Who is Norman Lear: Biography, Career, Paths to Golden Globe
|Norman Lear accepts the Carol Burnett television achievement award at the Golden Globe Awards. (NBC via AP)|
Norman Lear, in full Norman Milton Lear, (born July 27, 1922, New Haven, Connecticut, U.S.), American producer, writer, and director known especially for his work on such seminal television series as All in the Family (1971–79), Sanford and Son (1972–77), and The Jeffersons (1975–85).
Norman Lear is a World War II veteran, actor, writer, producer, director, and creator of such legendary sitcoms that defined and revolutionized American television.
Norman Milton Lear was born in New Haven, Connecticut, to Enie/Jeanette (Sokolovsky) and Hyman "Herman" Lear, a traveling salesman. His grandparents were all Russian Jewish immigrants. Jeanette was the inspiration for the character Edith Bunker, and Herman was the all-time inspiration to Norman creating the character Archie Bunker. Lear has often described his father as a "bigot" and someone who was into "get rich quick schemes." Norman was a victim of the depression and saw his family, as he has described it, go "belly-up". Norman was inspired by his press agent uncle Jack, who visited the family and always flipped Norman a quarter. Norman wanted to be the person who could flip someone a quarter.
Lear at this time never really thought of becoming a big Hollywood writer. He won a one year-scholarship to Emerson College in a national high-school writing contest, and went off there with all tuition paid by the government for one year. Norman figured he had struck a gold-mine, and during the depression this was the only way he could get into college. Norman attended Emerson College but dropped out when news struck that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor. At that point, Norman has stated, all chaos broke lose, and along with many others he decided to enroll in the United States Army. He was nineteen. In the army, Norman was a radio operator. He was discharged in 1945.
Norman eventually landed a press agent job, paying forty dollars a week. Due to hard times, he was not being paid well and decided to pursue another career. In 1954, he was a writer for the CBS sitcom, Honestly, Celeste! This series was canceled after eight episodes. Lear then became the producer of NBC's The Martha Raye Show, after director Nat Hiken left the series. In 1959, Lear created his first television series, The Deputy, on the NBC network and starring Henry Fonda. Lear created this series alongside Roland Kibbee. The show ran for two successful seasons and ended in 1961.
Lear then started his comedic writing career in 1967. He wrote and produced the 1967 film, Divorce American Style, and directed the film, Cold Turkey, starring Dick Van Dyke. All In The Family came about when Norman read a British column on a show called "Til Death Do Us Part", about a father and a son-in-law who fought constantly about everything politically. As soon as he read that, he immediately knew it was just like him and his father's relationship. Lear tried to sell a "blue" collar sitcom to the ABC network, and two pilots were filmed and rejected. A third pilot was filmed, and CBS picked up the show. It premiered on January 12,1971 to disappointing ratings. Each pilot being shot by different entertainers than the original. Only Caroll O' Connor and Jean Stapleton remained as the original cast, as different people played the brother-in-law and daughter. Lear put Sally Struthers and Rob Reiner in the sitcom only after being accepted by CBS.
When it was aired on television for the first time, a big warning appeared on the screen stating none of the content being presented should be taken seriously and should only be seen for the purpose of hilarity. Norman stated that the sitcom became successful later on, because people knew Archie Bunker: to many people Archie Bunker was their own father. What came next for Norman was the successful sitcom Sanford And Son, along with creator Bud Yorkin, in 1972. This sitcom was inspired by British sitcom Steptoe and Son. Redd Foxx and Demond Wilson played the main roles. In All In The Family, a guest-star named Bea Arthur appeared in an episode and the first spin-off was formed from All In The Family called Maude in 1972, starring Arthur. Ratings soared through the roof, and much more quickly than All In The Family. A memorable episode from Maude which struck a degree of controversy was the abortion episode. A spin-off came from Maude called Good Times with the maid character played by Esther Rolle (Florida Evans). Good Times premiered in 1974, and dealt with controversial issues such as poverty, crime, and welfare, but most of all depicted life in a low-income housing area for African-Americans. It was created by Eric Monte and Mike Evans. This series featured entertainers John Amos, Ester Rolle, Bern Nadette Stanis, Jimmie Walker, Ralph Carter, Ja'net Dubois, and many others. It wasn't the only sitcom to depict life for African-Americans: what later followed in 1975 was The Jeffersons, another spin-off from All In The Family. Many people hadn't realized that African Americans could actually move away from the ghetto and become successful like George and Louise did. To many people across America it was seen as hilarious comedic genius; no other show ever called someone a "honky" or slammed doors in people's faces and still showed controversial issues to a large degree. In several episodes the show dealt with drugs, violence, and racism. The characters George and Louise Jefferson were created by Eric Monte.
