|First appearance||"The Engagement"|
(The Golden Girls)
September 14, 1985
|Last appearance||"The Chicken and the Egg"|
(The Golden Palace)
May 14, 1993
|Portrayed by||Rue McClanahan|
|Occupation||Owner of The Golden Palace Hotel |
Former assistant at an art museum in Miami, Florida
|Family||Curtis "Big Daddy" Hollingsworth (father; deceased)|
Elizabeth-Ann "Big Momma" Margaret Bennett Hollingsworth / Samantha Roquet Hollingsworth (mother; deceased)
Margaret Spencer (stepmother)
|Spouse||George Devereaux (widowed) died in 1981|
|Relatives||David (grandson) (through Janet)|
Sarah (granddaughter) (through Janet)
Aurora (granddaughter) (through Rebecca)
Melissa (granddaughter) (through Janet)
Jamie Devereaux (brother-in-law)
Douglas "Doug" (brother-in-law) (through Clayton)
Lucas Hollingsworth (paternal uncle)
Blanche Devereaux (née Hollingsworth) is one of the four main characters on the 1985–1992 NBC sitcom The Golden Girls, and its CBS spin-off The Golden Palace. Blanche was portrayed by Rue McClanahan for 8 years and 204 episodes across the two series. The character was inspired by Blanche DuBois (to whom Blanche Devereaux is compared in the pilot script) and Scarlett O'Hara.
McClanahan had previously been a co-star with Beatrice Arthur in Maude and with Betty White in the first two seasons of Mama's Family. In pre-production, producers had originally planned for White (who was known for playing promiscuous characters such as Sue Ann Nivens) to play Blanche, but neither White nor McClanahan wanted to be typecast, and the two were given permission to switch roles.
Blanche Hollingsworth grew up near Atlanta, Georgia, at her family's mansion, Twin Oaks. Her parents were the late Elizabeth-Ann Margaret Bennett (later seasons named her "Samantha Roquet") (Helen Kleeb) 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. As a young child, she had a mammy named Viola Watkins who took care of her before suddenly leaving one day. Much to Blanche's dismay, her father married a young widow named Margaret Spencer (Sondra Currie) years after Blanche's mother died, but she grudgingly accepted the marriage. After her father's death, she learned that he and Watkins had been secret lovers for over 40 years. Blanche is a member of "the Alpha Gams" (Alpha Gamma Delta), but which university she attended is not known. On a few occasions, Blanche states that she is of the Baptist faith. She is 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 Rosalyn Feldman from Buffalo, New York, which prevents her from joining the Daughters of the Old South, a Southern women's organization.
Blanche is the third of five Hollingsworth children. Charmaine Hollingsworth (Barbara Babcock) is the spoiled oldest sister, who infuriated Blanche when she wrote a sordid novel that Blanche thought was about her. When it was revealed that the book was about Charmaine and not Blanche, they made up and apologized to each other. The next youngest sibling is Blanche's brother Clayton Hollingsworth (Monte Markham), who appears in season four (1988) and season six (1991). Blanche is troubled to some extent when she learns that Clayton is gay; her reluctance to accept Clayton's sexual orientation nearly cost her relationship with him. Blanche's sister Virginia Hollingsworth (Sheree North), with whom Blanche shares a mutual loathing, is one year her junior. They buried the hatchet when Virginia went into renal failure and Blanche offered her kidney to her sister. However, their relationship became strained once more after their argument following Big Daddy's death in which Virginia accused Blanche of being too selfish and self-centered to say goodbye to her own father. During The Golden Palace, Blanche was revealed to have a mentally challenged older brother, Tad Hollingsworth (Ned Beatty), who has spent most of his life in a Chattanooga institution. Blanche also has a promiscuous niece named Lucy (Hallie Todd), who visits her during the first season.
Although notoriously man-hungry, Blanche was faithfully married for decades to her husband, George Devereaux. George died in either 1981 or 1982, four 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 senior year in high school, Christmas 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, Blanche was shown to be born in 1932.
