Isabel Sanford is widely known for her role as Lousie "Weezie" Jefferson on AITF and its long-running spinoff series, The Jeffersons.
|Born:||August 29, 1917|
|Birthplace:||New York City, New York, U.S.|
|Died:||July 9, 2004(aged 86)|
|Deathplace:||Los Angeles, Californis, U.S.|
|Spouse(s):||William Edward (Sonny) Richmond (?-1960) (his death)|
|Related to:||3 children, with Richmond|
|Series:||All in the Family / The Jeffersons (on both as regular character)|
|Character played:||Louise Jefferson (in Seasons 1-5 of AITF, entire run of The Jefferesons)|
Isabel Sanford (August 29, 1917 – July 9, 2004) was an American actress best known for her role as Louise "Weezy" Jefferson on the CBS-TV sitcoms All in the Family (1971–1975) and The Jeffersons (1975–1985). She is the only black actress to win a Lead Actress Emmy Award (for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series in 1981), and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Sanford was born Eloise Gwendolyn Sanford in Harlem, NY to parents James Edward Sanford and the former Josephine Perry. She was a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, and received an honorary Doctorate Degree in Letters from Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts. Sanford's mother Josephine was devoutly religious and insisted that her daughter attend church every Sunday and occasionally made her attend on weeknights. As a teenager, Sanford aspired to be an actress, but her mother discouraged her dream, as she felt that show business was "the road to degradation". Sanford disobeyed her mother and began performing at local clubs. She also performed at amateur night at the Apollo Theater. After graduating from high school, Sanford joined Harlem's American Negro Theater and the Star Players. She made her professional stage debut in 1946 in On Strivers Row and appeared in several off-Broadway productions while also working as a keypunch operator at IBM. Sanford married house painter William Edward "Sonny" Richmond with whom she had three children. Their marriage was tumultuous and they later separated.
During the 1960s, Sanford worked in the theatre industry, and in 1967 she made her film debut in Guess Who's Coming To Dinner, playing the critically acclaimed role of the maid Tillie Binks. She caught the attention of major Hollywood players, including Norman Lear, who cast Sanford in the role of Louise Jefferson in All in the Family. She almost turned down the role after receiving a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken in her dressing room. Norman Lear assured her that it was a genuine gift, and that he sent everyone a congratulatory bucket of KFC; she eventually agreed to play the part. Sanford and her TV husband, Sherman Hemsley, were so popular that The Jeffersons was spun off into its own series.
After production of The Jeffersons ended in 1985, Sanford realized that she and Hemsley were typecast by their Jeffersons' roles. So Sanford made the most of it, appearing with Hemsley in a series of advertisements for Denny's and Old Navy, and starring with Hemsley in a touring company of "The Real Live Jeffersons" stage show in the mid-1990s. She and Hemsley also made cameo appearances in films such as Sprung and Mafia! Other than those opportunities with Hemsley, Sanford was mostly limited to guest TV appearances and cameo appearances in movies, appearing in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Dream On, Roseanne, Living Single, Hangin' with Mr. Cooper, In the House and The Steve Harvey Show, as well as the extremely short-lived 1992 CBS drama Hearts Are Wild. In 1996 Sandford starred the action movie "Original Gangstas" set in urban Gary, Indiana starring Blaxploitation film stars such as Fred Williamson, Pam Grier, Jim Brown, and Richard Roundtree.
She also voiced characters on three other cartoon shows including Wait Till Your Father Gets Home, A Pup Named Scooby-Doo and Pepper Ann. In her final television television appearance, she voiced a character on The Simpsons.
Sanford spent most of her last years divided between her apartment in Los Angeles and her mansion in Atlanta, GA. Her mansion in Atlanta was once featured on Lifestyles Of The Rich And Famous. Sanford had the mansion decorated in pink and white, exclaiming that she "only used the elevator to go upstairs and uses the grand staircase to come down to 'make an entrance'."[this quote needs a citation] The breakfast area of the kitchen featured the dinette table and chairs that had been used on the set of The Jeffersons. Sanford had added photos of the show's run underneath the table's glass top.
Less than six months before she died, Isabel Sanford received, for her contribution to the television industry, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, at 7080 Hollywood Boulevard.
Sanford died on July 9, 2004, of cardiac arrest and heart disease at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California. She was a month and a half away from her 87th birthday and was interred at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills in Los Angeles.
- Robinson, Louie (January 1976). The Jeffersons Ebony. Johnson Publishing Company. ISSN# 0012-9011.
- Shattuck, Kathryn (July 13, 2004). Isabel Sanford, 86, Actress Who Portrayed Mrs. Jefferson. nytimes.com. Retrieved on February 24, 2013.
- McLellan, Dennis (July 13, 2004). Isabel Sanford, 86; Won Emmy for Best Actress in a Comedy. latimes.com. Retrieved on February 24, 2013.
- Isabel Sanford Biography. biography.com. Retrieved on February 24, 2013.
- Slater, Jack (September 1980). The Real People Behind The Jeffersons Ebony pp. 87–88. Johnson Publishing Company. ISSN# 0012-9011.