Remembering Bea Arthur

Emmy award winning actress Bea Arthur passed away last Saturday. The 86 year old actress died of cancer.

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Bea starred in the groundbreaking 70’s series Maude.  I own season one of Maude.  It was a great show.  I was a youngster when Maude made it’s debut yet I’m surprised my mom let me watch the show. It was very controversial.  My mom was such a huge fan of All In The Family that she probably didn’t mind having me watch Maude Maude was a spinoff of All In The Family and it was produced by Norman Lear who also produced All In The Family, Good Times, Sanford & Son, One Day At A Time and The Jeffersons.   All shows that I have enjoyed.

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Bea also starred in the very popular NBC series The Golden Girls.  Another great show.  You can watch it on The Hallmark Channel.

Bea won two Emmy Awards. She won for Maude in 1977 and for The Golden Girls in 1988.

Bea Arthur, Star of Two TV Comedies, Dies at 86
By BRUCE WEBER

Bea Arthur, who used her husky voice, commanding stature and flair for the comic jab to create two of the most endearing battle-axes in television history, Maude Findlay in the groundbreaking situation comedy “Maude” and Dorothy Zbornak in “The Golden Girls,” died Saturday at her home in Los Angeles. She was coy about her age, and sources give various dates for her birth, but a family spokesman, Dan Watt, said in an e-mail message she was 86.

The cause was cancer, Mr. Watt said.

Ms. Arthur received 11 Emmy Award nominations, winning twice — in 1977 for “Maude” and in 1988 for “The Golden Girls.”

She was a seasoned and accomplished theater actress and singer before she became a television star and a celebrity in midcareer, and she won a Tony Award in 1966 for playing Angela Lansbury’s best friend, the drunken actress Vera Charles, in “Mame.”

But while she was successful on stage, on television she made history. “Maude,” which was created by Norman Lear as a spinoff from “All in the Family,” was broadcast on CBS during the most turbulent years of the women’s movement, from 1972-78, and in the person of its central character, it offered feminism less as a cause than as an entertainment.

Maude Findlay was a woman in her 40s living in the suburbs with her fourth husband, Walter (played by Bill Macy), her divorced daughter, Carol (Adrienne Barbeau), and a grandson. An unabashed liberal, a bit of a loudmouth and a tough broad with a soft heart, she was, in the parlance of the time, a liberated woman, who sometimes got herself into trouble with boilerplate biases just the way her cultural opposite number, Archie Bunker, did. She was given a formidable physicality by Ms. Arthur, who was 5 feet 9 ½ inches and spoke in a distinctively brassy contralto.

The show was considered a sitcom, but like “All in the Family,” it used comedy to take on serious personal issues and thorny social ones — alcoholism, drugs, infidelity.

“We tackled everything except hemorrhoids,” Ms. Arthur said, sounding much like Maude, in a 2001 interview with the Archive of American Television, a collection of video oral histories compiled by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

In the show’s first season, Maude, at the age of 47, learned she was pregnant; her distress was evident.

“Mother, what’s wrong? You’ve got to share this with me,” Carol says. Maude’s response is typical, with barbs aimed both inward and outward, delivered by Ms. Arthur with a flash of simultaneous anger, despair and humor: “Honey, I’d give anything to share it with you.”

The two-part episode was broadcast in November 1972, two months before Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court case that made abortion legal nationwide, was decided. By the episode’s conclusion, Maude, who lived in Westchester County in New York, where abortion was already permitted, had chosen to end the pregnancy. Two CBS affiliates refused to broadcast the program, and Ms. Arthur received a shower of angry mail.

“The reaction really knocked me for a loop,” she recalled in a 1978 interview in The New York Times. “I really hadn’t thought about the abortion issue one way or the other. The only thing we concerned ourselves with was: Was the show good? We thought we did it brilliantly; we were so very proud of not copping out with it.”

“The Golden Girls,” an immensely popular show that was broadcast on NBC from 1985-92 and can still be seen daily in reruns, broke ground in another way. Created by Susan Harris (who wrote the “Maude” abortion episode), it focused on four previously married women sharing a house in Miami, and with its emphasis on decidedly older characters, it ran counter to the conventional wisdom that youthful sex appeal was the key to ratings success.

RIP Bea Arthur.

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