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Frank Sinatra in the 1963 comedy ‘Come Blow Your Horn,' screenplay by Norman Lear.

Mr. Movie: Norman Lear

He had to live to 101 to get it all in!


Norman Lear was a giant of show business, producing TV shows and movies galore. And he had five TV shows and one movie still in production when he died!


It’s no exaggeration to say that he absolutely owned television in the 1970s. Just take a quick look at his shows:


Sanford and Son, 135 episodes (1972-77)

Maude, 142 episodes (1972-78)

All In The Family, 207 episodes (1971-79)

Good Times, 133 episodes (1974-79)

One Day At A Time, 209 episodes (1975-84)

The Jeffersons, 253 episodes (1975-85)


And yet, he also had lots of movies tied to his name, usually as the main producer.

The first film of note is Come Blow Your Horn (1963) from an early comedy stage play by Neil Simon. But Lear wrote the screenplay. The film features some legendary actors: Frank Sinatra, Mollie Picon and Lee J. Cobb. Sinatra plays Allan Baker, a consummate Manhattan playboy, delighted to teach his younger brother Buddy (Tony Bill) lots of bachelor tricks. The laughs are plentiful.


And there are plenty of world-class actors in the splendid The Princess Bride (1987). Directed and Produced by Rob Reiner, with Norma Lear as Executive Producer, this film is on the National Film Registry. And it should be. It is dubbed a “fantasy adventure comedy” film. It features Carey Elwes, Mandy Patinkin, Wallace Shawn and Robin Wright. It’s the story of a swashbuckling farm boy who sets out to rescue the lovely Princess Buttercup. Many dangerous adventures, mostly funny, are encountered on the way.


Never Too Late (1965), produced by Lear, doesn’t sound funny but it is. Harry Lambert (Paul Ford) and his wife Edith (Maureen O’Sullivan) portray a married couple well into their 60s. They have grown children who are also married and have children. On a routine visit to the doctor, Edith finds out she is pregnant. A real surprise to the entire family! The tag line is good: “Last year there were twenty-two million accidents in the home. This is about one of them.” Coping with this situation makes for a bittersweet comedy. Interesting side note: No mention of the A world. This is the 1960s.


Lear executive produced Start The Revolution Without Me (1967), a frantic comedy set in medieval France. Gene Wilder and Donald Sutherland portray two sets of identical twins. One set is elite and haughty, the other set is poor and stupid. They are somehow mixed up by the populace and high jinks follow. It’s hard to find a film that divided critics and audiences more — most either loved it or hated it.


Lear took a chance and executive produced Rita Moreno: A Girl Who Decided To Go For It (2021), a documentary about the title lady’s incredible rise from Puerto Rican poverty to brilliant star. How she fought off racism, sexism and other isms is inspiring. In her fantastic career, she was featured in both versions of West Side Story, 1961 and 2021!


All of the movies in this article are pretty much OK for all ages, factoring in some boredom for littlies.