McClanahan at a book signing for her book My First Five Husbands, May 17, 2007
February 21, 1934
Healdton, Oklahoma, U.S.
|Died||June 3, 2010
New York, New York, U.S.
Cause of death
|Education||Ardmore High School|
|Alma mater||University of Tulsa|
|Occupation||Actress, Comedienne, Author, Fashion Designer|
The Golden Girls,
The Golden Palace
(1958–1959) (divorced) 1 son
(1997–2010) (her death)
Rue McClanahan (February 21, 1934 – June 3, 2010) was an American actress, best known for her roles on television as Vivian Harmon on Maude (1972–78), Fran Crowley on Mama's Family (1983–85), and Blanche Devereaux on The Golden Girls (1985–92), for which she won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series in 1987.
McClanahan was born Eddi-Rue McClanahan in Healdton, Oklahoma. She was the daughter of Dreda Rheua-Nell (née Medaris), a beautician, and William Edwin "Bill" McClanahan (July 4, 1908 – February 20, 1999) a building contractor. She and her family were Methodists.
She was of Irish and Choctaw ancestry. Her Choctaw great-grandfather was named Running Hawk according to her autobiography My First Five Husbands... and the Ones Who Got Away (2007). She grew up in Ardmore, Oklahoma; she graduated from Ardmore High School. McClanahan earned a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Tulsa, where she majored in German and Theater and joined the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority. She was also a National Honor Society Member.
A life member of The Actors Studio, McClanahan made her professional stage début at Pennsylvania's Erie Playhouse in 1957, in the play Inherit the Wind. She began acting on off-Broadway in New York City in 1957, but did not make her Broadway début until 1969, when she portrayed Sally Weber in the original production of John Sebastian and Murray Schisgal's musical, Jimmy Shine, with Dustin Hoffman in the title role.
Her role as Caroline Johnson on Another World (from July 1970 to September 1971) brought her notice. On the show, while taking care of twins Michael and Marianne Randolph, Caroline fell in love with their father, John, and began poisoning their mother, Pat. The short-term role was extended to more than a year before Caroline was finally brought to justice after kidnapping the twins. Once her role on Another World ended, McClanahan joined the cast of the CBS soap Where the Heart Is, in which she played Margaret Jardin.
The Golden Girls and The Golden Palace
On The Golden Girls (1985–1992) and the short-lived successor The Golden Palace, McClanahan portrayed man-crazed southern belle Blanche Devereaux, owner of a house in which she lived and rented out to her three roommates and best friends: Dorothy Zbornak (Bea Arthur), Rose Nylund (Betty White), and Sophia Petrillo (Estelle Getty). McClanahan received an Emmy Award in 1987 for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for her work on the show.
She also appeared as a leader of Al-Anon in a 1970s informational video called "Slight Drinking Problem," in which Patty Duke played the enabling and eventually self-empowered wife of an alcoholic. In feature films, McClanahan starred in 1961's The Rotten Apple, as well as Walk the Angry Beach in 1968. In 1971, she played a vicious fag hag in the film Some of My Best Friends Are..., which was set in a gay bar. In 1990, McClanahan starred as Matilda Joslyn Gage, mother-in-law of L. Frank Baum in the made-for-TV movie The Dreamer of Oz.
McClanahan guest-starred on Newhart, and played Aunt Fran Crowley on the first two seasons of Mama's Family. She also voice-acted in cartoons, voicing Scarlett in the 1997 Fox Christmas special Annabelle's Wish. She played the role of Steve's grandmother in the Blue's Clues video Blue's Big Treasure Hunt (1999). In the 1994 Spider-Man: The Animated Series episode "Doctor Octopus: Armed And Dangerous", she was Anastasia Hardy. The 2007 King of the Hill episode "Hair Today, Gone Today" cast her as Bunny. In 2009, she appeared in an episode of Law & Order as a woman who had an affair with John F. Kennedy.
An animal welfare advocate and vegetarian, McClanahan was one of the first celebrity supporters of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). McClanahan also supported Alley Cat Allies, a non-profit advocacy organization dedicated to transforming communities to protect and improve the lives of cats, and appeared in a public service announcement for the organization in early 2010.
A Democrat, in December 2003 she wrote a letter informing Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry that his pheasant hunting had cost him her vote and respect. In a July 2008 interview, she weighed in on the 2008 Presidential campaigns. Regarding Barack Obama, she said:
In 2003, she appeared in the musical romantic comedy film The Fighting Temptations as Nancy Stringer, which costarred Cuba Gooding, Jr., Beyoncé Knowles, Mike Epps and Steve Harvey. On Broadway, she replaced Carole Shelley as Madame Morrible in the musical Wicked on May 31, 2005. She played the role for eight months and departed the cast January 8, 2006. She was replaced by Carol Kane on January 10, 2006.
McClanahan's final acting role was in the cable series Sordid Lives on the Logo network, which premiered July 23, 2008, playing Peggy Ingram, the older sister of Sissy Hickey and mother of Latrelle, LaVonda and Earl "Brother Boy".
