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Old 04-26-2009, 03:11 PM   #61
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Default Rue McClanahan remembers Bea Arthur

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Bea Arthur and Rue McClanahan rank among TV's all-time great comic matchups, first on the groundbreaking '70s sitcom Maude, and later, during seven seasons of the Emmy-winning ensemble comedy The Golden Girls. (Check out a couple of embedded YouTube clips at the end of this Q&A.) EW.com phoned McClanahan at her Manhattan home this morning to get her memories about her long-time friend and co-star, who died yesterday in Los Angeles at age 86. McClanahan described Arthur as a gentle, almost timid person who changed America's perception of what it meant to be an older woman, who finally achieved her greatest career goal at age 79, and who could tell a dirty joke with the best of 'em.

What did you learn about acting from Bea Arthur?
What I got attached to, as an actress, was her impeccable timing. And I loved playing scenes with her. She taught me, by watching her, even back during Maude, to be outrageously courageous as a comedienne, to go out on a limb, to go farther than I've ever dreamed of going. [On The Golden Girls], Blanche had to say and do things that Rue found difficult. And it would always be Bea who said [deepens voice to perfectly imitate Arthur] "Oh say it! It's funny!"

What was she like off-camera?
As a friend she was giving and loving to me. She was a very close, quiet, rather timid person, very gentle. I saw someone say something once that they didn't mean to be a cutting remark, but it hit her wrong, and she immediately burst into tears. That was not seen very often, but those emotions were right under the surface.

It's interesting to hear that, because I think a lot of fans just assumed she was as tough as Maude, as gruff as Dorothy.
Not just the public! When I first worked with her on Maude and came back to New York, actors descended upon me and said "Oooh! What was it like? Was it scary working with Bea Arthur?" I said "Good heavens! Anything but!" That height -- she was 5'10'' flat-footed -- and that deep voice, and that manner she was able to summon up, made people think she would be difficult. But she wasn't.


Any interesting quirks?
[On Golden Girls], Bea always sat in the same chair at rehearsals. Always. And she always had to have me on her right, and Betty [White] and Estelle [Getty] across the table from her. And we could not change seats from year to year, or even from week to week.

How did Bea feel about her status as a feminist icon?
Of course she was aware of it, but I tell you what meant something to Bea: Acting, performing, playing comedy and doing it well.

What did Bea mean to women of her generation? Maude and The Golden Girls both tackled a lot of issues older women face, and did so with a candor that we don't always see in Hollywood.
I think, in both of those shows, we really did change the perception of a woman's role. I don't think anybody thought that it was okay to be a feminist back when she was doing Maude. And I'm sure that [show] released a lot of inhibitions. I know The Golden Girls certainly did because I've got fan mail saying "Thank you for allowing me to act and dress like I feel." Because in those days, when you were over 50, you were supposed to be wearing certain types of clothes and behaving a certain way. And women were writing saying "Thank you, thank you, thank you for the freedom, for the release, for the permission." And I'm sure Bea got that same kind of fan mail, too.

Later in life, Bea didn't shy away from racier fare. She did an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, she participated in the Pamela Anderson roast...
She did quite a few roasts. She came from the theater, remember. And the theater tends to be more bawdy, more gritty than television. She understood that kind of humor. She had a one-woman show on Broadway -- I'm so glad she got to do that. And she told some pretty raunchy jokes, live on stage. In fact, a couple that were just a bit too much for me! [Laughs.] But boy she could tell a dirty joke. Oh my God, she was funny!

It couldn't have been easy pulling off a one-woman Broadway show at that stage of her life.
That woman was [about to turn] 80. She looked like a million bucks. What a beautiful costume she had on. And that's all she wanted to do, she told me way back when we were doing Maude: "All I want to do is sing in front of an orchestra." She did Broadway musicals before she ever got picked up to do that All in the Family episode that was the beginning of her television career. And she was always pissed off that she was so old when it happened. When I went out to do Maude, I was about 38 and she was about 50, I guess, and she said "it just makes me so mad that it came so late in life!" [Laughs.] She'd been trying all of her young acting career to get some fame and attention.

