Fred G. Sanford
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|Fred G. Sanford|
|First appearance||"Crossed Swords"|
|Last appearance||"To Keep a Thief"|
|Created by||Norman Lear and Bud Yorkin, based on Albert Steptoe created by Galton and Simpson|
|Portrayed by||Redd Foxx|
|Spouse(s)||Elizabeth Winfield Sanford (deceased) (1916-1947)|
|Children||Lamont Sanford (son) (born September 27, 1940)|
|Relatives||Frances Sanford Victor (sister)
Esther Winfield Anderson (sister-in-law)
Essie Winfield (mother in-law)
Elroy Winfield (father in-law)
Leotus Sanford (uncle; deceased)
Foxx, whose real name was John Elroy Sanford, modeled the character after his real-life brother, whose name was also Fred Sanford. The character Fred is an elderly, widowed, sarcastic, and cantankerous junk dealer. He is the proprietor of "Sanford and Son", a junk and antique dealership which he ran out of his home, along with his son Lamont. Foxx appeared in all but 9 of the episodes of the series, the exception being because Foxx had a contract dispute with NBC in 1974.
Fred G. Sanford was born in St. Louis, Missouri on January 21, 1908. In 1946, he, his wife Elizabeth Winfield and their son Lamont (Demond Wilson) moved to the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles. Fred was left with the responsibility of rearing Lamont alone after his wife suddenly died. Lamont dropped out of high school, subsequently joining his father in the junk business. Lamont, as he was known, was actually his middle name. Fred and Elizabeth could never decide on a first name. Lamont was also however known as "Lamont Grady Sanford".
Fred is portrayed as being irritable and wanting everything done his way. He is known for grouchy disposition, his bad cooking, and his innumerable delusions of grandeur. He is bow-legged and walks with an affected stagger, presumably brought on by arthritis. Fred never gives much credit to his son Lamont, believing him to be gullible and unintelligent. He most often refers to Lamont as a "big dummy". Unhappy about his calling as a junk man, Lamont accepts his plight more for the love of his father than the junk business itself. Fred often involves himself in various get-rich-quick schemes, and as such, Lamont has to keep constant watch over his father. When Lamont would express an interest in having a life for himself, Fred would try to convince him of the importance of running the family business (which he referred to as "the empire") after he is gone. Fred often feigned illness in attempt to guilt his son into staying home and taking care of him whenever Lamont had plans to go out. Similarly, Fred often ruined Lamont's efforts to have a quiet romantic night at home with a lady companion (at one point, Fred repeatedly interrupted Lamont's amorous efforts so often that the young lady ended up sneaking away while Fred and Lamont argued loudly in the kitchen).
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When asked over the phone for his name, he frequently responds, "Fred Sanford. S-A-N-F-O-R-D period" or "Fred G. Sanford. The 'G' is for...", with "G" standing for a word applicable to the situation. Some instances have included "gonna cry", "genius", "gee", "grandpa", and "gompergoo". It is never revealed what the "G" actually stands for in his name. In one episode, Lamont's full name was said to be "Lamont Grady Sanford," a clue that Fred G. Sanford could be "Fred Grady Sanford." Another trademark involves Fred becoming riled by somebody, assuming a fight stance, and wildly swinging his fists in multiple directions; often he would pose the question, "How would you like one across yo' lip?" or, with fist raised, "How would you like one of these where you sneeze?". He also frequently attempts to avoid any kind of labor, especially when asked by Lamont, by referring to his arthritis (which he pronounced "arthur-itis") while holding up a deliberately gnarled fist. Fred spends much of his free time watching television (having an affinity for daikaiju films such as the Godzilla series) and drinking an alcoholic concoction of his own invention called "Champipple" (a portmanteau of champagne and Ripple). Another recurring joke is his poor vision; whenever he gets ready to make a phone call, he opens a drawer under the phone and pulls out several pairs of glasses (to help him see the phone dial) and tries each one on. The pair he picks usually doesn't improve his vision, anyway. He also often kept valuables or stashes of cash in a secret drawer in that same chest of drawers. The secret drawer would open after a series of knocks on the dresser and sometimes accompanied by foot stamps on the floor.
