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Actress Bea Arthur


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Courtesy of: ZAP2IT

Bea Arthur, star of 'Golden Girls' and 'Maude,' dies at 86

The Broadway actress and TV star died of cancer in Los Angeles.

By Claudia Luther, AP

April 26, 2009


Beatrice Arthur, best known as the acerbic Maude Findlay on Norman Lear's sitcom "Maude" and as the strong-willed Dorothy Zbornak on the long-running " The Golden Girls," died today. She was 86.

Arthur, a stage-trained actress who was a success on Broadway long before television audiences got to know her, died of cancer at her Los Angeles home, family spokesman Dan Watt told the Associated Press.

In 1966, the tall and husky-voiced Arthur won a Tony for her performance as Angela Lansbury's sharp-tongued sidekick, Vera Charles, in the original production of "Mame" on Broadway, which also was named best musical that year.

But Arthur had little experience in either film or TV when Lear spotted her singing a song called "Garbage" in an off-Broadway show, "The Shoestring Revue." In 1971, Lear brought her to Hollywood for a guest role on CBS' "All in the Family."

She played Edith Bunker's loud-mouthed cousin, Maude, who tangled with Edith's equally loud-mouthed husband, Archie Bunker, from opposite sides of the political fence. Within a year, Arthur had her own show, "Maude," which ran for six years on CBS.

In the series, Maude is living in Tuckahoe, N.Y., with her fourth husband Walter Findlay (Bill Macy), daughter Carol (Adrienne Barbeau), a grandson and a black maid named Florida (Esther Rolle), whose sassy repartee with her boss was one of the best parts of "Maude." (Rolle's character spun off into another series, "Good Times.")

"Maude" came at the onset of the feminist movement and addressed serious issues, including infidelity, death, depression and abortion, but there were always laughs. This exchange is typical:

Walter: Maude, did you wreck the car again?

Maude: Did you hear that, everybody? DID YOU HEAR THAT? Not "Maude, are you sick?" Or "Maude, are you unhappy?" Or even, "Maude, are you pregnant?" No, "Maude, did you wreck the car again?"

Walter: You're right, darling. You're absolutely right. I'm sorry. So tell me, are you sick?

Maude: No.

Walter: Are you unhappy?

Maude: No.

Walter: Are you pregnant?

Maude: Yes.

Maude's most famous line, delivered often and with withering drollery, was: "God will get you for that, Walter."

Playing Maude earned Arthur five Emmy nominations and a statuette in 1977. But, despite the show's enormous success, Arthur did not enjoy being the public face of feminism, a role she said was thrust upon her. "It put a lot of unnecessary pressure on me," she told the Chicago Sun-Times in 2001.

After Arthur left "Maude," she returned to TV briefly in 1983 for ABC's failed takeoff of the British series "Fawlty Towers," titled "Amanda's." She returned to television in triumph in 1985 as Dorothy, the divorcee on "The Golden Girls," the NBC hit that ran from 1985-92, twice won Emmys for best comedy and enjoyed a long afterlife in syndication.

"The Golden Girls" followed the lives of three older women sharing a household in Miami with Dorothy's widowed mother, Sophia (Estelle Getty), who has suffered a small stroke that frees her from the constraints of tactfulness.

Much of what made the show work was the snappy mother-daughter dialogue, with Arthur as what executive producer Paul Witt called the "isle of sanity who could look at the other three characters from the audience's perspective."

The series also co-starred Betty White as the na

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i seen the name mentioned at first i didnt know it was this person that was on the golden girls until i seen a picture posted

rip that was one of my fav show

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This was posted on You Tube yesterday.


("Sniff Swig Puff" ..... Bea and Rock Hudson)

Golden Girls was one of the better sit-coms. lol... I still tune IN to a re-run now and then.

Brilliant casting for Dorothy, Rose, Blanche and Sophia !

She'll be missed.

