Saul Turteltaub, the prolific writer and producer who worked on “The Carol Burnett Show,” “Sanford and Son,” “That Girl,” and “What’s Happening!!” died Thursday of natural causes. He was 87.
Director Howard Murray, who worked closely with Turteltaub, confirmed the news on social media. “Just heard that one of my favorite people on the planet has died. Saul Turtletaub along with his partner Bernie Orenstein created some of the funniest sitcoms ever to grace television,” he wrote. “But that’s only a small part of his legacy. Saul was by any measure, a mensch among mensches.”
During Turteltaub’s career, he garnered three Emmy nominations, including one for the first season of “The Carol Burnett Show,” which shot the comic into stardom. He was also responsible for jumpstarting the careers of countless actors including George Clooney, Richard Pryor, Dana Carvey, Nathan Lane, Garry Shandling and Meg Ryan.
Over the course of his 50-year career, Turteltaub had 23 sitcoms under his belt. He and his writing partner Orenstein produced three ABC comedies — “What’s Happening!!,” “Carter Country,” and “13 Queens Boulevard” — under their company Toy Productions. The two also collaborated on “Sanford and Son” starring Redd Foxx, starting on the fourth season and continuing for the rest of the sitcom’s run. The duo was also responsible for episodes of “Kate and Allie,” “The New Dick Van Dyke Show,” “The Landlord,” Mickey Rooney’s “One of the Boys” and “Baby Talk” with Scott Baio.
Turteltaub was born May 15, 1932, in Teaneck, N.J. His father, Bernard, suffered from polio throughout his life and his mother, Anna, died when Saul was 11.
The writer and producer would go on to earn his bachelor’s degree from Columbia University and eventually a law degree in 1957 before heading on to television production. During the early stages of his career, he earned two Emmy nominations for “That Was the Week That Was,” and worked on “Candid Camera” as well as “Jackie Gleason: American Scene Magazine” and “Candid Camera.”
Turteltaub was also a philanthropist, aiding veterans and emerging writers.
He is survived by his wife, Shirley; his sister Helena; his two sons, Adam and Jon; and five grandchildren, Ross, Max, Jack, Daniel and Arabella.