In what would become the character's best known trademark, when something would alarm him, or when things didn't go the way he wanted them to, Fred would inevitably have a simulated heart attack, accentuated by clutching his chest and crying out to his late wife: "Oh, this is the big one! You hear that, Elizabeth?! I'm coming to join you, honey!" (When Lena Horne guested on the program, and Lamont saw her, he reacted the same way—"I think I'm havin' one, pop! My first one and it's a big one...you hear that, mom? Your little boy's comin' to join ya...with a mustache!")
Fred often clashed with Elizabeth's older sister, Lamont's aunt Esther Anderson (LaWanda Page). Aunt Esther and her family had opposed Fred's marrying Elizabeth from the very beginning, and Fred and Esther continue their mutual animosity unabated, despite the best efforts of Lamont. Fred makes a habit of teasing Esther because he thinks she is unattractive (Fred once told Esther, "I could stick your face in some dough and make some gorilla cookies!"). For her own part, Esther took no sass from Fred, often referring to him as a "heathen", "sucka" and "fish-eyed fool", and she often tried to use her Bible to change Fred's ways (both figuratively and literally; Esther both quoted from the Bible and also often tried to whack Fred with the heavy purse that she carried it in). Much of the show's comedy came from the interplay between opinionated Fred and his strong-willed sister-in-law.
Throughout the series' run, Fred was also portrayed as being extremely prejudiced and bigoted. He often insults his Puerto Rican neighbor Julio in various ways, including deprecating his culture and making fun of his accent. He also insults Lamont's Asian friend, Ah Chew, calling him "Choo Choo" and threatening to "Really close your eyes for ya" when Ah Chew attempted to hug him. He states at one point that "ain't nothin' on earth uglier than a 90-year-old white woman." His ignorance towards other cultures causes him a severe embarrassment when a Japanese family, interested in buying Fred's land, invites him and Lamont to dinner. The grown daughter sees him eating what he mistakenly thinks are grapes, and smiles "Oh, Mr. Sanford! I am so happy! You like the fish eyes!" Perhaps the biggest affront to Fred's sensibilities came when he discovered his beloved younger sister—whom he had raised himself after their parents died—had married a white man (who was also extremely fond of hugging, further earning him Fred's ire). Despite this, one of Fred's closest friends during the series was a Jewish man named Goldstein; at one point, Fred dons a yarmulke in order to go over to Goldstein's house and eat chicken soup. During a later episode, Fred attempts to trace his family tree and is mistakenly led to believe he has Jewish ancestry.
Relationships with women
Fred was depicted as having an eye for the ladies. In addition to his longtime girlfriend Donna, Fred attempted to hook up with topless waitress "Fast" Fanny, a traveling saleswoman named Carol, and even celebrities such as Lena Horne and Della Reese. Fred wasted no opportunities to flirt with attractive women regardless of location or situation, such as nurses (at the clinic where he got screened for tuberculosis, Fred remarked that a nurse had "TB--Terrific Body"; similarly, when an attractive nurse came into his hospital room offering a back rub to calm him down, Fred immediately began primping once she left the room), stewardesses (a running gag in the episode where Fred takes his first plane trip involved his constant leering at the attractive stewardess whenever she walked away), and receptionists (when the receptionist at the dental clinic said "I just need to have you answer a few questions," Fred came back with "And may I ask you one or two questions as well.") Lamont once remarked to Fred "You're just a dirty old man!"; Fred immediately replied, "And I'm gonna be one until I'm a dead old man."
Fred is also very untrusting of Lamont's friend Rollo (Nathaniel Taylor) often referring to him as a convict because of his style. Fred has two best friends, Grady Wilson (Whitman Mayo) and Bubba Bexley (Don Bexley). Even though Fred thinks the two are dim-witted, he knows that they are more than reliable and can always lend him a helping hand.