All In The Family received multiple Emmy awards. Good Times ran for five successful season and ended in 1979, with multiple Golden Globe nominations. Maude ran for six seasons, ending in 1978 and receiving multiple Emmy and Golden Globe wins and nominations. Sanford and Son ended in 1977 with a Golden Globe win and several Emmy nominations. All In The Family ended its long run in 1979, with nine successful seasons. What came next for Norman was a spin-off of the show called Archie Bunker's Place, with Caroll O'Connor and Danielle Brisebois. The show was especially memorable as Edith Bunker was killed off, due to Jean Stapleton wanting to leave the show to pursue her acting career further. Norman stated that killing off Edith Bunker was one of the toughest decisions he had to make throughout his entertainment career. Archie Bunker's Place ended in 1983, and was his last successful television show.
Norman attempted to make a comeback in 1990 with several short-lived shows, including Sunday Dinner and 704 Hauser, which featured former co-star of Good Times, John Amos.
"All In The Family" and Carol Burnett Award
Norman Lear made TV relevant with “All in the Family” and more 20th-century sitcoms, and he's accomplished the same for himself as a working producer who's nearing his 99th birthday.
But Lear was modest as he accepted the Carol Burnett Award for his decades of achievement — and the decades themselves — at Sunday's virtual Golden Globes ceremony.
“I am convinced that laughter adds time to one’s life, and nobody has made me laugh harder, nobody I owe more time to, than Carol Burnett,” he said, speaking by video from a living room armchair. He looked dignified in a suit, but with his trademark white boat hat adding an impish touch.
“I've had a lifetime of partners, performers, associations and creative talents for which I am eternally grateful,” Lear said, adding there would be “an entirely different Norman Lear here with you tonight” without them.
The first partnership, with Ed Simmons, led to working for Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis on “The Colgate Comedy Hour." They would also work on “The Martha Raye Show.'”
Those 1950s series launched the career that included the hit comedies “Maude,” “Good Times," “The Jeffersons” and “One Day at a Time." The latter was rebooted in 2017 by Lear and a new team of producers, this time with the focus on a Latino family.
“At 98, he’s still making television and still making trouble,” actor-comedian Wanda Sykes said in her narration of the Globes' filmed tribute to Lear.
His series tackled racism, feminism and other social issues that had been taboo on TV before Lear and then-partner Bud Yorkin broke through with “All in the Family." Lear was politically active off the screen and as a proponent of civic responsibility, which included buying a copy of the Declaration of Independence for a national tour of the document.
Lear has received a wealth of awards and honors: He was part of the inaugural group of inductees to the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 1984, has six Emmy Awards, and received a Peabody Lifetime Achievement Award and a National Medal of Arts.
On Sunday, he said family has been central to his life, giving a shoutout to his wife of three decades, Lyn Davis Lear; five daughters and a son, who range “in age from 25 to 74,” and four grandchildren.
"At close to 99, I can tell you that I've never lived alone. I've never laughed alone. And that has as much to do with my being here today as anything else I know,” said Lear, who was born in July 1922.
The Carol Burnett Award is an honorary Golden Globe given by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for outstanding contributions to television. It was first presented to Burnett in 2019, and to Ellen DeGeneres last year.
Lear ended his remarks with the catchphrase and tug of the ear that Burnett made familiar on her long-running variety show.
“So glad we had this time together,” he said.
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|Norman Lear receives Carol Burnett Award |
Hollywood icon Norman Lear was honored with the Carol Burnett Award on Sunday.
The award is given to those that have made a major impact in television. It is the companion to the film-centric Cecil B. DeMille Award.
“Norman Lear is among the most prolific creators of this generation,” said Ali Sar, the HFPA president, said in a statement. “His career has encompassed both the Golden Age and Streaming Era, throughout which his progressive approach addressing controversial topics through humor prompted a cultural shift that allowed social and political issues to be reflected in television. His work revolutionized the industry and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association is honored to name him as the 2021 Carol Burnett Award recipient.”