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Inside Norman Lear’s marriage to wife Frances & how she inspired hit show Maude before record-setting $110m divorce

EMMY Award-winning producer Norman Lear has been married three times and one of his wives claims to have contributed greatly to his career.

Norman Lear and Frances Loeb were married for 28 years before they divorced, resulting in a $110million settlement that she benefitted from.

Norman Lear and Frances Loeb were married for 28 yearsCredit: Getty Images - Getty
Lear, now 100 years old, is known for producing a number of classic TV sitcoms in his careerCredit: Getty Images - Getty

Seasoned producer Lear is responsible for a number of classic TV sitcoms, such as Good Times and All in the Family.

He got his start in the 1950s as a comedy writer for Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis' NBC radio show.

The next decade saw Lear draft episodes of Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, as well as the Henry Fonda western series The Deputy.

He wrote the 1967 film Divorce American Style, which starred Dick Van Dyke and Debbie Reynolds, and produced a variety of popular shows that include the Bea Arthur vehicle Maude, Sanford and Son, One Day at a Time, The Jeffersons, and Archie Bunker's Place.

His second wife Frances was quick to say that she served as the inspiration for Norman's shows and characters.

''I was very much a part of his thinking,'' she told The New York Times.

''Norman could not have done his shows without me.''

Frances was widely believed to have inspired the title character on the hit show Maude, played by Arthur.

But their marriage wasn't always smooth sailing.


After a whirlwind romance, the couple married in 1956 and went on to work together on his sitcoms.

They quickly had two children together, Kate, born in 1957, and Maggie, born in 1959.

But as Norman and Frances' marriage continued, his career took off, reportedly leaving her to feel like a background character.

In a 1981 op-ed piece she penned for the Times, Frances wrote that ''unless she is under 21, powerful, or a star," a woman in Hollywood is a non-person.

The outlet reports that she once said, ''we had become he.''

After nearly three decades, the couple called it quits and divorced in 1985 - though Frances told the Times that it took her 15 years ''to work up the courage.''

Frances took some of her settlement money and started a women’s magazine called Lear’s in 1988.

She became an activist for the women's movement, civil rights, and mental health before dying of breast cancer in 1996 at age 73.

Lear is now married to his third wife Lyn Davis and they share three children together.

He has six children total, including one with his first wife, Charlotte Rosen.


Norman, who turned 100 on July 27, is being celebrated in a TV special airing on ABC.

“I’ve always believed music and laughter have added time to my life," Lear said.

"I’ve seen a lot throughout my 100 years, but I would’ve never imagined America having a front-row seat to my birthday celebration."

The special is slated to feature a variety of television stars, including Jennifer Aniston, George Clooney, Laverne Cox, Tom Hanks, Jimmy Kimmel, and more.

There are also musical performances planned, featuring Kristen Bell, Ledisi, Tracee Ellis Ross, Kelly Rowland, and others.

Norman Lear: 100 Years of Music and Laughter airs September 22 at 9pm on ABC.