|First appearance||"The Engagement"
(The Golden Girls)
September 14, 1985
|Occupation||Owner of The Golden Palace Hotel
Former Assistant at an art museum in Miami, Florida
|Spouse(s)||George Devereaux (widowed)|
|Relatives||Lucas Hollingsworth (paternal uncle)
Dorothy Hollingsworth (paternal aunt by marriage)
Jamie Devereaux (brother-in-law)
Clayton Hollingsworth (brother)
Doug Hollingsworth (brother-in-law) Charmaine (sister)
Blanche Devereaux (née Hollingsworth) is one of the four main fictional characters on the 1985–1992 NBC sitcom The Golden Girls, and its CBS spin-off The Golden Palace. In the pilot episode, her last name was given as Hollingsworth, but this was somewhat "corrected" in later episodes by making this her maiden name. Blanche was portrayed by Rue McClanahan for 8 years and 206 episodes.
Blanche Elizabeth Marie Hollingsworth Devereaux born in November 1932 (as revealed by her mother in the season 3 episode "Mother's Day", Blanche was 17 in 1949), grew up near Atlanta, Georgia, at her family's mansion, Twin Oaks. Her parents were the late Elizabeth-Ann Margaret Bennett (Helen Kleeb) (later seasons named her mother as "Samantha Roquet") and Curtis "Big Daddy" Hollingsworth (first Murray Hamilton, and after Hamilton died, David Wayne), the latter a revered man in his neck of the woods. Much to Blanche's dismay, he married a young widow named Margaret Spencer (Sondra Currie) years after Blanche's mother, Elizabeth, died, but she grudgingly accepted the marriage. Blanche was not at Big Daddy's side when he died because she was supposed to attend a ball in Miami, in which she was the host (she admitted that in order to get the part she had to sleep with a committee member twice) but refused to go to his funeral because of an argument with her sister Virginia; Blanche regretted this afterward and resolved to try to rethink her priorities in life. After Big Daddy died, it was revealed that he and Blanche's long-lost African-American nanny Viola Watkins (Ruby Dee) had an affair that lasted for fifty years. This was revealed to Blanche when Viola came to claim a music box that she had given to Big Daddy during the affair. At first Blanche refused to accept the affair and wouldn't give her the music box. However, toward the end of the episode after another fight, Blanche told Viola to leave and stomped from the room. Viola yelled at her using her full name ‘Blanche Marie Hollingsworth’ (in other episodes Blanche states that her middle name is Elizabeth, making her initials B.E.D) and Blanche stopped. The two talked, with Viola revealing that she had left because Blanche's mother found out about the affair and had ordered that she leave. However, she also reveals that she was present but hidden at several important events in Blanche’s life. Blanche realizes that Viola really did love her and her father and gives her the music box (which actually turned out not to be the right music box, leaving both Blanche and Viola wondering where and from whom he had received this one). She attended the fictional Miss McIver's Finishing School. Blanche is a member of "the Alpha Gams" (Alpha Gamma Delta) but it is not known which university she attended. The most likely schools are Brenau University or the University of Georgia which both have Alpha Gam Chapters dating back to the time when Blanche was college-aged. Both schools are also located within a short driving distance of Blanche's home in Atlanta. On occasions, Blanche states that she was Baptist. She's proud of her status as a southern debutante, but when tracing her family history is shocked to learn that she has a Jewish great-grandmother named Rosalind Feldman from Buffalo, New York, which prevents her from joining The Daughters of the Old South, a conservative southern women's organization.
