Bea Arthur has passed away at the age of 86.
A long time stage actress, Ms. Arthur came to be best known in the 1970’s when she was was cast as Edith’s (Jean Stapleton) cousin, Maude Finley, on the hit series, All in the Family. Maude was a very liberal woman who proved the perfect foil for Archie’s (Carroll O’Connor) old world views on races, women and everything else under the sun. Though she was already 50-years-old at the time, ABC took notice of her performance on the show and decided to spin her off into her own show, simply entitled Maude.
Maude was a hit series in its own right, and propelled Ms. Arthur even more into the national spotlight when her show started tackling serious issues such as alcoholism. However, it was when her character had an abortion that the series took on a life of its own as it was the first time it had been mentioned in a television series since it had become legal. Protests were launched against the show, but it only seemed to make it that much more of a “must watch” series.
That series came to an end in 1978 when Ms. Arthur opted to leave the show. By this point she was a household name, and due to her unusual height (5’9″) and exceptionally deep voice, she got a lot of work in guest appearances on various series. It was in 1985 when she joined a new series entitled The Golden Girls with Betty White, Rue McClanahan and Estelle Getty. This series once again broke new ground as all four leads were older women, and she was once again propelled into another hit series. She stayed with that show, now a basic cable rerun staple, until 1992. The show continued one more year without her under the name The Golden Palace, but without Ms. Arthur it just couldn’t succeed.
Since the end of that series her work has been very sporadic, but she was still an iconic television figure never needing an introduction.
She passed away at her home, surrounded by family, of an unspecified form of cancer.
Thank you for many great years of very entertaining television, Ms. Arthur.