Bea Arthur, the two-time Emmy winning star of sitcoms Maude and The Golden Girls passed away from cancer in her home in Los Angeles on Saturday. She was 86.
Remembered, of course, for playing two of the most beloved characters in the history of the small screen (abrasive multi-married liberal Maude Findlay on Maude and sensible and outspoken Dorothy Zbornak on The Golden Girls), Arthur was born Bernice Frankel in New York City on May 13, 1922. She was raised in Maryland and trained as a medical technologist but ended up as a prominent force on the Broadway stage where she gained early notoriety while appearing in musical The Threepenny Opera. Later roles on stage included Yente the Matchmaker on Fiddler on the Roof in 1964 and her Tony winning role as Vera Charles in Mame in 1966, which she revised opposite Lucille Ball for the 1974 theatrical movie.
Eventually peppering her résumé with appearances on television, Arthur honed her comedic skills as a regular player on the comedy/variety-driven Caesar’s Hour, headlined by Sid Caesar, in the 1956-57 season. She also appeared opposite the legendary comedian in The Sid Caesar Show, which came and quickly went in the 1963-64 season. After guest starring as Edith Bunker’s cousin on All in the Family, CBS commissioned a spinoff, and Maude was officially born on Sept. 12, 1972. Six years into its run, Arthur announced she was leaving the series instead of the proposed new Washington, D.C. setup. Shortly after Maude ended, Arthur made a guest appearance on the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special in 1978. Could our beloved Maude have been a “Trekkie”?
In between Maude and The Golden Girls, Arthur briefly returned to the world of sitcoms in Amanda’s, a carbon copy of British series Fawlty Towers, which aired in early 1983. In 2000, she received her 10th, and final, Emmy nomination for a guest spot on Fox comedy Malcolm in the Middle. And most recently, Arthur appeared as Larry David’s mother in a 2005 episode of HBO sitcom Curb Your Enthusiasm.
The twice divorced actress is survived by her two sons, Matthew, 47, and Daniel, 44.