YouTube
YouTube

15 Big Facts About Sanford and Son

YouTube
YouTube

Based on the British series Steptoe and Son, Sanford and Son starred veteran comic Redd Foxx as Fred Sanford, a frequently-scheming junk dealer, and Demond Wilson as Lamont Sanford, his son and co-worker, and the family peacemaker. Here are some facts about the seminal series to read before "The Big One" strikes.

1. CLEAVON LITTLE WAS THE ONE WHO SUGGESTED REDD FOXX AS THE LEAD.

Cleavon Little (Blazing Saddles) was approached to work on the project, but had to say no because of prior commitments. He suggested Redd Foxx, his co-star in Cotton Comes to Harlem (1970). In the film, Foxx played a junk dealer.

2. DEMOND WILSON DIDN'T THINK THE SHOW WOULD LAST VERY LONG WHEN HE SIGNED UP.

Demond Wilson caught the attention of executive producer Bud Yorkin during a guest appearance on All in the Family in 1971, where he played a burglar who broke into Archie Bunker's house. "I thought about it long and hard and decided to take a chance," Wilson later said of saying yes to Sanford and Son. "Redd and I thought we could grab some quick cash, plus notoriety, then move onto the next project.” 

3. CBS PASSED ON THE SHOW, AND REGRETTED IT FOR YEARS.

Wilson and Foxx first met each other in Las Vegas, where Foxx was doing stand-up. Four days after their first reading together, they performed in front of the All in the Family cast, where a visiting NBC vice president witnessed the future and ordered a pilot. Yorkin claimed he was unable to get any CBS officials to watch Foxx and Wilson's rehearsals. "It was one of the stupidest things I did at CBS," the network's then-president Fred Silverman admitted. "We had All in the Family on the air and Bud and Norman [Lear] came in with the idea, and it was called Steptoe and Son. They failed to mention that Redd Foxx was on it, or that it was going to be a black show. They never said that. And they just described it and I said, 'Well, I don't understand, you are selling us a show we already have. I mean, we have All in the Family and this sounds like Archie and Meathead."

4. QUINCY JONES COMPOSED THE THEME SONG.

Quincy Jones was skeptical of Sanford and Son, because he had worked with Foxx decades earlier in shows, and recalled not one word out of the comedian's mouth being appropriate for NBC. "I just wrote what he looked like," Jones said about his composition "The Streetbeater," the series' theme song. "It sounds just like him, doesn't it?"

5. FOXX WORE MAKEUP TO LOOK OLDER.

Foxx, who was nicknamed "Chicago Red" because of his hair color, was only 49 years old when the series began; Fred Sanford was 65. He complained that a lot of people assumed he was Fred's age.

6. THE HEAVY SHOES WERE WHAT TRANSFORMED REDD INTO FRED.

"Just as soon as I put those big heavy shoes on and walk out there, I become Sanford—but not until then, not until I put my shoes on," Foxx said. "I can put the rest of the outfit on, but if I don't have those shoes on, I don't walk like him, and I don't think like him."

7. FRED SANFORD WAS NAMED AFTER REDD'S BROTHER.

It was the comedian's tribute to his brother, who had died five years before the show premiered. Lamont Sanford was named after Lamont Ousley, one of the two other teenagers who made up the washtub band Foxx formed when he dropped out of high school after just one year. The character Grady Wilson (Whitman Mayo) was named after Demond Wilson, whose full name is Grady Demond Wilson.

8. FOXX BASED THE HEART ATTACKS ON HIS MOTHER.

"Fred Sanford is Mary Sanford, who is my mother, but you can reverse personalities into male or female," Foxx told Sammy Davis Jr. on Sammy and Company. "My mother would do the same thing ... she would have heart attacks when I was a kid, I remember. When she wanted something done she could hardly breathe—she had emphysema, she had cancer, she had lumbago, she had whooping cough."

9. LAWANDA PAGE WOULD HAVE BEEN FIRED IF IT WASN'T FOR FOXX.

LaWanda Page was the only actress Foxx wanted to play Fred's sister-in-law, Esther. Page was too nervous to give an audition producers liked, but Foxx insisted. "They were going to let me go," Page told Jet magazine in 1977, "but Redd said, 'No, you ain't gonna let her go. That's LaWanda and I know she can do it! Just give me some time with her.'"