Rue was a supporter of lesbian and gay rights, including advocating for same-sex marriage in the United States. In January 2009, she appeared in the star-studded "Defying Inequality: The Broadway Concert – A Celebrity Benefit for Equal Rights".
Health and death
In June 1997, McClanahan was diagnosed with breast cancer, for which she was treated successfully.
On November 14, 2009, she was to be honored for her lifetime achievements at an event "Golden: A Gala Tribute to Rue McClanahan" at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco, California. The event was postponed due to McClanahan's hospitalization. She had triple bypass surgery on November 4. It was announced on January 14, 2010, by Entertainment Tonight that, while recovering from surgery, she had suffered a minor stroke. In March 2010, fellow Golden Girls cast member Betty White reported on The Ellen DeGeneres Show that McClanahan was doing well and that her speech had returned to normal.
McClanahan's longtime friend Betty White, who co-starred with her on both Mama's Family and The Golden Girls, told Entertainment Tonight that McClanahan was a "close and dear friend" and that her death "hurts more than I ever thought it would".
McClanahan was survived by her sixth husband, Morrow Wilson (from whom she separated in 2009); her son from her first marriage, Mark Bish of Austin, Texas; her sister, Melinda L. McClanahan, of Silver City, New Mexico; and a nephew, Brendan Kinkade. There were no funeral services for McClanahan so her family created an official memorial page on Facebook to honor her, and memorial services were held during the summer of 2010 in New York and Los Angeles. On June 10, 2010, McClanahan's New York apartment went on the market for $2.25 million.
Nominations and awards
Emmy Award Nominations:
- Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for: The Golden Girls (1986)
- Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for: The Golden Girls (1987) (Won)
- Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for: The Golden Girls (1988)
- Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for: The Golden Girls (1989)
Golden Globe Nominations:
- Best Performance by an Actress in a TV-Series – Comedy/Musical for: The Golden Girls (1986)
- Best Performance by an Actress in a TV-Series – Comedy/Musical for: The Golden Girls (1987)
- Best Performance by an Actress in a TV-Series – Comedy/Musical for: The Golden Girls (1988)
Obie Awards (off-Broadway):
- Best Actress for Who's Happy Now (1969) (won)
- Female Star of the Year for: The Golden Girls (1986) (won)
- Pop Culture Award for: The Golden Girls (2008) (won)
- Quintessential Non-Traditional Family for: The Golden Girls (2003) (won)
- Another World (cast member from 1970 to 1971)
- Where the Heart Is (1971–1972)
- Hogan's Goat (1971; TV movie)
- All in the Family (TV Series) (1972; 1 episode: "The Bunkers and the Swingers")
- The Rimers of Eldritch (1974; TV movie)
- Maude (1972–1978)
- Rainbow (TV movie) (1978) played Ida Koverman
- Apple Pie (1978)
- Topper (TV movie) (1979)
- Lou Grant (1980; Guns)
- Darkroom (TV series) (1981; 1 episode: "Daisies")
- Gimme a Break! (TV Series) (1981–1987; 2 episodes)
- Newhart (TV Series) (1982; The Way We Thought We Were)
- Alice (TV Series) (1984) 1 episode, played a nursery school teacher, "Mother Goose" aka "Betty Muffet".
- Mama's Family (TV Series) as Aunt Fran (1983–1985).
- Murder, She Wrote (1985; 1 episode: "Murder Takes the Bus")
- The Golden Girls (1985–1992)
- The Little Match Girl (1987; TV Movie)
- Take My Daughters, Please (1988; TV Movie)
- The Man in the Brown Suit (1989; TV movie)
- The Wickedest Witch (1989; TV movie)
- Children of the Bride (1990; TV movie)
- Baby of the Bride (1991; TV movie)
- The Dreamer of Oz: The L. Frank Baum Story (TV movie; 1991)
- Dame Edna's Hollywood (May 9, 1992) 1 episode, herself.
- The Golden Palace (1992–1993)
- Mother of the Bride (1993; TV movie)
- Nunsense 1993 TV Special
- Boy Meets World (1993; 1 episode)
- Touched by an Angel (1994; 1 episode)
- Nunsense 2 The Sequel 1994 TV Special
- Columbo: Ashes to Ashes (1998)
- Nunsense 3 The Jamboree 1998 TV Special cameo as Sister Mary Regina
- A Saintly Switch (1999; TV movie)
- Safe Harbor (1999; 10 episodes)
- Blue's Clues (1999; 1 episode)
- Ladies Man (2000; 2 episodes)
- Touched by an Angel (2001; 2 episodes)
- Whoopi (2004; 1 episode)
- Wonderfalls (2004: 1 episode)
- Hope & Faith (2005; 1 episode)
- King of the Hill (2007; 1 episode)
- Sordid Lives: The Series (2008; 12 episodes)
- Law & Order (2009; 1 episode)
- Celebrity Ghost Stories (October 17, 2009 episode)
- Tyler Perry's Meet the Browns (December 2, 2009 episode)
- The Rotten Apple (1961)
- Angel's Flight (1965)
- Walk the Angry Beach (1968)
- Hollywood After Dark (1968)
- The Unholy Choice (1968)
- The People Next Door (1970)
- Some of My Best Friends Are... (1971)
- They Might Be Giants (1971)
- The Skin of Our Teeth (1983)
- Little Match Girl (1987)
- Children of the Bride (1990)
- After the Shock (1990)
- Message from Nam (1993)
- Mother of the Bride (1993)
- A Christmas to Remember (1995)
- Dear God (1996)
- Innocent Victims (TV movie) (1996)
- Annabelle's Wish (1997)
- Out to Sea (1997)
- Starship Troopers (1997)
- Rusty: The Great Rescue (1998)
- A Burning Passion (1999)
- The Fighting Temptations (2003)
- Back to You and Me (2005)
- Baby of the Bride (2006)
- Miracle Dogs (2007)
- Generation Gap (2008)
- "Rue McClanahan: Biography". TV Guide. CBS Interactive Inc. Retrieved June 3, 2010.
