musicians Foundation Mother-Daughter Fashion Show on March 10, 1982 at The Beverly Hills Hotel in Beverly Hills, California. | Source: Getty Images
She took a break from TV series, venturing into movies, but later returned, reprising her role as Gloria in “Gloria.” However, fans didn’t find it captivating enough. So after a year it stopped broadcasting.
The actress stuck to cartoons, captivating audiences with her doll-like voice as a voice-over artist. A few years later, she continued her appearances on television in comedy films and musicals.
Sally Struthers, circa 1982. | Source: Getty Images
ROLE OF SALLY STRUTHERS 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. Norman Lear’s production addressed sensitive societal issues. Still, it offered room for a good laugh.
Fans fell in love with Struthers character, Gloria Bunker Stivic. This same role earned him nominations and two Emmy Awards. But after seven seasons, she walked away from the show to pursue other projects. She successfully received a couple of film roles, and then it came to a trickle.
Despite the disappointment, Struthers managed to stay relevant and she never stopped working on different projects. Although she has many films to her credit, fans will never forget that the living legend was once Gloria Bunker Stivic, whose iconic role in “All in the Family” made her famous.
The cast of the American television show ‘All in the Family’, Los Angeles, California, early 1970s. | Source: Getty Images
Likewise, Struthers does not quickly forget his revolutionary role. Last year, she had an honest interview with CloserWeekly. Now 74, with a very different lifestyle to her younger years, the screen icon reflected on her time on ‘All in the Family’.
Struthers revealed that she never knew the series would change her life. In fact, she was struck with despair after being dropped from the cast of “Tim Conway Comedy Hour.”
The producer complained that she made the series look cheap. Although she was devastated thinking about her next move, Struthers continued to audition and eventually landed a spot on Lear’s comedy show after a performance that was hard to forget (due to her raspy voice).
Portrait of the cast of the TV show ‘All in the Family’. Clockwise from bottom right: Carroll O’Connor (1924 – 2001), Jean Stapleton holding Corey M Miller, Rob Reiner and Sally Struthers. | Source: Getty Images
Although she mentioned that her voice could have made her audition unforgettable, Struthers confessed that after seeing Rob Reiner, who later played his on-screen husband with his girlfriend, waiting to audition, she was felt defeated. But his decision was impressive. In his words:
“I knew they were a couple and thought I had no chance. But thinking about that, the nervousness left my body, and I went in and did what they asked me to do.”
The actress said no when asked if she shared similar traits with her on-screen character. Plus, she compared their backgrounds, including birthplace, household, spiritual beliefs, and marriage choices—nothing was similar!
The cast of “All in the Family” (left to right) Sally Struthers (as Gloria Bunker Stivic) and Justin Draeger (as Joey Stivic) and Rob Reiner as Michael Stivic in the episode “Edith’s Crisis of Faith: Part II” . | Source: Getty Images
SALLY STRUTHERS ON THE OFF-SCREEN CAST RELATIONSHIP
The cast of “All in the Family” worked in sync and never clashed, on and off screen. Struthers maintained that they had a fantastic connection and the casting was perfect.
According to the actress, they were respectful. She also claimed that Jean Stapleton, her on-screen mother, was a humble person who stayed true to her religious beliefs as a Christian scientist. Struthers explained that Stapleton never wasted time complaining or making negative comments; she was always full of optimism and was ready to work.
Her connection to Carroll, her on-screen dad, was on another level. The 74-year-old revealed that she lost her biological father before the show and that during filming she clung to Carroll, who was a real supporter.
ALL IN THE FAMILY episode ‘Gloria the Victim’ starring Jean Stapleton (as Edith Bunker) and Sally Struthers (as Gloria Bunker). | Source: Getty Images
He and his real wife, Nancy, became close to the actress and even introduced her to the man she married, William Rader. The Emmy winner thought she “found a father doing this show.” By the end of the series, Struthers was filled with emotions; his actors had become his family, although at first it never seemed possible. She says:
“It was moving, but it wasn’t sad. I had no idea at the time how much I would miss it. Every time I see an episode on TV now, I stop for a second. As soon as I see Carroll or Jean, I’m so sad 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
Nonetheless, the “All in the Family” star has never regretted her time on the show. Instead, she counted the friendship established as part of her blessings and remains grateful to be part of the historic spectacle.
The actress compared her time on other shows to her Gloria days but couldn’t get the same emotions and connection that surrounded the cast members. However, she shared that such an experience never happens to “too many actors”.
Archie Bunker (Carroll O’Conner) is arrested in the middle of a speech as he and his tearful, long-suffering wife Edith (Jean Stapleton) learn that their daughter Gloria (Sally Struthers) is having a baby. | Source: Getty Images
HOW “ALL IN THE FAMILY” CHANGED SALLY’S LIFE
Struthers credited “All in the Family” with giving his life a 360-degree spin. She became a recognized actress whose fame crossed borders. The actress was excited about the change as it gave her the opportunity to meet dignitaries from the United States and abroad.
However, the TV icon said there’s a downside to celebrity status: she’s never enjoyed more privacy than when she was new to the industry. Overall, the actress is forever grateful for her time on the comedy show, which gave her real family, and friendship money could never buy.