10. RICHARD PRYOR AND PAUL MOONEY CO-WROTE TWO EPISODES.

The legendary comedians co-wrote two episodes of Sanford and Son together during the show's second season, "The Dowry" and "Sanford and Son and Sister Makes Three."

11. FRED SANG ALONG TO THE INK SPOTS BECAUSE FOXX WAS A HUGE FAN.

Foxx was initially an aspiring singer. 

12. FOXX WALKED OFF THE SHOW DURING SEASON THREE.

For the final six episodes of the third season, Grady was put in charge of the business while Fred Sanford was in St. Louis attending his cousin's funeral because Foxx had walked off the show. Foxx and his physician claimed the actor was suffering from "nervous exhaustion, claustrophobia, and calcification between the fifth and sixth vertebrae in his back" thanks to the show, and his marriage of 17 years was falling apart because of his busy schedule. NBC and Tandem Productions claimed Foxx "appeared at the studio flaunting a pearl-handled revolver" and had already received a salary bump up to $25,000 an episode, from his initial $6000. Tandem Productions sued Foxx and Wilson—who had joined Foxx at the start of season four out of solidarity—for $10 million, claiming breach of contract.

13. THERE WAS A FAILED SPINOFF AND TWO FAILED REVIVALS.

Before Sanford and Son ended its run, Grady moved out of Watts and in with his daughter in Westwood in Grady (1975-1976), a spinoff that lasted just 10 episodes.

After Sanford and Son ended 1977, NBC tried to keep the party going without Foxx, who left to do a variety show on ABC, and Wilson, who refused to keep the show going due to a salary dispute. In Sanford Arms, Phil Wheeler (Theodore Wilson) moved into Fred and Lamont's house after the two moved to Arizona. Phil and his two teenage children attempted to turn the rooming house next door into a successful hotel. Grady, Bubba (Don Bexley), and Esther also appeared. It lasted for four episodes.

Sanford (1980-1981) brought back Foxx, but Wilson again refused to reprise his role. The events of Sanford Arms were ignored, and this time Lamont left to work on the Alaska Pipeline. He was replaced in the business by Cal Pettie (Dennis Burkley), an optimistic Texan. NBC canceled it after 19 episodes, burning off the final seven over the summer of 1981.

14. THE SANFORD AND SON SALVAGE TRUCK WAS PURCHASED FOR $3500.

Foxx had kept the 1951 Ford F1 at his own Las Vegas home after the original series ended, returning it briefly to NBC for Sanford. At an auction, Bill Milks bought it, and Donald Dimmitt of Dimmitt's Salvage in Argos, Indiana purchased it from Milks in 1987 for $3500.

15. WHEN FOXX SUFFERED A HEART ATTACK ON THE SET OF THE ROYAL FAMILY, HIS CO-STARS THOUGHT HE WAS DOING THE BIT FROM SANFORD AND SON.

Foxx collapsed on October 11,1991, during rehearsals for his new sitcom, The Royal Family. "They were rehearsing on the set and clowning around, and Redd was sort of breaking people up when he collapsed," a spokeswoman for the show told The Los Angeles Times. "They all thought he was joking around at first, and then they called the paramedics."

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Twentieth Century Fox
Big Is Coming Back to Theaters for Its 30th Anniversary
Twentieth Century Fox
Twentieth Century Fox

Break out your giant piano: Big is coming back to theaters! As Entertainment Weekly reports, the hit Tom Hanks-starring comedy will be making its triumphant return to the big screen to celebrate the film’s 30th anniversary, courtesy of Turner Classic Movies and 20th Century Fox.

Though the movie itself was released on June 3, 1988, these special anniversary screenings will take place next month. More than 700 theaters across the country will welcome Big back into cinemas on July 15 and July 18, with 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. screenings on both days.

Though the role of Josh Baskin—a teenager who magically gets his wish to be a grown-up, with both hilarious and dramatic complications—seemed tailor-made for Hanks and his talents, the production wasn’t all smooth sailing. Originally, Steven Spielberg (whose sister co-wrote the script with Gary Ross) was attached to direct, with Harrison Ford in the lead. When Penny Marshall came on board, Hanks was her first choice, but he passed on the part (as did Kevin Costner, Warren Beatty, Albert Brooks, and a string of other in-demand actors). Robert De Niro was attached for a time, but that eventually fell apart, too.

