I Think I’m Outta Here

Carroll O’Connor was born in the New York borough of Queens to a well-off Irish American family which had its share of misfortunes, including that of his lawyer father being sent to Sing-Sing prison. After a rather aimless young adulthood spent on merchant ships, he went to college in Ireland and while there realized that acting was his forte. He was one of a very few American actors offered work with an Irish theater company. Although it was to be a while before he could make a living at it (he was a school teacher among other things), he ultimately became a noted stage, film, and television performer.

In the latter medium O’Connor starred in the groundbreaking hit show ALL IN THE FAMILY, as well as the later success IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT. He became a powerful figure in the television industry, with enough clout to have full creative control over his series. That authority did not extend to his own family, however. His only child, an adopted son, was addicted to alcohol and drugs and there was nothing the anguished O’Connor could do to save his son from committing suicide.

Rather than writing a full autobiography, O’Connor has produced what he calls a memoir. Even with this caveat, he seems to ignore whole segments of his life while going into great detail about very trivial occurrences. This, together with his seeming reluctance to reveal much about his inner self, makes for a most unsatisfying work. Even when he discusses the tragedy of his son’s final days, he has chosen to reprint sections of his rather matter-of-fact diary rather than talk about his own emotions.

In addition, he devotes numerous pages—complete with unnecessary footnotes—to lecturing the reader about such topics as the origin of the troubles between Northern Ireland and Ireland, the perfidy of entertainment industry executives, etc. Another seeming intent of the book is to strike back at the many people he feels have wronged him in some way. He is obviously an intelligent and politically aware person, but a definitive and revelatory biography of Carroll O’Connor will have to be written by someone else.