Getty at the 41st Primetime Emmy Awards in 1989
July 25, 1923
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Died||July 22, 2008
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Cause of death||Lewy body dementia|
|Other names||Estelle Shweet-Gettleman|
|Television||The Golden Girls
The Golden Palace
(m. 1947–2004; his death)
Estelle Getty (née Scher; July 25, 1923 – July 22, 2008) was an American actress and comedian, who appeared in film, television, and theatre. She was best known for her role as Sophia Petrillo on The Golden Girls from 1985 to 1992, which won her an Emmy and a Golden Globe, on The Golden Palace from 1992 to 1993, and on Empty Nest from 1993 to 1995. In her later years, after retiring from acting, she battled Lewy body dementia.
Estelle Getty was born Estelle Scher on July 25, 1923 to Sarah and Charles Scher in New York City. Her parents were Polish-Jewish immigrants. Her father was employed in the glass business. She had a sister, Roslyn, and a brother, David. Getty got her start in the Yiddish theater and also as a comedian in the Catskills borscht belt resorts, and among her most notable stage roles was as Harvey Fierstein's mother in Torch Song Trilogy during its original Broadway run.
Getty is best known for her role as Sophia Petrillo on the popular 1980s sitcom, The Golden Girls. Her character was the Sicilian mother of Dorothy Zbornak, played by Bea Arthur, although Getty was, in fact, one year younger than Arthur. In 1988, the role earned Getty the Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress.
During her time on The Golden Girls, Getty, along with Steve Delsohn, co-wrote an autobiography entitled If I Knew Then, What I Know Now... So What? (Contemporary Books, 1988). She further capitalized on her success by releasing an exercise video for senior citizens in 1993.
In 1992, following her seven-season role on The Golden Girls, Getty, with Betty White and Rue McClanahan returned as their characters Sophia Petrillo, Rose Nylund and Blanche Devereaux respectively, in the spin-off series, The Golden Palace. The new show saw the three remaining cast members from the original series invest in a Miami hotel. The series was cancelled after just one season. Getty reprised her role of Sophia once again for a guest appearance in Nurses, and for the final time when she joined Empty Nest, another spin-off series from The Golden Girls. She appeared in the series for the final two seasons.
Getty made numerous guest appearances on a diverse variety of popular television series, including Fantasy Island, Cagney & Lacey, Blossom, Touched by an Angel, Mad About You and The Nanny. Her numerous film roles include Tootsie, Mask and Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot, alongside Sylvester Stallone, which earned her a Razzie Award for Worst Supporting Actress.
She was married to Arthur Gettleman (whose name she adapted into her stage name) from December 21, 1947 until his death in 2004. The couple had two sons: Carl Gettleman, who lives in California, and Barry Gettleman, who lives in Florida.
In 1991, as later reported in Star magazine, Getty helped to nurse her 29-year-old nephew Steven Scher, who was near death and suffering from the final stages of AIDS. Because Scher's parents lived in England and his friends were no longer able to care for him in Greensboro, North Carolina, Getty had him flown to California and admitted to hospice care. He died in January 1992.
In 2000, Getty stopped making public appearances after revealing she had Parkinson's disease and osteoporosis. In 2002, media reports claimed she was also suffering from Alzheimer's disease. Doctors later discovered she actually had Lewy body dementia; both the Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diagnoses were incorrect. Golden Girls cast members who attempted to talk to her on the phone or in person found that she couldn't remember them, or anything about the show. Bea Arthur said that even during production of the series, Getty had so much trouble remembering her lines that they should have known something was wrong from the beginning.
In 2003, Lifetime television hosted a Golden Girls reunion, The Golden Girls: Their Greatest Moments. In 2008, the show was awarded the Pop Culture award at the Sixth Annual TV Land Awards. Getty did not participate in either project.
