FEB. 19, 1972

Who can melt racist Archie Bunker’s heart? The Candy Man can

“Sammy Davis Jr. was a close friend whom I had known from my days writing for the [early 1950s] Colgate Comedy Hour. When All in the Family had been on for only three episodes, he called me and said he just had to be on the show. I told him we wanted to keep the conceit authentic and never have big-name guest stars. But Sammy continued to pester me so much—lovingly. And we realized that, with Archie driving a cab as a second job, we could have Sammy play himself, as a passenger. We figured out the gimmick where he would come to visit Archie to thank him for returning a suitcase he left in the back seat.

As an African-American, Sammy heard Archie Bunker talking about race, and he saw his appearance as an opportunity to give back as good as he got. And we knew that with Sammy planting a kiss on Archie’s cheek, the episode would contain a moment nobody would easily forget. In fact, it’s one of the two moments people still mention to me most.

Back in 1972, a kiss like that would be very shocking. But we knew that viewers would react like the 300 people in our live audience. Carroll O’Connor was so brilliant that you loved Archie, whether you disagreed with him or not. And the same thing with Sammy in his role. You cared about them both, and so the moment worked. Sammy had wanted to be in a classic episode of All in the Family, and he got his wish. He made it a classic.” — Norman Lear, creator of All in the Family

“This episode remains one of the joys of my writing career. We all knew that the interracial element of the story would have an impact. But that the episode would become the heavenly gift which evolved, that’s another matter.

Sammy shared with me that it was the words of the script that gave him the comfort to improvise the show’s most famous moment, the kiss. It had also been such a great boost to me personally when Sammy had called after the first reading of the script to say, ‘Prepare your acceptance speech, pal.’ But ironically, later, my manager’s secretary mishandled the nomination papers, thus costing me a possible Emmy.”  — Bill Dana, writer of episode “Sammy’s Visit

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