Fortunately, the project came full circle and Hanks was eventually convinced to come aboard. He earned his first of five (and counting) Best Actor Oscar nominations for the role.

Visit the Fathom Events website to find out if Big is coming (back) to a theater near you

[h/t: Entertainment Weekly]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Columbia Pictures
10 Fun Facts About Can’t Hardly Wait
Columbia Pictures
Columbia Pictures

When the teen film Can’t Hardly Wait—which was named after the Replacements song of the same name—arrived in theaters on June 12, 1998, it grossed $25,605,015 on a $10 million budget. In the 20 years since, the movie has found an even larger audience through DVD and cable. The premise follows Preston Meyers (Empire Records’s Ethan Embry) trying to connect with his dream girl, Amanda Beckett (Jennifer Love Hewitt), all the while seeking advice from his best friend, Denise Fleming (a pre-Six Feet Under Lauren Ambrose).

Originally called The Party, most of the movie takes place during a rambunctious graduation party, featuring a before-they-were-famous cast, and Jenna Elfman as a stripper dressed as an angel. The movie culminates with Preston and Amanda sealing their romance and living happily ever after. Written and directed by Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan, the two would later team up for Josie and the Pussycats. Here are 10 fun-filled facts about the ’90s teen comedy.

1. THE PLOT WAS BASED ON LOGISTICS.

Can't Hardly Wait was Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan’s directorial debut, so they liked the idea of having a self-contained and low-budget story to direct. “It was all practical,” Elfont told TIME. “The idea of doing a movie set at a party came first, because it seemed like it would be really cheap to shoot a movie in one location. Then we thought, what hasn’t been done? Nobody’s really done a high-school movie in a while. So we kind of fell into it that way. It was kind of an accident.”

2. SEVERAL SCENES IN THE FILM WERE CHANGED TO AVOID AN R RATING.

A year before the raunchy American Pie was released and jumpstarted R-rated teen films, Can’t Hardly Wait got watered down to get a PG-13 rating. Sony had issues with the underage drinking, and the fact there was no parental supervision at the party. “Well, who would have a high school party and have your parents there?!” Hewitt asked the Los Angeles Times. Seth Green, who played the virginal Kenny Fisher in the movie, gave a rundown of deleted or altered scenes, to Vulture.

“When [Jennifer] Love [Hewitt] first walks into the party, there’s a kid behind her holding a balloon and covering his mouth,” he said. “That used to be a beer bong, but the most expensive CG in the movie was [used] to make it [look] like that kid was smiling and holding a balloon. And then, there’s a scene where Charlie [Korsmo] and Peter [Facinelli] are at the piano. They toast, and then they cut to a wide shot where neither of them are drinking and then cut back to a close-up of them putting their glasses down because you can’t show the kids drinking.”

3. ETHAN EMBRY FORCED HIS WAY INTO PLAYING THE LEAD.

“It had been a while that I had the opportunity to play the ‘guy that gets the girl,’” Embry told VH1. “I had done those roles when I was a lot younger and this was the first time that someone would see me as a lead.” After Embry auditioned for the movie, he got offered the William Lichter part, which eventually went to Charlie Korsmo. But Embry turned the supporting part down. “I wanted to play the guy who gets the girl. That was sort of the driving thing.”

4. MELISSA JOAN HART AND JENNIFER LOVE HEWITT GOT “HIGH” ON B12 VITAMINS.

Hart purposefully chose the small role of the manic Yearbook Girl, as she was working full-time on Sabrina the Teenage Witch and couldn’t fit in a bigger part. While filming a night scene with Hewitt, Hart took B12 vitamins to stay energized, and offered them to a skeptical Hewitt, who thought the vitamins were drugs. “I finally convinced her it’s a vitamin, you can do it,” Hart told TV Guide. “So we took B12 vitamins, and then there was an owl in the tree. [Hewitt] was like, ‘See I’m high now, because there’s not really an owl in the tree.’ We were having these silly night giggles and just attributing it to B12 vitamins.”