- 1986 – Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series – The Golden Girls – (Nominated)
- 1987 – Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series – The Golden Girls – (Nominated)
- 1989 – Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series – The Golden Girls – (Nominated)
- 1990 – Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series – The Golden Girls – (Nominated)
- 1991 – Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series – The Golden Girls – (Nominated)
- 1992 – Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series – The Golden Girls – (Nominated)
Golden Globe Awards
* 1985 – Actress in a Leading Role – Musical or Comedy Series – The Golden Girls – (Won)
- 1986 – Actress in a Leading Role – Musical or Comedy Series – The Golden Girls – (Nominated)
- 1991 – Actress in a Supporting Role – Series, Mini-Series or Television Movie – The Golden Girls – (Nominated)
Drama Desk Award
- 1982 - Drama Desk Award Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play - Torch Song Trilogy – (Nominated)
Helen Hayes Awards
- 1985 - Helen Hayes Award Outstanding Supporting Performer in a Touring Production - Torch Song Trilogy – (Won)
|1982||Tootsie||Middle Aged Woman|
|1984||No Man's Land||Eurol Miller||Television film|
|1984||Victims for Victims: The Theresa Saldana Story||Television movie|
|1985||Copacabana||Bella Stern||Television movie|
|1987||Mannequin||Mrs. Claire Timkin|
|1992||Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot||Mrs. Tutti Bomowski||Razzie Award for Worst Supporting Actress|
|1997||A Match Made in Heaven||Betty Weston||Television movie|
|1999||The Sissy Duckling||Mrs. Hennypecker (voice)||Television movie|
|1999||Stuart Little||Grandma Estelle|
|2000||The Million Dollar Kid||Sister Rosanne|
|1981||Nurse||Sadie Mandler||Episode: "Equal Opportunity"|
|1982||Baker's Dozen||Mrs. Locasale||Episode: "Dear John"|
|1984||Fantasy Island||Money Lady||Episode: "The Match Maker"|
|1984||Cagney & Lacey||Mrs. Rosenmeyer||Episode: "Baby Broker"|
|1984||Hotel||Roberta Abrams||Episode: "Intimate Strangers"|
|1985||Newhart||Miriam the Librarian||Episode: "What Makes Dick Run"|
|1985–1992||The Golden Girls||Sophia Petrillo||180 episodes
American Comedy Award for Funniest Supporting Female in a Television Series (1991–92)
Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Musical or Comedy
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Musical or Comedy
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series (1986–87, 1989–92)
|1987||Roomies||Mama||Episode: "Mid-Term Fever"|
|1990||City||Helen Rutledge||Episode: "Seems Like Old Times"|
|1990||The Earth Day Special||Sophia Petrillo|
|1991||The Fanelli Boys||Episode: "Doctor, Doctor""|
|1991||Blossom||Sophia Petrillo||Episode: "I Ain't Got No Body"|
|1992–1993||The Golden Palace||Sophia Petrillo||24 episodes|
|1993||Nurses||Sophia Petrillo||Episode: "Temporary Setbacks"|
|1993–1995||Empty Nest||Sophia Petrillo||52 episodes|
|1996||Touched by an Angel||Dottie||Episode: "The Sky Is Falling"|
|1996||Brotherly Love||Myrna Burwell||Episode: "Motherly Love"|
|1997||Mad About You||Paul's aunt||Episode: "The Birth – Part 1"|
|1997||Duckman||Aunt Jane (voice)||Episode: "Westward, No!"|
|1998||The Nanny||Herself||Episode: "Making Whoopi"|
|2000||Ladies Man||Sophia Gates||Episode: "Romance"|
|2001||Intimate Portrait: Estelle Getty||Herself|
|2001||It's Like, You Know...||Herself||Episode: "Lust for Life"|
- Carlson, Michael (July 24, 2008). "Obituary: Estelle Getty". theguardian.com. Retrieved October 13, 2013.
- "Estelle Getty Biography (1923-)". Film Reference. Retrieved October 13, 2013.
- "Goodbye Golden Girl: Comic actress Estelle Getty dies at 84". Haaretz. July 23, 2008. Retrieved October 13, 2013.
- Simonson, Robery (July 22, 2008). "Estelle Getty, Star of "Golden Girls," Dies at 84". Playbill.com. Retrieved October 13, 2013.
- Weber, Bruce (July 23, 2008). "Estelle Getty, 'Golden Girls' Matriarch, Dies at 84". The New York Times. Retrieved October 13, 2013.
- Lansden, Pamela (March 31, 1986). "Estelle Getty Zings for Her Supper as Bea Arthur's Zap-Happy Mom on Golden Girls". People.com. Retrieved October 13, 2013.
- Lawson, Sarah (November 19, 2012). "Great Moments in Age-Inappropriate Casting". The New York Times. Retrieved October 13, 2013.
- Bernstein, Adam (July 23, 2008). "Estelle Getty, 84; 'Golden Girl' Actress Won an Emmy Award". The Washington Post. Retrieved October 13, 2013.
- Glenn Haas, Jane (December 31, 1993). "Estelle Getty leads a workout for seniors". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved October 13, 2013.
- Luther, Claudia (July 23, 2008). "Estelle Getty, 84; 'Golden Girls' actress brought humor, depth to mother roles". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 13, 2013.
- "Frequently Asked Questions". EstelleGetty.com. Retrieved November 16, 2013.
- "Estelle Getty". Gay Globe Magazine Média TV. Retrieved November 16, 2013.
- "A 'Golden Girl's Tragic Battle with Dementia". Entertainment Tonight. November 19, 2004. Archived from the original on February 8, 2005. Retrieved October 13, 2013.
- Fonseca, Nicholas (April 24, 2009). "'Golden Girls': A 20th Anniversary Oral History". Entertainment Weekly. p. 3. Retrieved October 14, 2013.
- "Torch Song Trilogy". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved October 14, 2013.
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