Norman Lear is one of the most influential people in the history of television. His groundbreaking comedies exposed a nation to heretofore taboo topics such as bigotry, homosexuality, menopause and premarital sex. The cornerstone to this empire was the wildly successful “All in the Family” show starring Carroll O’Connor as the bigoted Archie Bunker and Jean Stapleton as his wife, whom Archie called “Dingbat.” Other shows in his stable included “Sanford and Son,” “Maude,” “The Jeffersons,” “One Day at a Time” and late-night cult serial “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.”
Lear attended Emerson College in Boston before dropping out to join the Army Air Force where he flew 50 combat missions as a radio operator and gunner during World War II. After the war ended he turned to his first love of writing where he started as a Broadway press agent. Soon after he moved to Los Angeles, where he sold baby pictures while trying to find work as a full-time writer.
He started selling jokes to local entertainers and soon caught the eye of Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin and started writing for “The Colgate Comedy Hour.” From there he was in demand writing for shows that featured Tennessee Ernie Ford, Martha Raye and George Gobel, on whose show he got his first directing opportunity.
He eventually met up with creative partner Bud Yorkin in the late 1950s. But it wasn’t until the 1970s, after continuing to do every job in television from writer to executive producer, that he started cranking out hit after hit.
“All in the Family,” based on the British sitcom “Till Death Do Us Part,” was a midseason replacement on CBS, premiering Jan. 12, 1971. By May, it was the No.1 show on television, a position it held for five years. “Maude” and “The Jeffersons” were successful spinoffs.
He won four Emmy Awards (his shows won many more), was nominated for an Academy Award in writing for “Divorce American Style,” a Peabody Award and was given the National Medal of Arts in 1999 from President Clinton. He was also one of the first seven people inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 1984.
Lear has also made a name for himself as a political activist and a frequent fundraiser for mostly liberal causes and candidates.
|1967||Best Original Screenplay||Divorce American Style||Nomination*|