Blanche has four siblings: Virginia Hollingsworth Wylde (Sheree North) is the eldest sister, with whom Blanche shares a mutual loathing. They buried the hatchet when Virginia went into renal failure and Blanche offered her kidney to her sister, but their relationship became strained once more after their argument after Big Daddy's death in which Virginia accused Blanche of being too selfish and self-centered to say goodbye to her own father. Charmaine (Barbara Babcock), the spoiled youngest sister, who infuriated Blanche when she wrote a sordid novel that Blanche thought was about her, but when it was revealed that the book was about Charmaine and not Blanche, they made up and apologized to each other. There is also Clayton (Monte Markham), a younger brother whose subsequent revelation as being gay troubled Blanche to some extent; Blanche's reluctance to accept Clayton's sexual orientation nearly cost her relationship with him. During The Golden Palace, it was revealed that Blanche has a mentally challenged brother, Tad (Ned Beatty), who has spent most of his life in a Chattanooga institution. Blanche also had a visit from her promiscuous niece Lucy (played by Hallie Todd, later of Lizzie McGuire fame).
Although notoriously man-hungry, Blanche was faithfully married for decades to her husband George Devereaux (George Grizzard). George died three years before the start of the series in 1985, and at some point earlier, they had moved from Atlanta to Miami.
In a 1990 episode, Blanche had a dream that George came back from the dead nine years later (he said that he faked his death to escape criminal prosecution for fraud; for which he was framed by his own business partner). Rue McClanahan has said that George was the love of Blanche's life, and that her promiscuity was in fact a desperate search for the next love of her life. The cause of George's death is never definitively established in the series: he either died immediately during a car accident when Blanche was at home, or after being in a coma when Blanche was getting a pedicure.
During her junior year in high school, in spring 1949, when she was 17, she almost eloped with Deck Boughvenlough, the father of her rival at cheerleading with the sole purpose of having her taken off the squad. From this story, we learn that Blanche was born in 1932. This made her 53 when the first season begins and 61 when The Golden Palace went off the air in 1993.
- Blanche also appeared in one episode of Empty Nest, entitled Fatal Attraction, and one episode of Nurses, entitled Moon Over Miami.
On the show, Blanche is shown to have dated various men, some of them unsavory. She almost married a bigamist in the pilot episode before he got caught by the police. Another man stole her necklace at her full moon-leap year's party, and he too was caught by the police. One boyfriend named Rex was emotionally and verbally abusive, until her roommate Dorothy helped her see his true colors. Another boyfriend Gary (Jerry Hardin) cheated on her under her very roof by sleeping with Rose's sister Holly (Inga Swenson) who was visiting. Yet another, who appears in The Golden Palace, turns out to be a gigolo (Barry Bostwick). Blanche overcame her apprehension of dating Ted, who was in a wheelchair, only to find out he was married, so she terminated the relationship based on the fact that she has never been the "other woman" in extramarital affairs and never wanted to be. The only other time that occurred was when, through a bizarre turn-of-events, her beau's wife was revived by paramedics after she was declared dead. But Blanche has also ruined good relationships with worthy men: Jake (Donnelly Rhodes) was perfect and wanted to marry her, he was charming, romantic, but they had too many differences and she turned him down, to the disgust of her roommates, and regretted it later, and when Steven (Robert Mandan) was hospitalized, she refused to visit him until much later, by which time he reconciled with his ex-girlfriend, Karen. Unlike Blanche, who feared commitment and having another man die on her, when Karyn heard of Steven's illness, she went right to his side when he needed someone. She also dated John Quin (Edward Winter) and considered breaking up with him because he was blind and she felt self-conscious because she knew he wasn't attracted to her physical beauty. She later apologized to him and made plans to go out with him again, but the relationship apparently ended, as he is never mentioned on the series again. Blanche's most frequent (but only seen once in Season 6) date was Mel Bushman (Alan King), who was always available whenever she lacked male companionship. The one time he wasn't, Blanche assumed he was dead and promptly fell in temporary love with him when she realized he was alive. Because of his zipper manufacturing business, Mel was known as "The Zipper King". When Blanche's death is reported mistakenly in the paper, Mel Bushman sends flowers and a note, saying he's gone back to his ex-wife.
