Esther Anderson (Sanford and Son)
|First appearance||"The Big Party"|
|Last appearance||"Here Comes the Bride: Part Two"|
|Created by||Norman Lear and Bud Yorkin, based on Albert Steptoe created by Galton and Simpson|
|Portrayed by||LaWanda Page|
|Spouse(s)||Woodrow "Woody" Anderson|
|Children||Clifford Daniel "Cliff" Anderson (son) (adopted)|
|Relatives||Elizabeth Winfield Sanford (sister; deceased)
Flossie Winfield (sister)
Essie Winfield (mother)
Elroy Winfield (father)
Ethel Winfield (sister)
Minnie Winfield (sister)
Ellen Winfield (sister)
Hazel Winfield (sister)
Fred Sanford (brother-in-law)
Lamont Sanford (nephew)
Rosetta (sister) and husband Paul
Elisie (sister) and husband Edgar.
Esther Winfield Anderson, known and feared as "Aunt Esther", is a fictional character from the television series, Sanford and Son. She was played by actress LaWanda Page, a long-time friend of the series' star, Redd Foxx. Page was Foxx's first and only choice to play Esther.
Foil for Foxx's character
At first, Fred's main foil on the show was in his sister-in-law and Lamont's aunt, Ethel (Beah Richards). Ethel's involvement in the Sanfords' family squabbles lasted only midway through the second season, whereupon she was replaced with her more tart-tongued sister, Esther.
Fred and Esther's relationship as in-laws went on to become a major part of the series' legend, as each time Esther appeared, Fred would insult her and audiences were drawn to the show in greater numbers. Conversely, Esther's disdain for Fred stemmed back to when he and Elizabeth were dating; she had disapproved of Fred marrying her sister. He would often contort his face upon Esther's entrance and make disparaging remarks to her, comparing her with King Kong and Godzilla. Despite his stubbornness, Fred would sometimes redeem himself with acts of kindness toward Esther.
Esther Anderson is the Bible-toting sister-in-law of Fred Sanford. She is a staunchly religious Baptist who finds little use for humor and often criticizes Fred. Elizabeth, Esther's younger sister, was married to Fred, and Esther and the rest of the Winfield family were against the marriage from the outset. However, Esther often expressed that if anything good came out of the marriage it was her nephew, Fred's son, Lamont.
Lamont adored his aunt Esther, and would, against Fred's and Grady's wishes, allow her to stay in their house and often defended her against their insults. Since Esther and her family were the only real connection he had to his late mother, Lamont welcomed her often. She, in turn, was there to counsel Lamont on his life, and did her best to help him to get out of living in his father's junkyard house. She did so because she felt that Elizabeth would not have wanted Lamont, whom Esther felt was very intelligent, to remain in such a limited life.
Fred responded to Esther's entrances by making exaggerated grimaces. He would then proceed to insult her, likening her to animals and fictitious movie monsters. Fred often focused on Esther's looks, once telling her, "I could stick your face in some dough and make some gorilla cookies!" He also often insulted her by calling her "ugly" and pronouncing it Ug-leee!.
Esther's usual reactions to Fred's antics were to cringe and say, "Watch it, sucka!" Sometimes, cracking from the constant barrage of insults, she would swing her purse wildly in Fred's direction while angrily calling him a "fish-eyed fool" or "heathen". Once, during a public prayer, Esther made reference to Fred, calling him a "Snaggle-toothed jackass." She also clashed with Fred's friend, Grady Wilson, whom she also disliked due to his friendship with Fred.
Despite their constant arguments, some episodes reveal that Esther and Fred actually cared about each other, such as when Fred helped her adopt a child. In one episode, Fred gave Esther $100 he won gambling to help her church, leaving him 35 cents.
Esther's long-suffering but loving alcoholic husband Woodrow (played by Raymond Allen) began appearing infrequently later in the series. Woodrow was massively inebriated and somewhat henpecked. He eventually became sober so he and Esther could adopted a young orphan, Daniel, played by Eric Laneuville in "Aunt Esther Meets Her Son".
In the final two seasons of Sanford and Son, as well as its failed spin-off Sanford, Esther lived next door to Fred at the Sanford Arms, the boarding house owned and run by Fred, which was located next to his junk shop.
Esther was a devout churchgoer, always armed with the Bible, and whenever she went to do battle with Fred, which was often, she was usually aided by some women from her church, or by her drunken husband, Woodrow; or would simply show up at Fred's house quoting the Bible. Usually, at any random moment, even in mid-sentence, Esther would throw her hands up and exclaim, "Oh, Glory!" (though it came out as H'ah Glory), even during her most heated arguments with Fred. Her upright image was deflated when it was revealed that in her youth, a man called "Big Money Grip" had sneaked into her bedroom and had sex with her. Grip had mistaken Esther for the beautiful Elizabeth in the dark, which led Grip to claim he was Lamont's real father. Ironicially, Page's convincing portrayal of the "church lady" image of Aunt Esther lay in direct contrast to the "blue" material of her stand-up act and record albums.