- Douglas, Martin (June 3, 2010). "Rue McClanahan, Actress and Golden Girl, Dies at 76". The New York Times. Retrieved November 15, 2013. "Her manager, Barbara Lawrence, said Ms. McClanahan died of a brain hemorrhage at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. She was treated for breast cancer in 1997 and had heart bypass surgery last year."
- "'Golden Girl' Rue McClanahan aimed to show 'that when people mature, they add layers'". The Christian Science Monitor. AP. June 3, 2010. Retrieved November 15, 2013.
- "William Edwin "Bill" McClanahan at Find a Grave". Retrieved January 20, 2012.
- "Rue McClanahan Biography (1934?-)". Film Reference. Advameg, Inc. Retrieved 18 March 2014.
- McClanahan, Rue (April 10, 2007). My First Five Husbands.. And the Ones Who Got Away. Crown Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-7679-2779-6.
- "TV star Rue McClanahan in Chicago promoting her new book". WLS-TV. May 17, 2007. Retrieved 18 March 2014.
- Garfield, David (1980). "Appendix: Life Members of The Actors Studio as of January 1980". A Player's Place: The Story of The Actors Studio. New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc. p. 279. ISBN 0-02-542650-8.
- Triggs, Charlotte; Silverman, Stephen M. (3 June 2010). "Golden Girls Star Rue McClanahan Dies at 76". People. Retrieved 18 March 2014.
- Jooley Ann (April 27, 2007). "Austinist interviews Rue McClanahan". The Austinist. Retrieved June 3, 2010.
- "I’m an Alley Cat Ally" Campaign
- "Rue on Obama, Boring Sex". Queerty.com. David Hauslaib. July 11, 2008. Retrieved June 4, 2010.
- "TV Land Awards Party Like It's 1979". E! Online. June 8, 2008. Archived from the original on July 31, 2008. Retrieved June 3, 2010.
- Gans, Andrew. "Prop 8 Musical Will Be Part of Star-Studded Defying Inequality Benefit". Playbill.com. Retrieved January 26, 2009.
- Golden: A Gala Tribute To Rue McClanahan
- "Betty White on Ellen Degeneres". YouTube.com.
- "Golden Girls star Rue McClanahan dies at age 76" New York Daily News, June 3, 2010.
- "Youngest Golden Girl Rue McClanahan dies of stroke". Hot Zone[disambiguation needed]. June 3, 2010. Retrieved June 4, 2010.
- Itzkoff, Dave (June 3, 2010). "Rue McClanahan, Actress and 'Golden Girls' Star, Has Died". The New York Times. Retrieved June 4, 2010.
- Actress Rue McClanahan at Find A Grave
- "Rue McClanahan". Find a Grave. Retrieved October 18, 2010.
- ET Online report
- Nelson, Valerie J. (June 4, 2010). "'Golden Girl' Rue McClanahan dies". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 4, 2010.
- The Official Rue McClanahan Memorial Page
- Rue McClanahan's Apartment Hits the Market
- "Rue Mcclanahan – Mcclanahan's Apartment Up for Sale". contactmusic.com. Retrieved June 13, 2010.
- Rue McClanahan at the Internet Movie Database
- Rue McClanahan at the Internet Broadway Database
- Rue McClanahan at the Internet Off-Broadway Database
- Rue McClanahan advocating for the Humane Society in the early 1990s on YouTube
- Golden Girls' Rue McClanahan Dies of a Stroke, Associated Press (June 3, 2010) on YouTube
- Golden Girls' Rue McClanahan Dies from Stroke on YouTube
- Golden Girls star Rue McClanahan dies at 76 on YouTube
- Pay tribute to Rue McClanahan
- Actress Rue McClanahan Dies age 76, the Austin News on YouTube
- Remembering "Golden Girl" Rue McClanahan
- Entertainment Tonight – The Death of Rue McClanahan on YouTube
- The Official Rue McClanahan Memorial Page on Facebook
- Rue McClanahan interview video at the Archive of American Television