On the show, Blanche is portrayed as a promiscuous woman, with her initials spelling out the word "BED." However, Viola Watkins calls her "Blanche Marie." She spends a great deal of her time with members of the opposite sex, and this is a source of both condemnation from and amusement to her roommates. Blanche's seemingly liberated human sexual behavior is a contrast to the sexual climate of the 1980s, when AIDS was beginning to seep into a nation's consciousness. However, in the episode "72 Hours," it is mentioned that Blanche was cognizant of the dangers of HIV and STDs; she always used protection and knows every lover's full sexual history. It is also implied in one episode that she has had numerous interracial sexual liaisons with African-American men, though no such relations were ever depicted on camera.
Throughout the course of the show Blanche's precise age was never told. During the Mother's Day episode, Blanche's mother says that she was 17 in 1949, which would have put her being born in 1932, roughly. She always claimed to be in her late thirties or early forties, but none of the other women believed her, believing that she was lying due to her vain personality. She went through menopause during the second season, which is typical of a woman in her late 40s or early 50s. One episode had her granddaughter visit, whereupon she reveals the nickname she asked the girl to call her by: "Sis". Even the government had gotten involved. In an episode later in the series, Rose successfully got all of Blanche's documentation, but when she sat down with the other girls to go over the information she had received, in the age columns of all of papers it said "Deleted by Authority of the Governor", implying Blanche had slept with the governor to get the information regarding her age slipped from her record. In one episode, one of Blanche's ex-lovers mentioned her age as 68, although he later admitted that was fabricated. Another episode had Blanche discovering Rose's attempts to find out her age, whereupon she says that she will — on the condition that Rose tells her how much she weighs, which results in their both giving obviously false answers.
Children and grandchildren
At various times over the course of the series, Blanche mentions six different children, including two daughters (Janet and Rebecca, both of whom appeared in the series) and four sons (three of them — Biff, Doug, and Skippy — were mentioned in the episode "Bringing Up Baby," while the fourth, Matthew, was mentioned in the episode "To Catch a Neighbor" and made an on-screen appearance on an episode of The Golden Palace, played by Texan comic Bill Engvall). In the third season episode "Bringing Up Baby", when Dorothy questions an impulsive car purchase, Blanche says to her: "I have had four children, I have never had a Mercedes". This makes it possible that "Biff" or "Skippy" were nicknames for two of Blanche's sons. During the series, Blanche learns that George also had a son named David (Mark Moses), as the result of an affair.
During the course of the show, Blanche is revealed not to have been very 'hands-on' as a mother, as she frequently left her children to nannies and housekeepers. She had a strained relationship with both of her daughters, especially Janet, something that led to some of the most dramatic storylines as she expressed regrets that she wasn't there for her children more (the relationship between her four sons is never mentioned). However, Blanche slowly rebuilt her relationships with Janet and Rebecca throughout the series. By the time the series ended, both Rebecca and Janet had healed their relationships with their mother.
Blanche's daughter Rebecca was seen most often on the show, although she and Blanche had frequent falling outs and bitter fights. Prior to the show's start, they had had a falling over Rebecca's decision to drop out of school and take up modelling; then, they fought over Rebecca's verbally abusive boyfriend; later, they fought over Rebecca's decision to be artificially inseminated. They then feuded over Rebecca's choice of a "birthing center" instead of a hospital, and finally feuded again when Rebecca's believed Blanche was using her baby to "get men". In each case, they eventually made up again (something Blanche seems not to have ever done with Janet).
Blanche also has at least four grandchildren, David, Melissa, and Sarah (all born to Janet, who married a "Yankee"), as well as Rebecca's child, Aurora.
Blanche's grandson David visited the girls, but was unhappy and rebellious, due to problems in his home life (his parents fought and ignored him). After David confided in Blanche, she told Janet that she wanted David to live with her, leading to a bitter falling out between mother and daughter. David was depicted as being 14 at the time, which would have made him born in 1971. This would have made Blanche a grandmother at 39 or 40 years old, which means that Janet likely was a teenage mother (or is the result of a continuity error).
