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Friday, December 4, 2020

‘Sanford and Son’ Writer-Producer Saul Turteltaub Dies At 87

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Emmy-nominated writer and producer Saul Turteltaub died April 9. He was 87.

Deadline reported that his youngest son, director Jon Turteltaub, confirmed that his father  died of natural causes at his Beverly Hills home. “To say this was a talented, funny, loving and beloved man is truly an understatement,” his son said in a statement reported on nj.com.

During his 50-year career, Turteltaub left his fingerprints on 23 sitcoms. He wrote for and produced such iconic 1960s and ’70s shows as “The Carol Burnett Show,” “Sanford and Son” and “That Girl.” He earned back-to-back Emmy nominations in 1964 and 1965 as part of the writing team for the TV series “That Was the Week That Was” and was again nominated in 1968 for “The Carol Burnett Show.” He frequently collaborated with television producer and writer Bernie Orenstein.

Besides “Sandford and Son,” Turteltaub and Orenstein teamed on “Kate & Allie” (1984-89), “The New Dick Van Dyke Show” (1971-74), “13 Queens Boulevard” (1979), “Carter Country” (1977-79) and others.

“Just heard that one of my favorite people on the planet has died,” director Howard Murray wrote on Facebook. “Saul Turteltaub along with his partner Bernie Orenstein created some of the funniest sitcoms ever to grace television. But that’s only a small part of his legacy. Saul was by any measure, a mensch among mensches.”

Variety.com reported that Turteltaub helped launch the careers of George Clooney, Richard Pryor, Dana Carvey, Nathan Lane, Garry Shandling and Meg Ryan.

Turteltaub was born on May 15, 1932 in Teaneck, N.J., and raised in nearby Englewood. Variety reported that his father, Bernard, suffered from polio and that his mother, Anna, died when Saul was 11.

Turteltaub earned a bachelor’s degree from Columbia University and eventually a law degree in 1957 before starting a career in the entertainment industry. He married Shirley Steinberg in 1960.

Nj.com reported Turteltaub got his start in comedy in the Catskills after a friend hired him for a routine. The website quoted him from a 2016 interview with the Television Academy Foundation about how he was inspired by comedians. “I used to admire those guys more than the singers and more than the actors because they would say something and 200 people in the audience would laugh,” he said. “So it was my job when I was doing ‘Sanford and Son’ to make 20 million people all over the country laugh at the same time and never hear it. But it was enough to hear the audience in the studio.”

Turteltaub is survived by his wife, Shirley; sons Jon (Amy) and Adam (Rhea); five grandchildren; and sister Helena Koenig.

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