What was Bea's lasting contribution to TV history?
What's any great star's lasting contribution? What's Lucille Ball's? I donít know how to put answers like that into words. I suppose perhaps the thing she did the best and the most of was make people laugh.
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Old 04-26-2009, 03:17 PM   #62
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A to Rue and Betty as well. We love them, too!! (Thanks for posting that great interview, Charles!)
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Old 04-26-2009, 03:17 PM   #63
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Inverview With Rue McClanahan(on the Phone) on The Today Show.

http://today.msnbc.msn.com/
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Old 04-26-2009, 03:24 PM   #64
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Originally Posted by kravitzfan12
I, too, am a guy and LOVE the Golden Girls. You are 100% correct: this is one of the funniest shows of all time - funny is funny, regardless!

I will never be ashamed of being a fan of Golden Girls because I am a guy, but I am proud of being a fan and of witnessing the talents of these four incredible women. It was an honor to watch Bea perform!
Don't worry about being a guy fan of The Golden Girls. I know a lot of guys that are fans. My dad is a fan and Dorothy was his favorite character. Some of my male relatives are fans and one of my best guy friends is a fan.
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Old 04-26-2009, 04:14 PM   #65
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R.I.P. Bea. You will be missed!!
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Old 04-26-2009, 04:22 PM   #66
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Arthur was one of an increasingly small pool of television actors who brought true theatrical credits to her TV roles; one can see the poise, timing and maturity in such actors.

I enjoyed her for years on "Maude" and thought her performance was really the lynchpin of "Golden Girls". And I'll always get a smile when I recall her voiceover role on "Futurama" as the fembot who fell for Bender ("Commence 'Snoo Snoo'!")
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Old 04-26-2009, 04:57 PM   #67
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Originally Posted by Retro4Life
Arthur was one of an increasingly small pool of television actors who brought true theatrical credits to her TV roles; one can see the poise, timing and maturity in such actors.

I enjoyed her for years on "Maude" and thought her performance was really the lynchpin of "Golden Girls". And I'll always get a smile when I recall her voiceover role on "Futurama" as the fembot who fell for Bender ("Commence 'Snoo Snoo'!")
Anyone else remember her stint as Dewey's babysitter on Malcolm in the Middle?? HYSTERICAL!!
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Old 04-26-2009, 05:37 PM   #68
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kravitzfan12
I, too, am a guy and LOVE the Golden Girls. You are 100% correct: this is one of the funniest shows of all time - funny is funny, regardless!

I will never be ashamed of being a fan of Golden Girls because I am a guy, but I am proud of being a fan and of witnessing the talents of these four incredible women. It was an honor to watch Bea perform!
I'm a guy and I loved the Golden Girls too. Good comedy is good comedy. It doesn't matter if you're a man or a woman. If it's funny, I'll watch.
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Old 04-26-2009, 05:39 PM   #69
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Anyone else remember her stint as Dewey's babysitter on Malcolm in the Middle?? HYSTERICAL!!
I saw that episode. Absolutely one of her best performances.
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Old 04-26-2009, 05:57 PM   #70
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Old 04-26-2009, 07:35 PM   #71
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RIP Bea. I do love Golden Girls but Bea is more Maude to me. She was a true TV legend.
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Old 04-27-2009, 03:38 AM   #72
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i didn't even know she was sick. this is really sad
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Old 04-27-2009, 06:57 AM   #73
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I saw that episode. Absolutely one of her best performances.
Absolutely - she also got an Emmy nomination for that guest spot.
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Old 04-27-2009, 11:15 AM   #74
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there is not going to be a Funeral that how Private Miss Bea was
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Old 04-27-2009, 03:12 PM   #75
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This also really upset me when I saw the article on Sunday. I am so glad to have all her DVD's from the GG. I really wanted the chance to meet her someday, but In all she will be surely missed.
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