Today saw the death of Tony and Emmy award winning actress, Bea Arthur after battling cancer. She was 86.
Born Bernice Frankel in New York, she served during World War Two in the US Marine Corps. Involved in drama from her school days, Arthur debuted off Broadway as Lucy Brown in “The Threepenny Opera” in 1954 and hit Broadway in 1955 where she remained until the early 1980’s.
It was her appearance as Yente the matchmaker in the original stage production of “Fiddler on the Roof” in 1964 that won her popular and critical acclaim.
A Tony award followed for her performance as the boozed-up Vera in Jerry Herman’s “Mame”, opposite Angela Lansbury, a role which she would reprise in the in the film version with Lucille Ball.
Most famous for her TV role in “Golden Girls” as Dorothy Zbornak, it was her role as Maude in “All in the Family” which propelled her onto TV screens, and into her own series “Maude”.
Maude herself was an outspoken liberal feminist and the series did not shirk from addressing serious socio-political issues, most famously that of abortion and late-life pregnancy. This episode, due to air around Thanksgiving 1972, was banned by many affiliates and eventually re-ran the following summer to a reported audience of 65 million.
Arthurs role as Maude earned her several Emmy and Golden Globe nominations and an Emmy award in 1977 for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series.