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 realize his true personality. Another boyfriend Gary (Jerry Hardin) cheated on her 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 because she has never been the "other woman" in extramarital affairs and never wanted to be. The only other time that occurred was when her beau's wife was revived by paramedics after she was declared dead. Blanche has also ruined good relationships with worthy men. Jake (Donnelly Rhodes) was perfect and wanted to marry her, he was charming and romantic, but they had too many differences and she turned him down, to the disgust of her roommates, and regretted it later. 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 Karen heard of Steven's illness, she went right to his side when he needed someone. She also dated John Quinn (Edward Winter) and considered breaking up with him because he was blind and she felt self-conscious because she knew he was not 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 six) date was Mel Bushman (Alan King), who was always available whenever she lacked male companionship. The one time he was not, 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 a newspaper, Mel Bushman sends flowers and a note, saying he has gone back to his ex-wife.
Blanche is portrayed as a promiscuous woman. In one episode, it is stated that her initials, Blanche Elizabeth Devereaux, spell out the word "BED." However, in a previous episode, Viola Watkins calls her "Blanche Marie Hollingsworth". Blanche spends a great deal of her time with men, 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", 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.
In spite of her promiscuity, Blanche was actually conservative in many respects. She was a Republican, plus she had a hard time accepting her brother Clayton's homosexuality, and still seemed to have issues in regards to his sexual orientation when he visited her again with his partner Doug (Michael Ayr).
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, placing her birth year in 1931 or 1932. 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, the age columns of all of papers said "Deleted by Authority of the Governor", implying Blanche had sex with the Governor to get her age struck from her record. In a 1993 episode of The Golden Palace, Blanche's mentally challenged brother, Tad, confirms to Rose that Blanche is in her early 60s.
In real life, Rue McClanahan was the youngest member of the show's cast (10 years younger than the other three series regulars), and the same is true of her character.
Children and grandchildren
At various times over the course of the series, Blanche mentions the names of six children: Janet, Rebecca, Mathew, Doug, "Biff", and "Skippy". However, 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". She mentions three sons — Skippy, Biff and Doug — in the episode "Bringing Up Baby", while the fourth name, 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). 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 was not there for her children more, and it is loosely implied that she might have even been emotionally abusive to them when they were growing up (however the relationship between her 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 Blanche and she had frequent falling outs and bitter fights. When Rebecca was first introduced, she was overweight and about to marry a verbally abusive man (Joe Regalbuto). Later in the series, they fought over a slimmed-down Rebecca's decision to be artificially inseminated and raising the baby without a father. Rebecca decided to visit a birthing center saying: "Hospitals have a rigid way of doing things." After hearing a frightening shriek, Rebecca changes her mind and lets her mother take her to a hospital and even lets her help with the labor in the delivery room. Rebecca gave birth to her daughter, Aurora. They feuded again when Rebecca believed that Blanche was using her granddaughter to "get a man." In each case, they eventually made up again, which was something Blanche seems not to have entirely done with Janet.
Besides Aurora, Blanche has at least three other grandchildren: David, Melissa, and Sarah, all born to Janet, who married a "Yankee." Blanche's 14-year-old grandson David visited the girls in the first season, but was unhappy and rebellious, due to problems in his home life. Sophia eventually hit him for being disrespectful. 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.
Relationship with her roommates
Blanche acts as co-roommate and landlord to Rose Nylund, Dorothy Zbornak, and Sophia Petrillo. Throughout the series, Rose and she are often involved in the same activities. 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. Blanche has her own collection of strange stories which she shares 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 Dorothy and she 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 a few years younger than Dorothy and Rose, she frequently brags about being the youngest roommate in the house.
Blanche considers Sophia as both a mother figure and as a mean old lady. Sophia considers Blanche as one of her own daughters, and very vocally, as a street prostitute. In the pilot episode, Sophia bluntly tells Blanche, "You look like a prostitute."
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.
- Douglas Martin (4 June 2010). "Rue McClanahan, Actress and Golden Girl, Dies at 76". The New York Times. p. A25.
- "Scared Straight". The Golden Girls. Season 4. Episode 9. December 10, 1988.
- "Sister of the Bride". The Golden Girls. Season 6. Episode 14. January 12, 1991.
- "Tad". The Golden Palace. Season 1. Episode 21. April 16, 1993.
- "Nice and Easy". The Golden Girls. Season 1. Episode 17. February 1, 1986.
- "The Engagement". The Golden Girls. Season 1. Episode 1. September 14, 1985.
- 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 & 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.