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I wonder if she ever knew how influential she was in the roles she played? Seriously, Maude was ahead of her time and like Dorthy, was strong willed and never afraid to speak her mind. She was always the dominant character which as a female, then an older person, was pretty impressive. Aside from being hilarious, I really loved her for setting that example. I know this is going to sound crazy because they were only tv shows... but I grew up in a home where I didn't have that kind of female role model. My mom never stood up to my dad and would, like us, take the crap he'd give out. But those characters helped me to find my own voice more and showed me other ways a female could be other than submissive and just an object. It takes a special kind of person to convey those roles successfully, and Bea Arthur really did. I can't even think of anyone who would have come close to the strength she had.

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Golden Girls was one of my favorite shows. I watched a few episodes the other night and laughed out loud. The relationship between Dorothy and her mother was the best. She shall be missed. RIP Bea, we loved you and your great sense of humor and timing.

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'Golden Girl' Actress Bea Arthur

AP Writer Bob Thomas in Los Angeles and AP Drama Writer Michael Kuchwara in New York


Actress Bea Arthur

LOS ANGELES, California -- Beatrice Arthur, the tall, deep-voiced actress whose razor-sharp delivery of comedy lines made her a TV star in the hit shows, "Maude" and "The Golden Girls" and who won a Tony Award for the musical, "Mame," died Saturday, April 25. She was 86.

Arthur died peacefully at her Los Angeles home with her family at her side, family spokesman Dan Watt said. She had cancer, Watt said, declining to give details. "She was a brilliant and witty woman," said Watt, who was Arthur's personal assistant for six years. "Bea will always have a special place in my heart."

Arthur first appeared in the landmark comedy series, "All in the Family" as Edith Bunker's outspoken, liberal cousin, Maude Finley. She proved a perfect foil for blue-collar bigot, Archie Bunker, played by actor Carroll O'Connor. Their blistering exchanges were so entertaining that producer Norman Lear fashioned Arthur's own series.

In a 2008 interview with The Associated Press, Arthur said she was lucky to be discovered by TV after a long stage career, recalling with bemusement CBS executives asking about the new "girl." Arthur recalled, "I was already 50 years old. I had done so much off-Broadway, on Broadway, but they said, 'Who is that girl? Let's give her her own series.'"

"Maude" scored with television viewers immediately on its CBS debut in September 1972, and Arthur won an Emmy Award for the role in 1977. The comedy flowed from Maude's efforts to cast off the traditional restraints that women faced, but the series often had a serious base.

Her husband, Walter, played by actor Bill Macy, became an alcoholic, and she underwent an abortion, which drew a torrent of viewer protests. Maude became a standard bearer for the growing feminist movement in America. The ratings of "Maude" in the early years approached those of its parent, "All in the Family."

However, by 1977 the ratings and audience of "Maude" started to dwindle. A major format change was planned, but in early 1978 Arthur announced she was quitting the show. "It's been absolutely glorious; I've loved every minute of it," she said. "But it's been six years, and I think it's time to leave."

The television sitcom, "The Golden Girls," which ran from 1985-1992, was another groundbreaking comedy, finding surprising success in a television market increasingly skewed toward a younger, product-buying audience.

The series concerned three retirees Arthur, Betty White and Rue McClanahan -- and the mother of Arthur's character, Estelle Getty, who lived together in a Miami apartment. In contrast to the violent "Miami Vice," the comedy was nicknamed "Miami Nice."

As Dorothy Zbornak, Arthur seemed as caustic and domineering as Maude. She was unconcerned about the similarity of the two roles. "Look -- I'm 5-feet-9, I have a deep voice and I have a way with a line," she told an interviewer. "What can I do about it? I can't stay home waiting for something different. I think it's a total waste of energy worrying about typecasting."

The interplay among the four women and their relations with men fueled the comedy, and the show amassed a big audience and 10 Emmys, including two as best comedy series and individual awards for each of the stars.

McClanahan said Arthur felt constrained by the show during its later years and in 1992 she announced she was leaving "Golden Girls." McClanahan remembered, "Bea liked to be the star of the show, she didn't really like to do that ensemble playing." The three other stars returned in "The Golden Palace," but it lasted only one season.

McClanahan first worked with Arthur on "Maude," playing her best friend, Vivian. The women quickly became close friends in real life. McClanahan recalled Arthur as a kind and caring person with a no-nonsense edge.