Relationship with her roommates
Blanche acts as co-roommate and landlord (until a housing inspection caused her to sell shares of the house) to Rose Nylund, Dorothy Zbornak, and Sophia Petrillo. Throughout the series, she and Rose are often involved in the same activities, be it auditioning for a play or doing community service projects. Though she, like Dorothy and Sophia, is annoyed at times by Rose's constant storytelling, she saw her as both her best friend and a surrogate sister. To be sure, Blanche had her own collection of strange stories which she also shared from time to time, often tales of her rivalry with sisters Virginia and Charmaine or of the promiscuous stunts she pulled as a teenager.
Her relationship with Dorothy is mixed with envy and condemnation and sisterhood on both parts: Dorothy envies and condemns Blanche's sexual comfortability, while Blanche envies Dorothy's intelligence and condemns her fashion sense, among other things. And yet, both she and Dorothy at times isolate themselves from Rose, ganging up on her when the latter said anything particularly foolish, and taking turns hitting her on the head with a newspaper or magazine. Their relationship is also symbiotic: in one of the last episodes in the series, Dorothy admitted that Blanche has helped her be comfortable with her own sexuality, while Dorothy herself has always served as Blanche's other voice of reason. Although Blanche is only three years younger than Dorothy (born 1929) and one or two years younger than Rose (born 1930 or 1931), she frequently rubs in the fact that she is the youngest roommate in the house.
Blanche's relationship with Sophia is also interesting: Blanche sees her both as a mother figure and as a mean old lady, and Sophia sees her as one of her daughters and, very vocally, a streetwalker. (In the very first episode of the series, Sophia bluntly tells Blanche, "You look like a prostitute.")
In the Season Four episode "Yes, We Have no Havanas", Sophia and Blanche became rivals for the affections of an elderly Cuban gentleman named Fidel Santiago (Henry Darrow), and the two women traded particularly nasty insults with each other: Sophia called Blanche a "50-year-old mattress," and Blanche referred to Sophia as a "raisin in sneakers" and a "wrinkled old crow". The rivalry came to an abrupt end when Fidel died suddenly. As it turned out, Fidel was even more promiscuous than Blanche - the congregation at his funeral consisted entirely of women he had been romancing (except for Dorothy and Rose), causing Blanche to say "He had his burro hitched to every bed post in town!"
It was revealed in the episode "Love Under the Big Top" that Blanche didn't like tuna fish which was inconsistent with at least two other instances in the series. In the episode "Dorothy's Prized Pupil", Rose became her "wiedenfrugen" (personal assistant) to make up for losing Blanche's earrings (which Blanche actually lost herself while on a romantic date), and she stated that she hated making Blanche's "stinking tuna fish sandwiches" as a part of her daily task. Later, in the episode "What a Difference a Day Makes", Blanche decided to go on a diet and became agitated when Rose ate her "sensible meal," a tuna quiche.
Rue McClanahan said playing the role of Blanche made her "one of the most recognizable women in the world," and resulted in her being named the "Fifth most beloved celebrity over 55" in the world. She said the fame of Blanche Devereaux, on television "week after week for decades", made McClanahan inseparable from Blanche in the public eye.
Blanche and the other three women were hailed as breakthrough television role models for older women, being attractive, stylishly dressed, and romantically active.
- The Golden Girls, season 6, episode 21 "Witness"
- Season 6, Episode 5 'Wham, Bam, Thank You, Mammy' (20 Oct. 1990)
- McClanahan, Rue (2007). My First Five Husbands – and the Ones who Got Away. Random House. p. 324. ISBN 978-0-7679-2694-2. Retrieved 2012-11-20.
- Galician, Mary Lou, and Merskin, Debra L. (2006). Critical thinking about Sex, love, and romance in the mass media. Routledge. p. 108. ISBN 978-0-8058-5616-3. Retrieved 2012-11-20.