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Television and film writer and producer. Born Norman Milton Lear on July 27, 1922. Lear grew up in a Jewish family in New Haven, Connecticut where his parents, Herman and Jeanette Lear, worked in sales. When Lear was only 9 years old, his father went to prison to serve a three-year sentence for fraud. With his father in jail, Lear turned to his uncle Jack and his grandfather Shya as role models. His grandfather wrote frequent letters to the president on the various political issues of the day. Lear later said his grandfather's political involvement taught him a lesson he never forgot: "that a citizen can matter." Nevertheless, Lear never imagined himself growing up to be a rich and famous celebrity. "All I wanted was to grow up to be a guy who could flip a quarter to a nephew," he once said.
Lear attended Emerson College in Boston, but dropped out in 1942 to join the United States Army Air Forces. He served as a radio operator and gunner during World War II, flying 52 combat missions in the Mediterranean Theater and earning the Air Medal with four oak leaf clusters. Lear left the military in 1945, and worked for four years in public relations before embarking on a career as a freelance comedy writer.
In 1950, Norman Lear teamed up with Ed Simmons to write The Ford Star Review, a musical comedy variety show that aired for one year on NBC. Although the show's run was brief, Lear and Simmons impressed comedian Jerry Lewis, who hired them to write for the Colgate Comedy Hour, where they worked until 1953. In 1958, Lear moved from writing to production, joining with director Bud Yorkin to found Tandem Productions. With Lear writing and producing, the pair produced numerous feature films, including Divorce American Style (1967), which earned Lear an Academy Award nomination in 1967.
In 1970, Lear got the idea to revamp the British sitcom Till Death Do Us Part to fit into an American context. Set in Queens, New York, All in the Family aired on CBS from 1971 to 1983 (renamed Archie Bunker's Place in 1979) and won four consecutive Emmy Awards for Outstanding Comedy Series. All in the Family was groundbreaking in many respects, helping to usher in a new era of television programs that tackled controversial and socially relevant subject matter. The show, which centered around the bigoted character Archie Bunker, examined the issues of race, sexuality, and social inequality through the lens of comedy, breaking longstanding television taboos against profanity, racial slurs, and toilet humor.
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