Arthur was born Bernice Frankel in New York City in 1922. When she was 11, her family moved to Cambridge, Maryland, where her father opened a clothing store. At 12 she had grown to full height, and she dreamed of being a petite blond movie star like June Allyson. There was one advantage of being tall and deep-voiced: She was chosen for the male roles in school plays.

Bernice -- she hated the name and adopted her mother's nickname of Bea -- overcame shyness about her size by winning over her classmates with wisecracks. She was elected the wittiest girl in her class. After two years at a junior college in Virginia, she earned a degree as a medical lab technician, but she "loathed" doing lab work at a hospital.

Acting held more appeal, and she enrolled in a drama course at the New School of Social Research in New York City. To support herself, she sang in a night spot that required her to push drinks on customers. During this time she had a brief marriage that provided her stage name of Beatrice Arthur.

In 1950, she married again, to Broadway actor and future Tony-winning director Gene Saks. After a few years in off-Broadway and stock company plays and television dramas, Arthur's career gathered momentum with her role as Lucy Brown in the 1955 production of "The Threepenny Opera."

In 2008, when Arthur was inducted in the TV Academy Hall of Fame, Arthur pointed to the role as the highlight of her long career. "A lot of that had to do with the fact that I felt, 'Ah, yes, I belong here,'" Arthur said.

More plays and musicals followed, and she also sang in nightclubs and played small roles in TV comedy shows. Then, in 1964, Harold Prince cast her as Yente the Matchmaker in the original company of "Fiddler on the Roof."

Arthur's biggest Broadway triumph came in 1966 as Vera Charles, Angela Lansbury's acerbic friend in the musical, "Mame," directed by Saks. Richard Watts of the New York Post called her performance "a portrait in acid of a savagely witty, cynical and serpent-tongued woman."

She won the Tony Award as Best Supporting Actress and repeated the role in the unsuccessful film version that also was directed by Saks, starring Lucille Ball as Mame. Arthur would play a variation of Vera Charles in "Maude" and "The Golden Girls."

"There was no one else like Bea," said "Mame" composer Jerry Herman. "She would make us laugh during 'Mame' rehearsals with a look or with a word. She didn't need dialogue. I don't know if I can say that about any other person I ever worked with."

In 1983, Arthur attempted another series, "Amanda's," an Americanized version of John Cleese's hilarious "Fawlty Towers." She was cast as owner of a small seaside hotel with a staff of eccentrics. It lasted a mere nine episodes.

Between series, Arthur remained active in films and theater. Among the movies were "That Kind of Woman" in 1959, "Lovers and Other Strangers" in 1970, Mel Brooks' "The History of the World: Part I" in 1981 and "For Better or Worse" in 1995.

The plays included Woody Allen's "The Floating Light Bulb" and "The Bermuda Avenue Triangle," written by and co-starring Renee Taylor and Joseph Bologna. During 2001 and 2002 she toured the country in a one-woman show of songs and stories, ". . . And Then There's Bea."

Arthur and Saks divorced in 1978 after 28 years. They had two sons, Matthew and Daniel. In his long career, Saks won Tonys for "I Love My Wife," "Brighton Beach Memoirs" and "Biloxi Blues." One of his Tony nominations was for "Mame."

In 1999, Arthur told an interviewer of the three influences in her career: "Sid Caesar taught me the outrageous; Method Acting Guru Lee Strasberg taught me what I call reality and 'Threepenny Opera' Star Lotte Lenya, whom I adored, taught me economy."

In recent years, Arthur made guest appearances on shows including [i"Curb Your Enthusiasm" and "Malcolm in the Middle." She was chairwoman of The Art Attack Foundation, a non-profit performing arts scholarship organization.

Arthur is survived by her two sons, Matthew and Daniel by ex-husband, Gene Saks and two granddaughters. No funeral services are planned.

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I found this interview with Rue McClanahan to be interesting. This was on EW.com Click Here!

