Norman Lear, who is 100 today, is widely considered to have had one of the most successful careers in the entertainment industry. In the 1950s, Lear got his start in the television industry as a writer for sitcoms.
Starting with All in the Family in 1971 and continuing with some of the first television shows to showcase black family life to be seen on prime-time TV, he would go on to create and produce some of the most successful and celebrated sitcoms of the 1970s.
Lear has been active in the entertainment industry for well over fifty years. He is still Chairman of his production business, Act III Communications, and he executive produced the 2017 remake of One Day at a Time, which will air until 2020 and has already won widespread critical praise.
Beginnings in Life and Work
Norman Lear was born into a Jewish family in New Haven, Connecticut in 1922. His mom’s name was Jeanette, and his dad was a road warrior named Hyman. There was only one other member of his family, a sister named Claire.
When Lear was nine years old, he experienced two pivotal events: his father was incarcerated for selling false bonds, and while tinkering with his radio, he heard the anti-Semitic Catholic radio priest, Father Charles Coughlin.
Archie Bunker was born out of the first incident, while Lear’s lifetime devotion to activism stemmed from the second. Lear attended Emerson College in Boston after graduating from Weaver High School in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1940.
But he left school in 1942 to enlist in the US Army Air Forces. He performed 52 combat flights while serving in the Mediterranean area and was awarded the Air Medal for his efforts.
After World War II, Lear found work in public relations and relocated to Los Angeles to be near his cousin Elaine. Lear went door-to-door selling furniture alongside Elaine’s husband, the aspiring comic writer Ed Simmons.
Throughout the 1950s, the duo wrote and performed comic skits for a variety of shows, including Rowan and Martin and Martin and Lewis.
Writing for three Martin and Lewis comedy specials in 1953 netted Norman and Ed a record-breaking $52,000 each (about $500,000 in today’s currencies).
Honestly, Celeste!, a new CBS sitcom that hired Lear as a writer in 1954, lasted only one season before being canceled.
Lear also took on the role of producer for the short-lived sitcom The Martha Raye Show and contributed to “The Tennessee Ernie Ford Show” by penning several opening monologues. Lear’s first TV series was the 1959 Henry Fonda western The Deputy.
The Seventies and Television
Following his success with the comedic films “Divorce American Style” (1967) and “Cold Turkey” (1971), Lear pitched ABC on a sitcom idea revolving around a working-class family.
After the first two pilot episodes, the network decided against picking up the show; nonetheless, CBS ultimately decided to air “All in the Family.” Despite the low ratings it garnered for its 1971 premiere, the show went on to win several Emmys, including one for Outstanding Comedy Series.
After a slow start, the show’s ratings improved during the summer and it went on to have a successful season the following year. “All in the Family” dominated television audiences from 1972 until 1977. When it ended in 1979, a spinoff called “Archie Bunker’s Place” took its place.
Throughout the ’70s, Lear was responsible for multiple successful sitcoms. TV shows like “Sanford and Son” (on NBC) about a working-class African-American family in Los Angeles’ Watts neighborhood, and “Maude” and “The Jeffersons” (on CBS), both spinoffs of “All in the Family,” were among them.
The latter was one of the longest-running comedies on American television, airing for a total of 16 seasons between 1975 and 1985. Lear’s other works include the spinoff series Good Times and the ongoing series One Day at a Time.
Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, which he created in 1976 and was a cult sensation despite being rejected by networks because of its perceived political content.
Additionally, to these shows, Lear co-founded the highly successful independent television production business T.A.T. Communications with talent agent Jerry Perenchio in the 1970s.
After watching Norman’s birthday special, fans are filled with nostalgia.
After watching Norman Lear: 100 Years of Music and Laughter, many viewers vented their emotions on the social networking site Twitter. I’m watching Norman Lear 100 and it’s making me feel really sentimental.
I’m laughing and filling my son in on all of his favorite shows as I tell him. That man played a significant role in my formative years. For the laughter, the lessons, and the memories, @TheNormanLear, one of your fans tweeted their gratitude.
A third supporter wrote on Twitter, “I just watched a birthday party for Norman Lear. Yes, I knew he was a genius ahead of his time, but nevertheless, wow.
His devotion to the American ideals of democracy, freedom, equality, and hope is enshrined in the Constitution. Wishing you the best on your centennial, sir! Much obliged.
Really enjoying the Norman Lear centennial special. My entire existence can be summed up in these performances. Someone else gushed, “He was so ahead of his time on almost everything, and he had such a courageous and compassionate nature.
In What Became of Norman Lear?
In addition to his successful Hollywood profession, Norman found true love with his wife, Lyn Lear. In 1987, they tied the knot. Benjamin, Briana, and Madelaine were their three children. His first wife, Charlotte Rosen, gave birth to their daughter Ellen, and his second wife, Frances Loeb, gave birth to twin daughters, Kate and Maggie.
In July of 2022, the grandfather of five turned 100 years old. For a very long time, he had been anticipating the monumental event.
The famous person told Closer Weekly in October of 2019 that he was “honing in on a hundred,” meaning that he was concentrating on reaching the age of 97. The key is for you to keep that grin on your face even if you’re talking to me at the age of a hundred.