Did you grow up watching the hilarious sitcom Chico and the Man? Perhaps one of the most underrated sitcoms produce in America! It followed the Latino Chico and his relationship with the elderly Anglo-Saxon Ed. It was one of the early sitcoms in America to show the diverse cultures that exist in the country.
The show creates by James Komack, whose brilliant writing made it a success. But much credit must also go to the Chico and the Man cast.
Sadly, some of the cast members are no longer with us and suffered tragic deaths. Let’s look back on their incredible lives and careers and remember their legacies…
One of the great American comic performers of the 1970s left us tragically and way too soon.
Freddie Prinze began his career as a stand-up comedian – performing at various nightclubs across New York City. He soon rose up the ranks of New York’s comedy scene and began performing on television. One of his earliest TV appearances was on The Jack Paar Show.
His big break came in December 1973, when he performed on The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson. Following his performance, he asks to sit and chat with Johnny Carson – which is rare for younger comedians at the time.
He would later serve as a guest host for The Tonight Show. He was in his early twenties when he became known to TV audiences.
But he became a household name when he was cast as Chico in Chico and the Man. He appeared in the show for 68 episodes from September 1974 until his death in 1977.
FREDDIE PRINZE DEPRESSIVE STATE
Fame came to Freddie rather quickly. This must have taken its toll on him as he felt depressed through much of his career. He also took drugs which further led to his depressive state. He attempted suicide on January 28, 1977, by shooting himself in the head – in the presence of his business manager Marvin Snyder.
His depression had worsened following his divorce from his wife Kathy. Freddie was rushed to the hospital following his suicide attempt and placed on life support. His family pulled him off life support on January 29, 1977. He died at 22-years-old. He is survived by his son Freddie Prinze Jr. who is an accomplished actor in his own right.
Freddie Prinze left us way too soon. But despite his short life, he left behind a great body of work, and he should be remembered as one of the great American comic talents.
Many comic performers of his generation remember him as such. When we look back at some of America’s best entertainers, his name deserves to be on any list. Fans of Freddie Prinze should think about introducing his work to newer generations who aren’t familiar with his short-lived but remarkable career.
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Jack Albertson was born in Malden, Massachusetts on June 16, 1907, as Harold Albertson. He dropped out of high school and took up different odd jobs.
He worked in a General Electric power plant and several shoe stores. But he began honing his entertainment talents when he began hustling at neighborhood pool parlors. He learned tap dancing from fellow pool hustlers and soon got involved with the vaudeville scene.
His professional entertainment career began in theatre. He appeared in several Broadway plays, including Show Boat, Girl Crazy, The Sunshine Boys, and The Subject Was Roses.
He had a prolific career in film and television as well. His film credits include roles in Miracle on 34th Street, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, the film adaptation of The Subject Was Roses, and The Poseidon Adventure.
On television, he appeared in shows as varied as Hey Jeannie!, Frontier Doctor, Pete and Gladys, The Twilight Zone, The Andy Griffith Show, The Virginian, and Mister Ed.
On Chico and the Man, he played the lead role of Ed Brown. This became one of the roles he was most remembered for. His chemistry with Freddie Prinze made them one of TV comedy’s most popular duos.
Jack Albertson truly had a wonderful career. Sadly, he suffered from colorectal cancer – being diagnosed in 1978. He kept his illness private and continued to act – with his final role as Amos Slade in the animated film The Fox and the Hound. He died in 1981 at the age of 74.
It should also be noted that his sister Mabel was an actress who appeared on the popular show Bewitched. She died 10 months after him due to complications from Alzheimer’s Disease.
The term ‘Renaissance Woman’ could have been invented just for Della Reese! Della is a prolific and versatile entertainer – truly one of a kind!
Born on July 6, 1931, in Detroit. She began her entertainment career as a gospel singer – performing with renowned gospel artist Mahalia Jackson. Later venture out on her own and sing on jazz and pop records.
Her acting career begun in the late 1960s. She had her own talk show entitled Della, which ran for almost 200 episodes. Her role as Della Rogers in Chico and the Man was one of her best-known TV roles.
Della receives acclaim for her appearance on the hit 1970s sitcom Sanford and Son. She would later team up with Redd Foxx again in the sitcom The Royal Family – which was short-lived due to Foxx’s untimely death.
DELLA REESE IN THE POPULAR SHOW
Having a few appearances in popular TV shows such as Night Court, Welcome Back Kotter, MacGyver, The Love Boat, The A-Team, and That’s So Raven.
Later generations would remember Della Reese as ‘Tess’ from the drama series Touched By An Angel. Her notable film work including roles in Harlem Nights, A Thin Line Between Love and Hate, Beauty Shop, Expecting Mary, and Christmas Angel.
We sadly lost Della Reese in 2017. She was 86 years old. The reason for her death remains undisclosed, but it’s known that she had had diabetes for several years.
She remains an icon to many. One of the best moments of Della Reese’s career is perhaps when she sang her famous song “Ease on Down the Road” on an episode of Sanford and Son. If you’re ever feeling down, you might just want to watch that scene a couple of times!
We lost another legend on November 22, 1986, when Scatman Crothers passed away. He was 76 years old and had been suffering from lung cancer.
Benjamin Sherman Crothers was born in Terre Haute, Indiana on May 23, 1910. Sherman began his showbiz career during his teens. He was a singer and played the guitar and drums – which he taught himself.
Became known for his “scat singing” which led to him adopting the moniker “Scatman Crothers.”
He made his film debut in the 1953 film Meet Me at the Fair. His notable film work included roles in The King of Marvin Gardens, The Aristocats, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest, Coonskin, Silver Streak, and, of course, The Shining!
His most popular TV role was as Louie the Garbage Man in Chico and the Man. Apart from this role, he also appeared in shows such as Sanford and Son, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Roots, Starsky and Hutch, The Incredible Hulk, Magnum PI, Charlie’s Angels, and Taxi.
Like Della Reese, he was a versatile and prolific entertainer – the likes of which we may not see for a long time! If you haven’t seen much of Scatman Crothers’ work, now is the time to get started!
Ronny Graham came into this world on August 26, 1919, in Philadelphia. He was born into a show business family, as his parents were both vaudeville performers.
Ronny taught himself to play piano and began performing with jazz bands in nightclubs. He also entertained the troops during the Second World War. In the 1950s, he began working in musical theatre. One of his early successes was writing the lyrics and sketches for the revue New Faces of 1952.
Ronny also wrote the lyrics for Bravo Giovanni.
Embarked upon a career as a television writer. He wrote 7 episodes of the popular drama series MASH. He co-wrote the screenplays for the Mel Brooks’ films To Be or Not to Be and Spaceballs.
Ronny also occasionally acted in films and TV shows. On Chico and the Man, he played the role of Reverend Bemis in the second season of the show.
He sadly left us in 1999 at the age of 79. He died from liver disease. His was a career to truly be admired. He was a self-taught artist who managed to succeed in a variety of disciplines from songwriting to screenwriting, to acting. He worked in a variety of mediums from theatre to television to the cinema. How many entertainers today could boast such a remarkable career?
Are you a fan of Chico and the Man? The show was perhaps one of the more underrated sitcoms that was produced in America.
So that brings up the question:
Do you think that a show like Chico and the Man holds uptoday? Or do we need to re-introduce it to a new set of fans so it can experience a revival?
Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments.
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