Rue McClanahan remembers Bea Arthur

Apr 26, 2009, 02:26 PM | by Michael Slezak


Bea Arthur and Rue McClanahan rank among TV's all-time great comic matchups, first on the groundbreaking '70s sitcom Maude, and later, during seven seasons of the Emmy-winning ensemble comedy The Golden Girls. (Check out a couple of embedded YouTube clips at the end of this Q&A.) EW.com phoned McClanahan at her Manhattan home this morning to get her memories about her long-time friend and co-star, who died yesterday in Los Angeles at age 86. McClanahan described Arthur as a gentle, almost timid person who changed America's perception of what it meant to be an older woman, who finally achieved her greatest career goal at age 79, and who could tell a dirty joke with the best of 'em.

What did you learn about acting from Bea Arthur?

What I got attached to, as an actress, was her impeccable timing. And I loved playing scenes with her. She taught me, by watching her, even back during Maude, to be outrageously courageous as a comedienne, to go out on a limb, to go farther than I've ever dreamed of going. [On The Golden Girls], Blanche had to say and do things that Rue found difficult. And it would always be Bea who said [deepens voice to perfectly imitate Arthur] "Oh say it! It's funny!"

What was she like off-camera?

As a friend she was giving and loving to me. She was a very close, quiet, rather timid person, very gentle. I saw someone say something once that they didn't mean to be a cutting remark, but it hit her wrong, and she immediately burst into tears. That was not seen very often, but those emotions were right under the surface.

It's interesting to hear that, because I think a lot of fans just assumed she was as tough as Maude, as gruff as Dorothy.

Not just the public! When I first worked with her on Maude and came back to New York, actors descended upon me and said "Oooh! What was it like? Was it scary working with Bea Arthur?" I said "Good heavens! Anything but!" That height -- she was 5'10'' flat-footed -- and that deep voice, and that manner she was able to summon up, made people think she would be difficult. But she wasn't.

Any interesting quirks?

[On Golden Girls], Bea always sat in the same chair at rehearsals. Always. And she always had to have me on her right, and Betty [White] and Estelle [Getty] across the table from her. And we could not change seats from year to year, or even from week to week.

How did Bea feel about her status as a feminist icon?

Of course she was aware of it, but I tell you what meant something to Bea: Acting, performing, playing comedy and doing it well.

What did Bea mean to women of her generation? Maude and The Golden Girls both tackled a lot of issues older women face, and did so with a candor that we don't always see in Hollywood.

I think, in both of those shows, we really did change the perception of a woman's role. I don't think anybody thought that it was okay to be a feminist back when she was doing Maude. And I'm sure that [show] released a lot of inhibitions. I know The Golden Girls certainly did because I've got fan mail saying "Thank you for allowing me to act and dress like I feel." Because in those days, when you were over 50, you were supposed to be wearing certain types of clothes and behaving a certain way. And women were writing saying "Thank you, thank you, thank you for the freedom, for the release, for the permission." And I'm sure Bea got that same kind of fan mail, too.

Later in life, Bea didn't shy away from racier fare. She did an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, she participated in the Pamela Anderson roast...

She did quite a few roasts. She came from the theater, remember. And the theater tends to be more bawdy, more gritty than television. She understood that kind of humor. She had a one-woman show on Broadway -- I'm so glad she got to do that. And she told some pretty raunchy jokes, live on stage. In fact, a couple that were just a bit too much for me! [Laughs.] But boy she could tell a dirty joke. Oh my God, she was funny!

It couldn't have been easy pulling off a one-woman Broadway show at that stage of her life.

That woman was [about to turn] 80. She looked like a million bucks. What a beautiful costume she had on. And that's all she wanted to do, she told me way back when we were doing Maude: "All I want to do is sing in front of an orchestra." She did Broadway musicals before she ever got picked up to do that All in the Family episode that was the beginning of her television career. And she was always pissed off that she was so old when it happened. When I went out to do Maude, I was about 38 and she was about 50, I guess, and she said "it just makes me so mad that it came so late in life!" [Laughs.] She'd been trying all of her young acting career to get some fame and attention.

What was Bea's lasting contribution to TV history?

What's any great star's lasting contribution? What's Lucille Ball's? I don

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