Sanford and Son


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About

The 1972 NBC television program Sanford and Son chronicled the adventures of Fred G. Sanford, a cantankerous widower living with his grown son, Lamont, in the notorious Watts section of contemporary, Los Angeles, California. Independent producers, Norman Lear and Bud Yorkin licensed the format of a British program, Steptoe & Son, which featured the exploits of a cockney junk dealer, and created Sanford and Son as an American version. Sanford and Son, The Jeffersons and Good Times, all produced by Lear and Yorkin, featured mostly black casts--the first such programming to appear since the Amos 'n' Andy show was canceled in a hailstorm debate in 1953.

The starring role of Sanford and Son was portrayed by actor-comedian Redd Foxx. Foxx (born John Elroy Sanford) was no newcomer to the entertainment industry. His racy nightclub routines had influenced generations of black comics since the 1950s. Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Foxx began a career in the late 1930s performing street acts. During the 1950s he achieved a measure of success as a nightclub performer and recorder of bawdy joke albums. By the 1960s he was headlining in Las Vegas. In 1969, he earned a role as an aging junk dealer in the motion picture Cotton Comes to Harlem, a portrayal that brought him to the attention of Lear and Yorkin.

It was Foxx's enormously funny portrayal of sixty-five year old Fred G. Sanford that quickly earned Sanford and Son a place among the top-ten watched television programs to air on NBC television. He was supported by Lamont, his thirtyish son, and a multi-racial cast of regular and occasional characters who served as the butt of Sanford's often bigoted jokes and insults. Fred's nemesis, the "evil and ugly" Aunt Esther (portrayed by veteran actor, LaWanda Page), often provided the funniest moments of the episode, as she Fred traded jibes and insults. The trademark routine of the series occurred when Fred feigned a heart attack by clasping his chest in mock pain. Staggering drunkenly he would threaten to join his deceased wife Elizabeth, calling out "I'm coming to join you, Elizabeth!"

Though enormously successful, Foxx became dissatisfied with the show, its direction, and his treatment as star of the program. In a Los Angeles Times article, he stated, "Certain things should be yours to have when you work your way to the top." At one point he walked off the show complaining that the white producers and writers had little regard or appreciation of African-American life and culture. In newspaper interviews he lambasted the total lack of black writers or directors. Moreover, Foxx believed that his efforts were not appreciated, and in 1977 he left NBC for his own variety show on ABC. The program barely lasted one season.

Sanford and Son survived some five years on prime-time television. It earned its place in television history as the first successful, mostly black cast television sitcom to appear on American network, primetime television in twenty years since the cancellation of Amos 'n' Andy. It was an enormously funny program, sans obvious ethnic stereotyping. "I'm convinced that Sanford and Son shows middle class America a lot of what they need to know..." Foxx said in a 1973 interview. "The show ...doesn't drive home a lesson, but it can open up people's minds enough for them to see how stupid every kind of prejudice can be." After Foxx left the show permanently, a pseudo-spin-off, called Sanford Arms proved unsuccessful and lasted only one season.

-Pamala Deane

CAST

Fred Sanford................................................ Redd Foxx

Lamont Sanford ....................................Demond Wilson

Grady Wilson (1973-1977) .......................Whitman Mayo

Aunt Esther (1973-1977) .........................LaWanda Page

Woody Anderson (1976-1977).................. Raymond Allen

Bubba Hoover............................................. Don Bexley

Janet Lawson (1976-1977) .........................Marlene Clark

Roger Lawson (1976-1977).................... Edward Crawford

Donna Harris ...........................................Lynn Hamilton

Officer Swanhauser (1972) ...........................Noam Pitlik

Officer Hopkins ("Happy") (1972-1976) .........Howard Platt

Aunt Ethel (1972) ....................................Beah Richards

Julio Fuentes (1972-1975)........................ Gregory Sierra

Rollo Larson......................................... Nathaniel Taylor

Melvin (1972)............................................ Slappy White

Officer Smith ("Smitty") (1972-1976) ............Hal Williams

Ah Chew (1974-1975) .....................................Pat Morita

PRODUCER

Norman Lear

PROGRAMMING HISTORY

136 Episodes

NBC

January 1972-September 1977   Friday 8:00-8:30

April 1976-August 1976   Wednesday 9:00-9:30

FURTHER READING

Bogel, Donald. Blacks, Coons, Mulattos, Mammies and Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks in American Film. New York: Garland, 1973.

_______________. Blacks in American Television and Film. New York: Garland, 1988.

Friedman, Lester D. Unspeakable Images: Ethnicity and the American Cinema. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1991.

Gray, Herman. Watching Race: Television and the Struggle for "Blackness." Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1995.

MacDonald, J. Fred. Blacks and White TV: Afro-Americans in Television Since 1948. Chicago: Nelson-Hall, 1993.

Marc, David, and Robert J. Thompson. Prime Time, Prime Movers: From I Love Lucy to L.A. Law, America's Greatest TV Shows and People Who Created Them. Boston: Little, Brown, 1992.

Taylor, Ella. Prime Time Families: Television Culture in Postwar America. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990.

