He could walk through a room like nobody’s business: Sherman Hemsley, the iconic television actor who created George Jefferson for Norman Lear’s series All in the Family and The Jeffersons, has reportedly died at age 74.
The first time fans saw Hemsley embody what would eventually become a character that stayed with him for the rest of his career was on the 1793 All in the Family episode, “Henry’s Farewell.” Up until then, the hermitic George Jefferson character had gone entirely unseen, only mentioned in passing by his son Lionel (Mike Evans) and wife Louise (Isabel Sanford).
It is notoriously difficult for TV actors live up to the reputation of characters like this — one that have been built up dramatically prior to their first appearance. But from his first hot-headed bigoted exclamation from the Archie Bunker’s (Carroll O’Connor) porch, Hemsley owned that character. He matched Archie in shortness of temper and penchant for hilarious outbursts. And Hemsley would continue to rival O’Connor in laughs for the next year and a half, until he ultimately got his very own series: The Jeffersons.
At the time, television’s depiction of black families had remained largely within the limits of working and middle class characters. Notable examples include Sanford and Son and Good Times. But The Jefferson broke these bounds, illustrating a black husband and wife living in financial luxury thanks to years of hard work and entrepreneurship on the part of Hemsley’s character George.
The series went on to run for eleven seasons, tackling controversial issues like discrimination, interracial marriage, transsexuality with a progressive attitude, back when these weren't topics you'd often find on television. The show treated audiences to fan favorite farcical episodes like “Piano Man,” wherein George attempts to host a fancy dinner party to prove himself a big shot, as well as more serious and significant episodes like “Sorry, Wrong Meeting,” wherein George has a run-in with the Ku Klux Klan.
In light of his unbounded success with The Jeffersons, Hemsley carried his unforgettable character into other series, including the 1980s sitcom E/R, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, and Tyler Perry’s sitcom House of Payne, which was Hemsley’s last role.
The actor also made regular appearances on the popular family show Dinosaurs and comedy series such as Amen and Family Matters.
But as many characters as Hemsley might have on his extensive résumé — including an appearance in the music video for Nelly’s “Batter Up” — nothing can compare to the influence created by his bigmouthed dry cleaner, devoted husband, and horrible neighbor: George Jefferson. Whether he was trading racist remarks with Archie, putting down the well-intentioned Harry Bentley (Paul Benedict), or coming through in the end for his friends and family, George Jefferson, thanks to Sherman Hemsley, will remain an unforgettable piece of American pop culture history forever.
Report: Sherman Hemsley Dies at 74
Marla Gibbs Talks a The Jeffersons Movie
The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.