5. JASON SEGEL HAD A CAMEO.

The actor was a year away from starring on Freaks and Geeks and seven from How I Met Your Mother when he signed on to play Watermelon Guy. Kaplan and Elfont recognized his talent immediately. “We knew how funny Jason was but there wasn’t a bigger part for him, so we were, like, let’s cast him as this watermelon guy,” Elfont told TIME.

Many other actors either got their start in the movie or became more famous as a result, including Lauren Ambrose and Freddy Rodriguez (both from Six Feet Under), Clea DuVall, Selma Blair, and Sean Patrick Thomas. “Everyone in that age range came in to read because there were no other jobs,” Kaplan told TIME. “That whole crop of people who turned out to be so talented and do so well for themselves afterward were in our movie literally, I think, because there was nothing else for them to do.”

6. EMBRY DOESN’T REMEMBER MUCH ABOUT THE SHOOT.

Embry admitted to VH1 to being “the world’s biggest stoner” while making the film. “Nothing sticks out because I was so stoned the entire time,” he said. He also confessed, “I haven’t seen the movie all the way through ... I never read the script.”

One thing he did remember, though, was the only scene he filmed with Hewitt, at the end of the movie. Before their characters kissed at the train station, Hewitt—knowing he smoked—had a basket of breath mints sent to Embry’s trailer. “And there was a basket of breath mints, you know? Like real pretty,” he said. “Like almost you give somebody flowers or a fruit basket but she gave me 50 breath mints. And it’s all different types. It was all very sweet. And that always makes me laugh thinking of that. Aww, Jennifer wanted me to smell good.” Embry took advantage of the gift and popped some breath mints into his mouth before filming. “They were rather nice cottonmouth alleviators,” he said during a Reddit AMA.

7. EMBRY DOESN’T KNOW—OR CARE—WHAT HIS CHARACTER'S LETTER SAID.

Early on at the party, Amanda finds and reads Preston’s letter and spends the rest of the film trying to find him. It must’ve been a powerful letter, because it finally brings them together at the end. “It was a prop! It was an envelope,” he told VH1. “I think I remember the directors asking me if I knew what was in there. It was a prop. It doesn’t matter. Like I know what’s in there? It’s called acting.”

8. THE CAST WOULD LOVE TO DO A SEQUEL.

In 2015, some of the cast reunited at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery for a screening of the film. Hewitt tweeted: “Can’t Hardly Wait reunion movie anyone? Let’s get them to make it!” In a 2013 interview with VH1, Embry was tepid about a sequel. “Maybe if they paid me more than last time,” he said about a second one. “[He and Amanda] would have to not be together anymore. Amanda and him had a horrible breakup and there were kids involved. He drinks himself silly over a typewriter. I’d make that sequel.” But in a 2015 interview with The Huffington Post, Embry changed his tune. “Of course I would be thrilled to work with any of the players involved again,” he said. “If all the stars aligned, I would be happy to entertain that possibility.”

Peter Facinelli, who played Amanda’s ex-boyfriend Mike Dexter, told IFC his thoughts on a sequel. “You know how the whole movie takes place at the high school party? We could have the whole movie take place at the reunion. I thought it’d be a fun movie.”

9. PETER FACINELLI THINKS MIKE DEXTER TURNED INTO A LOSER.

If a sequel did occur, Facinelli has an idea about what happened to Mike. “Now he’s basically the loser,” he told IFC. “The nerd was the loser in the first movie. Now he’s like the loser and then he kind of climbs back and gets back on his horse. And the nerdy kid is now the Bill Gates who is kind of like the Mike Dexter, bossing everyone around. I think [Dexter’s] just literally a loser. He’s filled with self-doubt and he would basically rise to self-confidence again and come back on top.”

10. EMBRY THINKS PRESTON AND AMANDA ENDED UP WITH WEIRD JOBS.

VH1 asked Embry where he thinks the characters would be today, and he said: “She’s j*rking off dudes in Vancouver, and he’s making horror movies in upstate New York.”

Elfont took a more serious approach to the question, for TIME. “[The on-screen text at the end of the movie] says they’re still together,” Elfont said. “Who am I to argue?”

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios