Bea Arthur

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Bea Arthur
Beatrice Arthur - 1973.jpg
Bea Arthur as Maude (1973)
Born Bernice Frankel
(1922-05-13)May 13, 1922
New York, New York
Died April 25, 2009(2009-04-25) (aged 86)
Los Angeles, California
Cause of death
Cancer
Resting place
cremated
Alma mater Linden Hall School for Girls
Occupation Actress, comedian, singer
Years active 1947–2008
Spouse(s) Robert Alan Aurthur
(1947; divorced)
Gene Saks
(m.1950–1980; divorced; 2 children)

Beatrice "Bea" Arthur (May 13, 1922 – April 25, 2009) was an American actress, comedian, 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).

Early life[edit]

Beatrice Arthur was born Bernice Frankel on May 13, 1922, to Philip and Rebecca Frankel (1902–1986)[1] in New York City.[2][3] Arthur was Jewish. In 1933, her family moved to Cambridge, Maryland, where her parents operated a women's clothing shop. She attended Linden Hall School for Girls, an all-girls' boarding school in Lititz, Pennsylvania, before enrolling in the now-defunct Blackstone College for Girls in Blackstone, Virginia, where she was active in drama productions. During World War II, she served in the United States Marine Corps.[4][5]

Career[edit]

Theater[edit]

1943 United States Marine Corps portrait

From 1947, Arthur studied at the Dramatic Workshop of The New School in New York with German director Erwin Piscator. 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. On stage, her roles included Lucy Brown in the 1954 Off-Broadway premiere of Marc Blitzstein's English-language adaptation of Kurt Weill's The Threepenny Opera, Nadine Fesser in the 1957 premiere of Herman Wouk's Nature's Way at the Coronet Theatre, Yente the Matchmaker in the 1964 premiere of Fiddler on the Roof on Broadway, 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. In 1981, she appeared in Woody Allen's The Floating Light Bulb.[6] She made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera in 1994 portraying the Duchess of Krakenthorp, a speaking role, in Gaetano Donizetti's La fille du régiment.[7]

Television[edit]

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 Republican Archie Bunker, who described 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.'"[8]

That series, previewed in her second All in the Family appearance, would be simply titled Maude. The show, debuting in 1972, found 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.

Maude would also earn a place for Arthur in the history of the women's liberation movement.[9] The groundbreaking series didn't shirk from addressing serious sociopolitical topics of the era that were fairly taboo for a sitcom, from the Vietnam War, the Nixon Administration and Maude's bid for a Congressional seat, divorce, menopause, drug use, alcoholism, nervous breakdown, mental illness, abortion, to spousal abuse. 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. However, by the time of the summer rerun season six months later all the flak had died down, and the stations that refused to air the episode upon its first run reinstated it for the reruns the following summer. As a result, a reported 65 million viewers watched the two episode arc either in their first run that November or during the following summer as a re-run.[10]

The episode aired two months before the U.S. Supreme Court legalized the procedure nationwide in the Roe v. Wade outcome in early 1973.[11] By 1978, however, Arthur decided to move on from the series.

That year, she costarred in Star Wars Holiday Special, in which she had a song and dance routine in the Mos Eisley Cantina. 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.[12]

After appearing 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, in which she played Dorothy Zbornak, a divorced substitute teacher living in a Miami house owned by Blanche Devereaux (Rue McClanahan). Her other roommates included widow Rose Nylund (Betty White) and Dorothy's Sicilian mother, Sophia Petrillo (Estelle Getty). Getty was actually a year younger than Arthur in real life, and was heavily made up to look significantly older. 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. Arthur decided to leave the show after seven years, and in 1992 the show was moved from NBC to CBS and retooled as The Golden Palace in which the other three actresses reprised their roles. Arthur made a guest appearance in a two-part episode.

Film[edit]

Bea Arthur as Maude, circa 1973

Arthur also sporadically appeared in films, reprising her stage role as Vera Charles in the 1974 film adaption of Mame, opposite Lucille Ball. Additionally, 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 I (1981). She appeared in the 1995 American movie For Better or Worse as Beverly Makeshift.

Later career[edit]

After Arthur left The Golden Girls, she made several guest appearances on television shows and organized and toured in her one-woman show, alternately titled An Evening with Bea Arthur and And Then There's Bea. She made a guest appearance on the American cartoon Futurama, in the Emmy-nominated 2001 episode "Amazon Women in the Mood", as the voice of the Femputer who ruled the giant Amazonian women. She also appeared in a first-season episode of Malcolm in the Middle as Mrs. White, Dewey's babysitter, who is taken away in an ambulance for reasons unknown. 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 2002, she returned to Broadway, starring in Bea Arthur on Broadway: Just Between Friends, a collection of stories and songs (with musician Billy Goldenberg) based on her life and career. The show was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Special Theatrical Event. The previous year had been the category's first, and there had been only one nominee. That year, Arthur was up against solo performances by soprano Barbara Cook, comedian John Leguizamo, and Arthur's fellow student in Piscator's program at The New School, actress Elaine Stritch, who won for Elaine Stritch: At Liberty.

In addition to appearing in a number of programs looking back at her own work, Arthur performed in stage and television tributes for Jerry Herman, Bob Hope, Peggy Lee, and Ellen DeGeneres. 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.

Influences[edit]

In 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 [original Threepenny Opera star] Lotte Lenya, whom I adored, taught me economy."[13]

Personal life[edit]

Arthur in 2005

Arthur was married twice. Her first marriage took place during her time in the military, when she married fellow Marine Robert Alan Aurthur,[14] a screenwriter, television, and film producer and director, whose surname she took and kept (though with a modified spelling). Shortly after they divorced in 1950, she married director Gene Saks with whom she adopted two sons, Matthew (born in 1961), an actor, and Daniel (born in 1964), a set designer; they remained married until 1980.[15]

In 1972, she moved to Los Angeles and sublet her apartment on Central Park West in New York City and her country home in Bedford, New York.[16]

In a 2003 interview, while in London promoting her one woman show, she described the English capital as her 'favourite city in the world'.[17]

Arthur was a committed animal rights activist and frequently supported People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals campaigns. Arthur joined PETA in 1987 after a Golden Girls anti-fur episode.[18] Arthur wrote letters, made personal appearances and placed ads against the use of furs, foie gras, and farm animal cruelty by KFC suppliers. In Norfolk, Virginia, near the site of the PETA headquarters, there is a dog park named Bea Arthur Dog Park in her honor.

Arthur's longtime championing of civil rights for women, the elderly, and the Jewish and LGBT communities—in her two major television roles and through her charity work and personal outspokenness—has led her to be cited as an LGBT icon.[19]

Regarding politics, Arthur herself was a liberal Democrat who confirmed her views by saying, "I've been a Democrat my whole life. That's what makes Maude and Dorothy so believable, we have the same viewpoints on how our country should be handled."[20]

Death[edit]

Arthur died at her home in the Sullivan Canyon section of the Brentwood suburb of Los Angeles in the early morning hours of Saturday, April 25, 2009, succumbing to cancer.[13][21][22] Her body was cremated.[23]

On April 28, 2009, the Broadway community paid tribute to Arthur by dimming the marquees of New York City's Broadway theater district in her memory for one minute at 8:00 pm.[24][25]

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,[26][27] as well as other news outlets such as ABC.[28] On the Today Show by phone, McClanahan said she and Bea got along together "like cream" She also stated, "I knew it would hurt, I just didn't know it would hurt this much." Longtime friends Adrienne Barbeau (with whom she had worked on Maude) and Angela Lansbury (with whom she had worked in Mame) reflected on her death: Barbeau said, "We've lost a unique, incredible talent. No one could deliver a line or hold a take like Bea and no one was more generous or giving to her fellow performers";[29] and Lansbury said, "She became and has remained my Bosom Buddy [...] I am deeply saddened by her passing, but also relieved that she is released from the pain".[30]

Arthur bequeathed $300,000 to The Ali Forney Center, a New York City organization that provides housing for homeless LGBT youths.[31][32] The center was destroyed in October 2012 by Hurricane Sandy.[33][34]

Awards[edit]

Arthur (left) at the 1989 Emmy Awards with close friend Angela Lansbury (right)

Arthur won the American Theatre Wing's Tony Award in 1966 as Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her performance that year as Vera Charles in the original Broadway production of Jerry Herman's musical Mame.

Arthur has received the second most nominations for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series with 9. Only Mary Tyler Moore, with 10 nominations, has more. She received the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences' Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series twice, once in 1977 for Maude and again in 1988 for The Golden Girls.[35] She was inducted into the Academy's Television Hall of Fame in 2008.[36]

On June 8, 2008, The Golden Girls was awarded the Pop Culture award at the Sixth Annual TV Land Awards. Arthur (in one of her final public appearances) accepted the award with co-stars Rue McClanahan and Betty White.[37]

Television credits[edit]

Theater performances[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Rebecca Frankel at Find a Grave". Retrieved January 20, 2012. 
  2. ^ Service, Haaretz (2009-04-26). "'Golden Girls' star Bea Arthur dies aged 86 – Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News". Haaretz.com. Retrieved 2013-12-04. 
  3. ^ Bureau of Vital Records (May 13, 1922). Certificate and Record of Birth #21106 (.JPG). City of New York, Department of Health. Retrieved July 12, 2008. 
  4. ^ Her Marine Corps records are available for perusal at the National Archives and Records Administration. http://www.archives.gov/st-louis/military-personnel/public/persons-of-prominence.html#R
  5. ^ Arthur, Bea (March 15, 2001). Beatrice Arthur - Archive Interview Part 1 of 5. Interview with Karen Herman. Archive of American Television.
  6. ^ "Bea Arthur". Playbill.com. Playbill, Inc. Retrieved November 15, 2013. 
  7. ^ "Obituaries: Actors Dom DeLuise and Beatrice Arthur; mezzo Margreta Elkins; soprano Anne Brown, Gershwin’s original Bess; composer Lukas Foss dies at eighty-six.". Opera News 74 (1). July 2009. Retrieved December 28, 2010.  (subscription required)
  8. ^ "Golden Girls Star Be Arthur Dies at 86". NPR. April 25, 2009. Archived from the original on April 27, 2009. Retrieved April 27, 2009. 
  9. ^ Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art. "Feminist Timeline: United States". Feminist Timeline: United States. Brooklyn Museum. Retrieved April 27, 2009. "The television show Maude, a spin-off of All in the Family, premiers, starring Beatrice Arthur as Maude Findlay, a leftist feminist who supports abortion and civil rights." 
  10. ^ The Paley Center For Media. "Susan Harris". Retrieved April 27, 2009. 
  11. ^ Whitcomb, Dan (April 26, 2009). ""Golden Girls" star Bea Arthur dies at 86". Reuters. Retrieved November 15, 2013. 
  12. ^ Hall, Phil (March 26, 2004). "The Bootleg Files: "the Beatrice Arthur Special"". Film Threat. Retrieved November 15, 2013. 
  13. ^ a b Weber, Bruce (April 25, 2009). "Bea Arthur, Star of Two TV Comedies, Dies at 86". The New York Times. Retrieved November 15, 2013. 
  14. ^ "Bea Arthur Was A Truck-Driving Marine". The Smoking Gun. December 9, 2010. Retrieved November 15, 2013. 
  15. ^ Hall, Jane (January 6, 1986). "Sex and the Senior Girls: NBC's Golden Girls Are the Toast of TV with Their Mid-Life Miami Spice". People. Retrieved November 15, 2013. 
  16. ^ Moritz, Charles (editor) (1973) "Arthur, Beatrice" Current Biography Yearbook, 1973 H. W. Wilson, New York, pp. 17–20, page 20, ISBN 0-8242-0543-X
  17. ^ "Bea Arthur". Woman's Hour. BBC. August 8, 2003. Retrieved November 15, 2013. 
  18. ^ Mathews, Dan (2009-04-25). "Honorary PETA Director, Bea Arthur Passes On". PETA. Retrieved November 15, 2013. 
  19. ^ Portwood, Jerry (April 27, 2009). "My Last Chat With Bea Arthur: Sometimes she felt like Judy Garland". New York Press. Archived from the original on June 27, 2009. Retrieved November 15, 2013. 
  20. ^ Interview, TV Legends, August 6, 2005
  21. ^ Lynn Elber (April 25, 2009). "Golden Girls, Maude star Bea Arthur dies at 86". The Houston Chronicle. Retrieved December 28, 2010. 
  22. ^ "Two-time Emmy Award winner Bea Arthur dead at 86". CNN. April 27, 2009. Archived from the original on May 29, 2010. Retrieved April 26, 2010. 
  23. ^ "Beatrice "Bea" Arthur (1922–2009) – Find A Grave Memorial". Findagrave.com. Retrieved 2013-12-04. 
  24. ^ "Broadway Plans Tribute to Bea Arthur". Entertainment Tonight. April 28, 2009. Retrieved November 15, 2013. 
  25. ^ [1][dead link]
  26. ^ Slezak, Michael (April 26, 2009). "Rue McClanahan remembers Bea Arthur". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved November 15, 2013. 
  27. ^ Kaufman, Gil (April 27, 2009). "Bea Arthur Remembered By 'Golden Girls' Co-Stars". MTV News. Retrieved November 15, 2013. 
  28. ^ ABC. Broadcast June 1, 2009.
  29. ^ Eng, Joyce (April 27, 2009). "Friends and Colleagues Remember Beatrice Arthur". TV Guide. Retrieved November 15, 2013. 
  30. ^ "Angela Lansbury 'Deeply Saddened' by Bea Arthur's Passing". Entertainment Tonight. April 25, 2009. Retrieved November 15, 2013. 
  31. ^ Garcia, Michelle (October 27, 2009). "Bea Leaves $300K to Homeless Youths". The Advocate. Retrieved November 15, 2013. 
  32. ^ The Ali Forney Center – The Bea Arthur Residence for LGBT Youth
  33. ^ "Ali Forney Center For LGBT Youth Drop-In Center Destroyed By Hurricane Sandy". PrideSource. November 8, 2012. Retrieved November 15, 2013. 
  34. ^ Pearce, Matt (November 5, 2012). "Twitter in the time of Sandy: A few lies, and then redemption". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 15, 2013. 
  35. ^ "Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Emmy Awards Database". Emmys.tv. Retrieved 2013-12-04. 
  36. ^ "Television Academy Hall of Fame Reveals Six Honorees for 2008" (Press release). The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. April 17, 2008. Retrieved July 12, 2008. 
  37. ^ Julie Keller (June 8, 2008). "TV Land Awards Party Like It's 1979". E! Online. Retrieved July 12, 2008. 

External links[edit]