Classic Cinema #32: Norman…is that you? (1976) – By Jason S. Lockard

My Name is Jason S. Lockard and I love the old African American films. The last couple of months we’ve been looking back and what was called Soul Cinema! This month we look at our final film in this series, ‘Norman is that you?’ and the star of the month is none other than the incomparable Redd Foxx!

Redd Foxx was born John Elroy Sanford on December 9, 1922 in St. Louis, Missouri and raised on the South side of Chicago. His father left when he was just four years olf and was raised by his mother, his grandmother and his minister. Sanford was referred to as "Chicago Red" the funniest dishwasher on this earth in Malcom X’s autobiography Red was Malcom’s associate in the 40s. His nickname "Red" was due to his reddish hair and complexion. He took his surname from Baseball star Jimmie Foxx.

Redd Foxx soon took to the nightclubs and gained notoriety but was considered raunchy by that time’s standards. Redd’s big break came when Dootsie Williams signed him to a long term contract with his Dooto records releasing his comedy albums which became cult favorites.

Red was one of the first black comedians to play to white audiences on the Las Vegas Strip, but his greatest and most iconic role would be on the classic TV sitcom Sanford and Son where he played Fred Sanford a junk dealer in California with his son Lamont played by Demond Wilson. Foxx used his starring role on Sanford and Son to help get jobs for his friends such as LaWanda Page, Slappy White, Grehory Sierra, Don Bexley, Skillet and LeRoy and Noriyuke "Pat" Morita. Sanford and Son ran on NBC for six successful seasons. The show was canceled solely due to his departure to star in his own variety show, but before the end of this shows run Redd costarred in our film for this month. Is that you Norman?

Norman, Is That You? was based on the 1970 play by American playwrights Ron Clark and Sam Bobrick. Ben Chambers played by Redd Foxx, is a drycleaner. His wife Beatrice leaves Ben for his brother and Ben decides to take off for New York City to visit his son, Norman, but soon finds out his son in a romantic relationship with another man, Garson Hobart.

Ben determined to set his son on the ‘straight and narrow’ path hires Mary, a prostitute, to try and entice his son into pursuing women. The attempt backfires and Ben comes to the conclusion that his son is gay and that there is nothing he can do about it so he excepts it.

You think credits roll and everyone is happy no that is when Beatrice shows up and is not only shocked to learn her son is gay, but to find Ben there. Fireworks are sure to go off! Will Beatrice except Norman’s lifestyle? Will Beatrice and Ben learn to except one another or will everything go up in smoke?! You’’ll have to watch the film to find out!

In 1980 Redd returned to the role of Fred Sanford in a brief spin-off entitled Sanford. Though this series couldn’t recapture the magic of Sanford and Son. After this Redd seemed to fall off the radar than in 1991 Redd would return to the small screen in the 1991 series The Royal Family in which he would co-star with his long-time friend Della Reese. On October 11, 1991, during a break from rehearsals, Redd suffered a heart attack on the set. Reportedly, the cast and crew thought he was doing his classic "I’m coming Elizabeth!" fake heart attack routine. However, this heart attack was real, and Foxx did not regain consciousness.

After his death Redd Foxx was given a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame on May 17, 1992. For most he will probably always be Fred Sanford but Redd Foxx stands head and shoulder above his peers as one of the great comedians of all time!

So this does it for our look back at “Soul Cinema”. Until next month this is Jason Lockard reminding you if you want to see a good movie, check out a classic!

Moral Rating: Adult themes and language
Audience: Not suitable for children
Genre: Comedy/ Drama
Length: 1 hr. 45 min.
Released: 1975
Our Rating: B-