Rue McClanahan

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Rue McClanahan
Rue McClanahan book signing.jpg
McClanahan at a book signing for her book My First Five Husbands, May 17, 2007
Born Eddi-Rue McClanahan
(1934-02-21)February 21, 1934
Healdton, Oklahoma
Died June 3, 2010(2010-06-03) (aged 76)
New York, New York
Cause of death
Brain hemorrhage
Education Ardmore High School
Alma mater University of Tulsa
Occupation Actress, Comedienne, Author, Fashion Designer
Years active 1957–2010
Television Maude,
Mama's Family,
The Golden Girls,
The Golden Palace
Spouse(s) Tom Bish
(1958–1959) (divorced) 1 son
Norman Hartweg
(1959–1961) (divorced)
Peter DeMaio
(1964–1971) (divorced)
Gus Fisher
(1976–1979) (divorced)
Tom Keel
(1984–1985) (divorced)
Morrow Wilson
(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.

Early life[edit]

McClanahan was born Eddi-Rue McClanahan in Healdton, Oklahoma.[1][2] She was the daughter of Dreda Rheua-Nell (née Medaris),[3] a beautician, and William Edwin "Bill" McClanahan (July 4, 1908 – February 20, 1999)[4] a building contractor.[1][5][6] She and her family were Methodists.[citation needed]

She was of Irish and Choctaw ancestry.[6] 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.[7] 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.[1] She was also a National Honor Society Member.

Early career[edit]

A life member of The Actors Studio,[8] McClanahan made her professional stage début at Pennsylvania's Erie Playhouse in 1957, in the play Inherit the Wind.[1] She began acting on off-Broadway in New York City in 1957,[9] 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.[2]

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.[5]

Primetime success[edit]

Maude[edit]

On Maude, broadcast from 1972 to 1978, McClanahan played Maude's (Bea Arthur) best friend, Vivian Harmon, wife of Dr. Arthur Harmon (Conrad Bain).

The Golden Girls and The Golden Palace[edit]

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.

The handprints of Rue McClanahan in front of The Great Movie Ride at Walt Disney World's Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park, 2007.

Other work[edit]

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.[5] 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.

Later life[edit]

An animal welfare advocate and vegetarian,[1][10] McClanahan was one of the first celebrity supporters of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).[1] McClanahan also supported Alley Cat Allies,[11] 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.[1] In a July 2008 interview, she weighed in on the 2008 Presidential campaigns. Regarding Barack Obama, she said:

This is the damnedest election I've ever lived through, and Obama is the most amazing candidate I've ever bumped into. The man has unshakable integrity. He's the nearest thing to Lincoln we've seen.

—Rue McClanahan, Interview at Queerty.com[12]

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.

Her autobiography, My First Five Husbands ... and the Ones Who Got Away, was released in 2007.[1][10]

In June 2008, The Golden Girls was awarded the 'Pop Culture' award at the Sixth Annual TV Land Awards. McClanahan accepted the award with costars Bea Arthur and Betty White.[13]

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".[14]

Health and death[edit]

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.[15] 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.[16]

McClanahan died on June 3, 2010, at the age of 76, at New York–Presbyterian Hospital after she suffered a brain hemorrhage.[2][17][18][19][20] She was cremated after her death.[21]

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".[22]

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.[23] There were no funeral services for McClanahan so her family created an official memorial page on Facebook to honor her,[24] and memorial services were held during the summer of 2010 in New York and Los Angeles.[23] On June 10, 2010, McClanahan's New York apartment went on the market for $2.25 million.[25][26]

In honor of her memory, WE tv, which carried reruns of The Golden Girls at the time, had a weeklong memorial for McClanahan, airing episodes featuring the best of Blanche from June 7 – 11, 2010.[27]

Following her death numerous of her worldly possessions were auctioned off and still are on the website estateofrue.com, with the proceeds going toward numerous of her favorite charities. The Rue McClanahan Memorial page on Facebook is run by the same person who runs EoR and both regularly contain photographs, as well as stories celebrating her life and helping fans become more acquainted with her personal life.

Nominations and awards[edit]

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)

Golden Apple Awards:

  • Female Star of the Year for: The Golden Girls (1986) (won)

TV Land Awards:

  • Pop Culture Award for: The Golden Girls (2008) (won)
  • Quintessential Non-Traditional Family for: The Golden Girls (2003) (won)

Television work[edit]

Filmography[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Rue McClanahan: Biography". TV Guide. CBS Interactive Inc. Retrieved June 3, 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c 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." 
  3. ^ "'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. 
  4. ^ "William Edwin "Bill" McClanahan at Find a Grave". Retrieved January 20, 2012. 
  5. ^ a b c "Rue McClanahan Biography (1934?-)". Film Reference. Advameg, Inc. Retrieved 18 March 2014. 
  6. ^ a b McClanahan, Rue (April 10, 2007). My First Five Husbands.. And the Ones Who Got Away. Crown Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-7679-2779-6. 
  7. ^ "TV star Rue McClanahan in Chicago promoting her new book". WLS-TV. May 17, 2007. Retrieved 18 March 2014. 
  8. ^ 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. 
  9. ^ Triggs, Charlotte; Silverman, Stephen M. (3 June 2010). "Golden Girls Star Rue McClanahan Dies at 76". People. Retrieved 18 March 2014. 
  10. ^ a b Jooley Ann (April 27, 2007). "Austinist interviews Rue McClanahan". The Austinist. Retrieved June 3, 2010. 
  11. ^ "I’m an Alley Cat Ally" Campaign
  12. ^ "Rue on Obama, Boring Sex". Queerty.com. David Hauslaib. July 11, 2008. Retrieved June 4, 2010. 
  13. ^ "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. 
  14. ^ Gans, Andrew. "Prop 8 Musical Will Be Part of Star-Studded Defying Inequality Benefit". Playbill.com. Retrieved January 26, 2009. 
  15. ^ Golden: A Gala Tribute To Rue McClanahan
  16. ^ "Betty White on Ellen Degeneres". YouTube.com. 
  17. ^ "Golden Girls star Rue McClanahan dies at age 76" New York Daily News, June 3, 2010.
  18. ^ "Youngest Golden Girl Rue McClanahan dies of stroke". Hot Zone[disambiguation needed]. June 3, 2010. Retrieved June 4, 2010. 
  19. ^ Itzkoff, Dave (June 3, 2010). "Rue McClanahan, Actress and 'Golden Girls' Star, Has Died". The New York Times. Retrieved June 4, 2010. 
  20. ^ Actress Rue McClanahan at Find A Grave
  21. ^ "Rue McClanahan". Find a Grave. Retrieved October 18, 2010. 
  22. ^ ET Online report
  23. ^ a b Nelson, Valerie J. (June 4, 2010). "'Golden Girl' Rue McClanahan dies". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 4, 2010. 
  24. ^ The Official Rue McClanahan Memorial Page
  25. ^ Rue McClanahan's Apartment Hits the Market
  26. ^ "Rue Mcclanahan – Mcclanahan's Apartment Up for Sale". contactmusic.com. Retrieved June 13, 2010. 
  27. ^ "The Golden Girls Talk". WEtv.com. [dead link]

External links[edit]