Redd Foxx spent many years as a stand-up comic with a reputation for outrageous and bawdy humor. He built a cult following, but his break into the mainstream came when he was cast to play crotchety Fred Sanford, a character named after Foxx's brother and known for his raunchy, loud-mouthed comic style (although admittedly he did have to tone it down a bit for network TV).
Before Sanford and Son
, Foxx made a handful of classic guest appearances on such popular series as The Lucy Show
, The Addams Family
, Mr. Ed
and Green Acres
, as well as in the hilarious feature film farce Cotton Comes to Harlem
. Foxx took care of his friends by getting them guest spots on the show, including a regular spot for his former comedy partner Slappy White. In the 1980s he ran afoul of the IRS and lost many of his assets, but launched a comeback starting with his appearance alongside Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy in 1989's Harlem Nights
. He began a successful run on a new Murphy-produced series, The Royal Family
, in 1991, but had a heart attack during rehearsals and died. The shows had just seven episodes in the can at the time of Foxx's death, and despite its initial success the Family couldn't bounce back following the loss of its charismatic lead.
Fred Sanford is nobody's fool. He's the owner of a junkyard that he runs with his son, Lamont. Fred is full of get-rich-quick schemes and often meddles in the affairs of his son. One of his favorite manipulative maneuvers is to fake a heart attack whenever things aren't going his way, calling out to his dead wife, "I'm coming to join you, Elizabeth," whenever he feels it will help his cause.