May 13, 1922 – April 25, 2009
If you watched TV in the 70's and 80's Maude and Dorothy were probably household names in your home in the U.S.
Beatrice Arthur, 'Golden Girls' star, dies at 86
Apr 25, 2009, 04:29 PM | by Steve Korn
Beatrice Arthur, an icon of '70s TV as the star of Maude, and then one of the staples of '80s TV as one of the leads in The Golden Girls, has died at age 86, according to an Associated Press report. A family spokesman told AP the Emmy and Tony Award winner had cancer, and died peacefully at her home in Los Angeles.
Arthur's best-known roles came in popular sitcoms that didn't shy away from the serious issues of the day. On Maude, which aired from 1972-1978, Arthur's pantsuit-wearing, feminist title character had an abortion, which resulted in a flurry of viewer protests. Arthur scored five Emmy nominations and one win for the role. The ribald, hilarious Golden Girls -- which over seven seasons tackled hot-button issues such as menopause, homophobia, suicide, and racism -- found Arthur playing gruff, wisecrack-spewing divorcÃ©e Dorothy Zbornak, who shared a Miami home with her mother and two loopy friends. Arthur picked up four more Emmy nods and one win as Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for the role.
In a 2005 interview with EW, Arthur recalled she "flipped" when she first read the script for The Golden Girls' pilot episode. "After all of the crap I'd been sent, here was something so bright and adult and fabulously funny," she said.
Arthur's long-time friend Billy Goldenberg, who co-created 2002's Bea Arthur on Broadway, tells EW.com that the actress was "never afraid to say anything that she believed in. The rest of us always took a moment before we said anything, maybe edited it. But she never did. And that was rather odd, because she was a very shy, private person." Goldenberg says that while Arthur would often wonder why she inspired such widespread and passionate fandom, he surmised it was the way the actress championed underdogs, "people who felt like second-class citizens," in both her on-screen and off-screen life.
EW.com will be catching up with more of Arthur's friends and colleagues as the weekend goes on. Please keep checking back for further updates:
* Mitchell Hurwitz, creator of Arrested Development, who worked with Arthur when he was a writer-producer for The Golden Girls: "I really loved her -- and gained so much from working with her. She was deeply supportive of me at the start of my career. Her warmth wasn't superficial -- it was genuine and bespoke true compassion. And it was this same inner sweetness that made her comedy so real and touching, and made her such an inspiration."
-- Additional reporting by Dan Snierson and Michael Slezak