Bea Arthur will forever be known for Maude and The Golden Girls. But the reality is, like most she did so much before she attained the fame and notoriety that came with a hit show on network tv in the 1970's. As with all overnight successes, she spent 30 years becoming that overnight success. We don't always see all that someone does to get to the top, and we ignore "The Hungry Years" as Neil Sedeka put it.
Bea Arthur had a 30 year career on stage, broadway and film before she seemingly hit it big overnight with Maude. After she walked away from The Golden Girls she went back and did what she loved: the stage. It may not have been high profile, but the quality of the work and the satisfaction is just the same. It is not always about the glory, it is about the satisfaction.
The Facts Of Life
Bernice Frankel was born May 13, 1922 in New York City
In 1933 her family moved to Cambridge, Maryland, where her parents operated a women's clothing shop.
Was an American actress, comedienne and singer whose career spanned seven decades
Arthur achieved fame as the character Maude Findlay on the 1970s sitcoms All in the Family and Maude, and as Dorothy Zbornak on the 1980s sitcom The Golden Girls, winning Emmy Awards for both roles
A stage actress both before and after her television success, she won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her performance as Vera Charles in the original cast of Mame (1966).
|Bea Arthur in Mame|
|Arthur began her acting career as a member of an off Broadway theater group at the Cherry Lane Theatre in New York City in the late 1940s. |
During World War II she served 30 months in the Marine Corps, where she was one of the first members of the Women’s Reserve and spent time as a typist and a truck driver despite publicly denying any military service.
|Bea Arthur Military shot from 1943|
Arthur was married twice. Her first marriage took place during her time in the military, when she married fellow Marine Robert Alan Aurthur, a screenwriter, television, and film producer and director, whose surname she took and kept (though with a modified spelling). Shortly after they divorced, she married director Gene Saks from 1950 to 1978 with whom she adopted two sons, Matthew (born in 1961), an actor, and Daniel (born in 1964), a set designer.
Arthur was a committed animal rights activist and frequently supported People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals campaigns. In Norfolk, Virginia near the site of the PETA headquarters, there is a dog park named Bea Arthur Dog Park in her honor.
note: this video is a bit disturbing. Don't watch if this sort of animal cruelty bothers you.
Arthur's longtime championing of civil rights for women, the elderly, and the Jewish & LGBT communities—in her two television roles and through her charity work and personal outspokenness—has led her to be cited as an LGBT icon.
CareerFrom 1947, Bea Arthur studied at the Dramatic Workshop of The New School in New York with German director Erwin Piscator.
|Bea Arthur from 1947|
On stage, her roles included:
Lucy Brown in the 1954 Off-Broadway premiere of Marc Blitzstein's English-language adaptation of Kurt Weill's Threepenny Opera,
|Bea Arthur in The Threepenny Opera|
Yente the Matchmaker in the 1964 premiere of Fiddler on the Roof on Broadway
|Bea Arthur and Zero Mostel in Fiddler on The Roof|
and a 1966 Tony Award-winning portrayal of Vera Charles to Angela Lansbury's Mame. She reprised the role in the 1974 film version opposite Lucille Ball.
|With Lucille Ball in Mame|
she appeared in Woody Allen's The Floating Light Bulb
In the 1950's she appeared on The George Gobel show.
In 1971, Arthur was invited by Norman Lear to guest-star on his sitcom All in the Family, as Maude Findlay, the cousin of Edith Bunker. An outspoken liberal feminist, Maude was the antithesis to the bigoted, conservative Archie Bunker, who decried her as a "New Deal fanatic".
Then nearly 50, Arthur's tart turn appealed to viewers and to executives at CBS, who, she would later recall, asked "'Who is that girl? Let's give her her own series.'"
That show, previewed in her second All in the Family appearance, would be simply titled Maude. The show, debuting in 1972, would find her living in the affluent community of Tuckahoe, Westchester County, New York,
with her fourth husband Walter (Bill Macy)
and divorced daughter Carol (Adrienne Barbeau).
Her performance in the role garnered Arthur several Emmy and Golden Globe nominations, including her Emmy win in 1977 for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series.
It would also earn a place for her in the history of the women's liberation movement. The groundbreaking series didn't shirk from addressing serious sociopolitical topics of the era that were fairly taboo for a sitcom including:
the Nixon Administration and Maude's bid for a Congressional seat
A prime example is "Maude's Dilemma", a two-part episode airing near Thanksgiving of 1972 in which Maude's character grapples with a late-life pregnancy, ultimately deciding to have an abortion.
Even though abortion was legal in New York State, it was illegal in many other regions of the country, and as such sparked controversy. As a result, dozens of affiliates refused to broadcast the episode when it was originally scheduled, substituting either a repeat from earlier in the season or a Thanksgiving TV special in its place.
As the episode aired two months before the U.S. Supreme Court legalized the procedure nationwide in the Roe v. Wade outcome in early 1973, it was said to have had influence on the Supreme Court Justices' decision.
She hosted The Beatrice Arthur Special on CBS on January 19, 1980, which paired the star in a musical comedy revue with Rock Hudson, Melba Moore and Wayland Flowers and Madame.
She appeared in the short-lived 1983 sitcom Amanda's (an adaptation of the British series Fawlty Towers)
Arthur was cast in the sitcom The Golden Girls in 1985. The series became a hit, and remained a top-ten ratings fixture for seven seasons. Her performance led to several Emmy nominations over the course of the series and an Emmy win in 1988. During the series run.
Arthur portrayed overbearing mother Bea Vecchio in Lovers and Other Strangers (1970)
and had a cameo as a Roman unemployment clerk in Mel Brooks' History of the World, Part 1 (1981).
Later careerAfter Arthur left The Golden Girls, she organized and toured in her one-woman show, alternately titled An Evening with Bea Arthur and And Then There's Bea.
She also appeared in an episode of Malcolm in the Middle as Mrs. White, Dewey's babysitter, in a first-season episode. She was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for her performance.
She also appeared as Larry David's mother on Curb Your Enthusiasm.
In 2005, she participated in the Comedy Central roast of Pamela Anderson, where she recited sexually explicit passages from Anderson's book Star Struck in a deadpan fashion.
InfluencesIn 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 [originalThreepenny Opera star] Lotte Lenya, whom I adored, taught me economy."
Personal life and death
Arthur's co-stars from The Golden Girls, Rue McClanahan and Betty White, commented on her death via telephone on an April 27 episode of Larry King Live as well as other news outlets such as ABC.Longtime friends Adrienne Barbeau (with whom she had worked on Maude) and Angela Lansbury (with whom she had worked in Mame) released amicable statements:
After being in the business for such a long time, I've done everything but rodeo and porno.
I... was not too happy to suddenly take on this public role thrust upon me. They just assumed I was the Joan of Arc of the women's movement. And I wasn't at all. It put a lot of unnecessary pressure on me.
You know, I spend most of my life turning things down. There's a lot of crap out there.