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Thu, 07.27.1922

Norman Lear, Screenwriter, Producer, and Activist born.

Norman Lear

*Norman Lear was born on this date in 1922. He was a white Jewish-American screenwriter, producer, and progressive activist.

Norman Milton Lear was from New Haven, Connecticut; his parents were Jeanette (née Seicol) and Hyman "Herman" Lear, a traveling salesman. He had a younger sister, Claire Lear Brown. Both parents were of Russian-Jewish descent. When Lear was nine years old in Chelsea, Massachusetts, his father went to prison for selling fake bonds. Lear attended Samuel J. Tilden High School in Brooklyn, New York, graduated from Weaver High School in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1940, and attended Emerson College in Boston, but dropped out in 1942 to join the United States Army Air Forces.

He served in the Mediterranean theater as a radio operator and gunner on B-17 Flying Fortress bombers with the 772nd Bomb Squadron, 463rd Bomb Group of the Fifteenth Air Force; some of his missions were with the Tuskegee Airmen. He flew 52 combat missions and received the Air Medal with four oak leaf clusters. Lear was discharged from the Army Air Forces in 1945. After World War II, Lear had a career in public relations and decided to move to California to restart his career in publicity, driving with his toddler daughter across the country.

Throughout the 1950s, Lear and Ed Simmons turned out comedy sketches for television appearances of Martin and Lewis, Rowan and Martin, and others. Starting as a comedy writer, Lear tried to sell a concept for a sitcom about a blue-collar American family. After a third pilot, a network picked up the show, known as All in the Family. It premiered on January 12, 1971, to disappointing ratings, but it took home several Emmy Awards that year, including Outstanding Comedy Series.

Lear's second big TV sitcom was Sanford and Son. Lear had the setting in the Watts community of Los Angeles and the characters to African Americans, and stared Redd Foxx, it was an instant hit. Numerous hit shows followed after that, including MaudeThe JeffersonsSherman Hemsley, and Roxie RokerOne Day at a Time, and Good Times starring Esther Rolle. Most Lear sitcoms share three features: they were shot on videotape in place of film, used a live studio audience, and dealt with current racial, sexual, and political issues. Lear was married three times.

His first marriage was to Charlotte Rosen in 1943. They divorced in 1956. He was married to Frances Loeb from 1956 to 1985. In 1987, he married producer Lyn Davis. From his three marriages, he had six children. Lear received many awards, including six Primetime Emmy Awards, two Peabody Awards, the National Medal of Arts in 1999, the Kennedy Center Honors in 2017, and the Golden Globe Carol Burnett Award in 2021. He was a member of the Television Academy Hall of Fame. Norman Lear died at his Los Angeles home on December 5, 2023, at 101.

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