Highlights
Norman Lear on how he got CBS to buy Sanford and Son with Redd Foxx, and on casting Demond Wilson
06:22
Quincy Jones on composing the theme for Sanford & Son
04:05
Bud Yorkin on working with Redd Foxx on Sanford and Son
04:14
Rita Riggs on designing costumes for Sanford & Son, and on the challenges of designing for Redd Foxx as "Fred Sanford"
09:27
Jack Shea on the cast of and production on Sanford and Son
07:31
Garry Shandling on writing a spec, and eventually three episodes of Sanford and Son
02:48
Who talked about this show

Bruce Bilson

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Bruce Bilson on single camera verses multi-camera and being fired from Sanford and Son
05:01

Reuben Cannon

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Reuben Cannon on casting for Ironside, Emergency!, The Rockford Files, Baretta, and Sanford and Son
08:44

Hal Cooper

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Hal Cooper on directing Sanford and Son
01:50

Charles Dubin

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Charles S. Dubin on directing The New People, Room 222, Of Men and Women, Sanford and Son, and The 10th Level
03:25

Lewis Gomavitz

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Lewis Gomavitz on becoming a prop master for Sanford and Son
05:01
Lewis Gomavitz on his duties as prop master on Sanford and Son
01:38
Lewis Gomavitz on the cast of Sanford and Son including Redd Foxx
01:28
Lewis Gomavitz on directing episodes of Sanford and Son
02:22

Jonathan Harris

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Jonathan Harris on guest-starring on Sanford and Son, and on his friendship with Redd Foxx
03:29

Quincy Jones

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Quincy Jones on composing the theme for Sanford & Son
04:05

Norman Lear

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Norman Lear on how he got CBS to buy Sanford and Son with Redd Foxx, and on casting Demond Wilson
06:22

Pat Morita

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Pat Morita on his longtime friendship with Redd Foxx; and on appearing as a regular on Sanford and Son
15:12

Michael Moye

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Michael Moye on writing an episode of Sanford and Son
04:59

Bernie Orenstein

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Bernie Orenstein on producing Sanford and Son with Saul Turteltaub and working with Redd Foxx
03:51
Bernie Orenstein on hiring writers on Sanford and Son and working with the cast
01:50
Bernie Orenstein on the dynamic between Redd Foxx and Demond Wilson as "Fred Sanford" and "Lamont Sanford" on Sanford and Son
03:05
Bernie Orenstein on issues with Standards and Practices on Sanford and Son
00:43
Bernie Orenstein on the Sanford and Son episodes, "Steinberg and Son" and "Fred Meets Redd" and working with Redd Foxx
04:15
Bernie Orenstein on why he thinks Sanford and Son was so successful (his answer: Redd Foxx) and Foxx's input on the show's scripts
00:58
Bernie Orenstein on why Sanford and Son ended
00:47
Bernie Orenstein on the legacy of Sanford and Son
01:02

Roscoe Orman

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Roscoe Orman on his role on Sanford and Son
00:43

Marian Rees

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Marian Rees on working on Sanford and Son
03:57
Marian Rees on the casting of Sanford and Son
02:07
Marian Rees on selling Sanford and Son to the networks
03:51

Della Reese

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Della Reese on appearing as herself on Sanford and Son with Redd Foxx
02:13

Hank Rieger

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Hank Rieger on publicity for Sanford and Son and working with Redd Foxx
01:52

Rita Riggs

View Interview
Rita Riggs on designing costumes for Sanford & Son, and on the challenges of designing for Redd Foxx as "Fred Sanford"
09:27

Aaron Ruben

View Interview
Aaron Ruben on how he came to work on Sanford & Son with Norman Lear; how he suggested the main characters be Black but the network wanted an Italian
03:58
Aaron Ruben on the difficulty of finding actors for Sanford & Son ; how Redd Foxx came to be cast
05:49
Aaron Ruben on producing Sanford & Son and working with the cast and crew
09:46

Garry Shandling

View Interview
Garry Shandling on writing a spec, and eventually three episodes of Sanford and Son
02:48
Garry Shandling on the scripts he wrote for Sanford and Son
03:27

Jack Shea

View Interview
Jack Shea on the audience reaction to Redd Foxx (and some of his off-screen antics) on Sanford and Son
01:16
Jack Shea on directing Sanford and Son; on the show's producers, premise and working with Redd Foxx
06:17
Jack Shea on diversity on television and taboo topics during the era of Sanford and Son
01:53
Jack Shea on the cast of and production on Sanford and Son
07:31

Nick Stewart

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Nick Stewart on Sanford and Son
02:45

Saul Turteltaub

View Interview
Saul Turteltaub on Norman Lear asking him and his partner Bernie Orenstein to produce Sanford and Son and Redd Foxx almost not coming back to the show for its third season
04:10
Saul Turteltaub on working with Redd Foxx on Sanford and Son
01:38
Saul Turteltaub on the end of Sanford and Son, which was the result of ABC poaching Redd Foxx
00:43
Saul Turteltaub on the Sanford and Son writers room
03:38
Saul Turteltaub on the popularity of Sanford and Son, which he attributes to Redd Foxx
01:11
Saul Turteltaub on the Sanford and Son episode, "Steinberg and Son"
00:55
Saul Turteltaub on the ensemble cast of Sanford and Son
02:43
Saul Turteltaub on Redd Foxx's input (or lack thereof) on Sanford and Son scripts
00:41
Saul Turteltaub on the legacy of Sanford and Son
00:59
Saul Turteltaub on producers Norman Lear and Bud Yorkin being hands-off on the production of Sanford and Son
01:32
Saul Turteltaub on the Sanford and Son spin-offs, The Sanford Arms and Grady
02:11

Bud Yorkin

View Interview
Bud Yorkin on developing and casting Sanford and Son
04:51
Bud Yorkin on working with Redd Foxx on Sanford and Son
04:14

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