American Masters: Norman Lear (w.t.)
TCA Panelist Bios
Norman Lear has enjoyed a long career in television and film, and as a political and social activist and philanthropist.
Lear began his television writing career in 1950 when he and his partner, Ed Simmons, were signed to write for The Ford Star Revue, starring Jack Haley. After only four shows, they were hired away by Jerry Lewis to write for him and Dean Martin on The Colgate Comedy Hour, where they worked until the end of 1953. They then spent two years on The Martha Raye Show, after which Lear worked on his own for The Tennessee Ernie Ford Show and The George Gobel Show.
In 1958, Lear teamed with director Bud Yorkin to form Tandem Productions. Together they produced several feature films, with Lear taking on roles as executive producer, writer and director. He was nominated for an Academy Award in 1967 for his script for Divorce American Style. In 1970, CBS signed with Tandem to produce All in the Family, which first aired on January 12, 1971, and ran for nine seasons. It earned four Emmy Awards for Best Comedy series, as well as the Peabody Award in 1977. All in the Family was followed by a succession of other television hit shows, including Maude, Sanford and Son, Good Times, The Jeffersons, One Day at a Time and Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.
Concerned about the growing influence of radical religious evangelists, Lear decided to leave television in 1980 and formed People For the American Way, a non-profit organization designed to speak out for Bill of Rights guarantees and to monitor violations of constitutional freedoms. People For remains an influential and effective voice for freedom.
Lear’s business career continued in 1982, when Tandem Productions and his other company, T.A.T. Communications, were folded into Embassy Communications, which was sold in 1985. He then created and is currently chairman of Act III Communications, a multimedia holding company with interests in television, motion pictures and licensing.
In addition to People For the American Way, Lear has founded other nonprofit organizations, including the Business Enterprise Trust (1989-2000), which spotlighted exemplary social innovations in American business, and the Norman Lear Center at the USC Annenberg School for Communication (2000-present), a multidisciplinary research and public policy center dedicated to exploring the convergence of entertainment, commerce and society. In addition, he and his wife, Lyn, co-founded the Environmental Media Association (1989-present) to mobilize the entertainment industry to become more environmentally responsible.
In 1999, President Clinton bestowed the National Medal of Arts on Lear, noting that “Norman Lear has held up a mirror to American society and changed the way we look at it.” He also has the distinction of being among the first seven television pioneers inducted in 1984 into the Television Academy Hall of Fame.
In 2001, Lyn and Norman Lear purchased one of the few surviving original copies of the Declaration of Independence. During the decade that they owned it, they shared it with the American people by touring it to all 50 states. As part of this Declaration of Independence Road Trip, Lear launched Declare Yourself, a nonpartisan youth voter initiative that registered well over four million new young voters in the 2004, 2006 and 2008 elections.
Lear is married to Lyn Davis Lear and resides in Los Angeles, California. He has six children — Ellen, Kate, Maggie, Benjamin, Brianna and Madeline — and four grandchildren: Daniel, Noah, Griffin and Zoe.
Lear’s memoir, Even This I Get to Experience, was published in October 2014 by The Penguin Press. The paperback edition will be released October 27, 2015.
New York City-based filmmaker Rachel Grady is the co-director of Jesus Camp, a documentary that chronicles the Evangelical movement through the eyes of children; it was nominated for the Academy Award and broadcast in more than 40 countries. Grady also co-directed The Boys of Baraka, which was nominated for an Emmy and won a NAACP Image Award. Grady won a Peabody Award in 2011 for 12th & Delaware, which aired on HBO. Recently, Grady co-directed DETROPIA, an arresting exploration of Detroit City and its struggle to transform itself into a new and innovative place. The film won the Editing Award for Documentary at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, as well as an Emmy. In her television work, Grady, with her directing partner Heidi Ewing, has taken on an array of subjects that include the inner workings of Scientology, the criminally insane, Saudi Arabian teens and the dissident movement in Cuba. Grady and Ewing completed two films for the AOL Makers series for PBS and are currently directing a film about Hollywood legend Norman Lear for the PBS series American Masters.
American Masters Series Executive Producer
For more than two decades, award-winning filmmaker Michael Kantor has created outstanding arts programs for television. He joined American Masters as the series’ executive producer April 30, 2014.
His most recent PBS documentary series, Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle, hosted by Liev Schreiber, premiered in fall 2013 and was nominated for an Emmy Award. Random House published the companion book. In January 2013, Kantor’s Peabody Award-winning film, Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy, aired as part of the Great Performances series on PBS. Narrated by Joel Grey, it included performances by Matthew Broderick, Kelli O’Hara, David Hyde Pierce, Marc Shaiman and many other Broadway talents. In 2012, Kantor produced The Thomashefskys: Music and Memories of a Life in the Yiddish Theater with Michael Tilson Thomas, which aired on PBS and was nominated for a Primetime Emmy. Kantor served as executive producer of the special Give Me the Banjo, hosted by Steve Martin, and created Make ‘Em Laugh: The Funny Business of America, the critically acclaimed six-part documentary series, hosted by Billy Crystal, that debuted in January 2009. His script for episode four, When I’m Bad, I’m Better: The Groundbreakers, co-authored with Laurence Maslon, was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award. His landmark six-part series Broadway: The American Musical was hosted by Julie Andrews and honored with the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Nonfiction Series in 2005. That same year, he created three hours of DVD extras for 20th Century Fox’s 40th anniversary release of The Sound of Music.
Kantor wrote, directed and produced the award-winning profile American Masters: Quincy Jones: In the Pocket. With Stephen Ives, he co-directed Cornerstone: An Interstate Adventure for HBO, and produced The West (executive producer Ken Burns). His 20 years of work in documentaries include projects as varied as EGG: the arts show, Coney Island, The Donner Party, Margaret Sanger and Ric Burns’ New York series. As a writer, Kantor created Lullaby of Broadway: Opening Night on 42nd Street, co-authored the companion books to Broadway (Bulfinch) and Make ‘Em Laugh (Grand Central Publishing) and has published numerous essays and articles. He is president of Almo Inc., a company that distributes The American Film Theatre series, which includes Edward Albee’s A Delicate Balance (starring Katharine Hepburn), Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh (Lee Marvin) and Chekhov’s Three Sisters (Laurence Olivier) among its titles. Kantor has served as a Tony nominator and teaches documentary filmmaking at the School for Visual Arts in New York City.
PhotosSorry, photography is no longer in rights for the web. Please contact Thirteen's Communications Department at 212.560.3022.