Oscar-nominated comedy writer and producer Norman Lear dies at 101December 6, 2023
BREAKING NEWS Norman Lear dies aged 101: Oscar-nominated comedy writer and producer behind ‘All in the Family’ and ‘Sanford and Son’ is credited with revolutionizing American television
Legendary television writer and producer Norman Lear behind series like ‘All in the Family’ has died at the age of 101.
Variety reported that Lear died at his home in Los Angeles of natural causes on Tuesday, with a private service for close family to be held in the coming days.
In a statement, his family said: ‘Thank you for the moving outpouring of love and support in honor of our wonderful husband, father, and grandfather.
‘Norman lived a life of creativity, tenacity, and empathy. He deeply loved our country and spent a lifetime helping to preserve its founding ideals of justice and equality for all.
‘Knowing and loving him has been the greatest of gifts. We ask for your understanding as we mourn privately in celebration of this remarkable human being.’
Lear, seen here in 2019, died at his home in Los Angeles of natural causes on Tuesday, with a private service for close family to be held in the coming days
Television producer Norman Lear is shown in his office in Los Angeles on March 29, 1979
With a career that spanned more than six decades, Lear created or helped develop some of the most loved comedians in American television history.
These included the likes of ‘All in the Family, ‘Sanford and Son’, ‘Good Times, and ‘The Jeffersons’.
Lear, who won six Emmy awards for his work in television, was known for his campaigning for liberal causes, including voting rights, and worked well into his 90s.
Among his milestones was creating the first African American nuclear family regularly appearing on television: the Evans clan on ‘Good Times,’ beginning in 1974.
He injected the sensitive subjects of race, sexuality, class, inequality and politics like the anti-war movement into his work, breaking the sitcom mold and beaming modern visions of family life into millions of US households.
At one point in the 1970s Lear had eight shows on the air with an estimated 120 million viewers, Time magazine said.
By drawing material from social themes of the time, Lear’s shows made network executives nervous because they had a depth and air of controversy.
Lear and production partner Bud Yorkin put ‘All in the Family’ on the air in January 1971 and the show would go on to win four Emmys for best comedy in its nine seasons.
Lear, seen here in 1972, was known for his campaigning for liberal causes, including voting rights, and worked well into his 90s
Former President Bill Clinton is seen here alongside Hillary Clinton awarding Lear with the 1999 National Medal of Arts and Humanities Award
It was based on a British show, ‘Til Death Do Us Part,’ and gave U.S. television one of its most memorable and controversial characters – Archie Bunker.
Carroll O’Connor portrayed Archie as a crude, loud, blue-collar New Yorker who spouted racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic comments.
He was cast against a scatter-brained wife he called ‘Dingbat,’ a liberal daughter and an even more liberal son-in-law he referred to as ‘Meathead’ and played by Rob Reiner.
‘All in the Family’ was the top-rated show on U.S. television for five straight years, according to CBS, and TV Guide ranked it fourth on its list of television’s all-time greatest shows.
‘The Jeffersons’ was another spin-off of ‘All in the Family’ and featured an upwardly mobile Black couple who moved to Manhattan’s glitzy upper eastside neighborhood.
Lear’s other hits included ‘Sanford and Son’ a sitcom about a Black junkyard owner in a Los Angeles neighborhood, and ‘Good Times,’ a protrayal of a working-class Black family in a Chicago housing project.
Actor Carroll O’Connor, left, portrayed bigoted patriarch Archie Bunker in the provocative TV series ‘All In the Family’
Lear, left, and Rob Reiner, seen here in 2006, worked together on Lear’s historic 1970s sitcom ‘All In the Family,’ in which Reiner played Archie Bunker’s liberal son-in-law ‘Meathead’
Born on July 27, 1922 in New Haven, Connecticut, Norman Milton Lear’s most lasting creation was partly based on fact.
Many of the harsh words that came out of Archie Bunker’s mouth had first been spoken by Lear’s own father, Herman Lear, who went to prison for selling fake bonds, and frequently told his wife to ‘stifle’ herself and called his son ‘the laziest white kid I ever saw.’
‘I grew up in a family that lived at the top of its lungs and the ends of its nerves,’ Lear told Esquire magazine.
Lear dropped out of college in World War Two to join the Army and flew 52 combat missions.
He went to Los Angeles in 1950 with the intention of being a publicist but began writing for TV stars such as Danny Thomas, Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin and Andy Williams.
Lear shifted focus in 1981 and founded the liberal activist group People for the American Way to boost voting rights and fight right-wing extremism.
He also established the Norman Lear Center at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Communication.
In 2001, he and a partner purchased an original copy of the U.S. Declaration of Independence and sent it on a three-year tour of U.S. schools, libraries and events.
Lear is survived by his third wife, Lyn, and his six children.
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