LOS ANGELES (AP) — Bud Yorkin, a director and producer who helped forge a new brand of topical TV comedy with the 1970s hit “All in the Family,” died Tuesday, a family spokesman said. He was 89.
Yorkin died at his home in the Bel Air area of Los Angeles of natural causes, Jeff Sanderson said. Yorkin, who started as a writer and director in the early days of TV, made his biggest mark after joining writer-producer Norman Lear to form Tandem Productions.
Tandem turned out a number of movies and TV shows in the 1960s before Yorkin and Lear adapted the English comedy “Till Death Us Do Part” as “All in the Family” with star Carroll O’Connor in 1971. After the CBS sitcom became an unexpected hit with its unvarnished take on race, women’s rights and other social issues, Tandem produced a string of more successes including “The Jeffersons,” ”Sanford and Son” and “Maude.”
The sitcoms were embraced by TV viewers who had been spoon-fed bland, carefully sanitized fare. In a statement, Lear recalled starting his partnership with Yorkin in 1959, the year that a Fred Astaire TV special directed and written by Yorkin won multiple Emmy Awards.
“His was the horse we rode in on and I couldn’t love or appreciate him more,” Lear said. It was Lear, 93, a social activist who is still developing projects, who became best known for Tandem’s groundbreaking TV series.
Yorkin also directed for the big screen, with credits including “Arthur 2: On The Rocks,” ”Start The Revolution Without Me” and “Come Blow Your Horn.” He was a producer on the planned sequel to Ridley Scott’s 1982 science- fiction film “Blade Runner,” set to begin production next year, Sanderson said.
Born in Washington, Pennsylvania, in 1926, Yorkin served in the Navy during World War II and later earned a degree in electrical engineering from Carnegie Mellon University (then Carnegie Technical), according to Sanderson.
But his comedic skill took him into TV, where he began working as a stage manager and then writer for “The Colgate Comedy Hour.” He became a favorite director for variety series including “The Dinah Shore Show” and “The George Gobel Show.”
After his partnership with Lear ended in the 1980s, Yorkin joined with others to create a new company that produced sitcoms including “What’s Happening,” set in Watts, and “Carter Country,” a comic take on the film “In The Heat of the Night.”
He is survived by his wife, actress Cynthia Sikes Yorkin, sons David and Michael, daughters Nicole and Jessica, and four grandchildren. A private funeral is planned.