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'Golden Girls' leading lady Rue McClanahan dies at 76

June 3, 2010 | 12:49 pm

Rue McClanahan Golden Girls Rue McClanahan, who died Thursday, won the Emmy Award in 1987 for starring as the vivacious Blanche Deveraux on the classic sitcom "The Golden Girls." As the man-eating Southern vixen, McClanahan found the leading role of a lifetime after decades as a supporting player.

As McClanahan discusses in the TV academy archive interview below, she was approached to play the naive Rose, but she and Betty White swapped parts before the first table read. McClanahan was instrumental in convincing her pal Bea Arthur to play the tart-tongued Dorothy while stage vet Estelle Getty was cast as Dorothy's diminutive but domineering mother, Sophia.

"The Golden Girls" was an instant hit when it debuted on NBC in fall 1985 and won best comedy series at the Emmy Awards in 1986. That night nominees Arthur and McClanahan watched as White won the lead actress Emmy. McClanahan would be the victorious one among the three the following year with Arthur finally winning the race in 1988.

As Getty also prevailed in the supporting race in 1988, "The Golden Girls" became only the second TV show -- after "All in the Family" -- to have an entirely Emmy-winning cast. ("Will & Grace" would become the third such show when Debra Messing finally won her Emmy in 2003.)

The three leading golden girls were all nominated again in 1990 but lost to Candice Bergen, who picked up the first of her record five Emmys for "Murphy Brown." Only White would continue to contend for the last three years of "The Golden Girls." The show, which had repeated in the top race in 1988, lost its following four bids for best comedy series.

McClanahan first came to fame in the 1970s as the dim-witted Vivian on "Maude" opposite Arthur in the title role. After Arthur ended that show in 1978, McClanahan starred that fall in "Apple Pie" -- another creation by her good pal Norman Lear -- which was canceled by ABC after only two airings. She had a recurring role on "Mama's Family" for several years before "The Golden Girls" came along.

After the end of that series after seven years when Arthur again bowed out, the remaining trio starred in "The Golden Palace," but the magic was gone and the show was axed after one season in 1993. Since then, McClanahan guested on various TV shows and returned to her stage roots, earning acclaim for appearances in a revival of "The Women" and in the long-running hit tuner "Wicked."

Photo: Rue McClanahan in "The Golden Girls." Credit: NBC.

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I am a 32 year old & I have been watching the Golden Girls since they came out. I remember watching it with my grandmother. I continued to watch the show through out my life. My grandmother fell extremely ill several years ago and i would go to her house every day and we would watch the Golden Girls 3 times a day. It was great! She loved them so much! She just recently passed away & I will forever cherish the memories of this show with her & Blanche, Dorothy,Rose and Sophia.

she was one of my favorites.thanks"blanche" for all the wonderful moments; i will always remember u.

Im a 24 yr old who has grown up watching the golden girls my whole life. It is by far the best show ever! I watch it everyday and pretty much know every episode word for word. These 4 ladies are absolutely amazing and made this show a hit! RIP Rue Mcclanahan

She was really a great person.

She was able to think for herself and was able to see how insane our mistreatment of animals is.

How this corporate-consumer society has trained us to set aside our ability to imagine ourselves in the place of another, resulting in widescale participation in some unbelievably horrible things.

Fortunately, she remained very in touch with that ability.
She was able to imagine herself in the place of the animals that are mistreated, tortured and murdered by humans every day, and she did a great deal to help bring an end to it.

I really wish she was still with us but at least she managed to awaken many thousands of people who will continue in her place, defending the defenseless and bringing an end to the insanity.

I am a long-time Golden Girls fan. I watched them when it was originally aired, and I now watch them on Hallmark, WE TV or the DVDs. As crazy as it may sound, this show gives me comfort everytime I watch it - just like being around family. I pray the three 'girls' we've lost know what a large extended family they have in their die-hard fans, and our love and appreciation is with all of them and continues with Betty White. Rue, you were my favorite and as sad as I am to know you are gone, I will continue to smile at your performances. They will live forever and bring great joy to many.

Rest in peace my girls. There will never be another tv program as witty and wonderful as you all were.

I love the Golden Girls. I have all the sessions and watch them every day. You girls make me happy when I am sad. I am will miss you Rue McClanahan.. But just remember even though you gone. I will be watching all of you girls forever. I love all of you. You girls will never be forgotten:)

Ann Apo

Rip Blanche you will certainly be missed

May you rest in Peace With the other Golden Girls Bless you all in Heaven

Thank for all the good laughs were one in a million.

I love the golden girls!!!!!!!! It is one my faverite shows. Blanche is in Jesus's arms now! She will be missed!! You made me laugh I love you Blanche.

This makes the third golden girl to die in the past 3 years. First was Sofia, who died in 2008, Dorothy, who died last year (2009), and now Blanche in 2010. Play it safe Rose Nylon.

dear Blanche,,, How times flies, now 2 of you have left the golden life,,, we will miss you. Thankfully we have reruns for our great souvenirs...
I wish one day I will be A GOLDEN GIRLS...

Can just any amateur write articles for the LA Times? Here's a clue: next time you write a whole article about the death of a famous actress, at least include the cause of death !

Looks like another age in Television is almost at an end. With Dorothy White being the last of the Golden Girls quartet to still be alive, what will be next?

God love you Rue....for I know the world loved you. You will be missed. Vern

I always thought if I ever wanted to be like somebody that it would be a womoan like Blanche...what a woman. I love Rue McClanahan and will always love her and will always remember her role as Blanche Will miss her very much.

RIP Rue, aka Blanche I will always remember you when I think of my favorite lines from the Golden Girl's.

"I'm as jumpy as a virgin at a prison rodeo!"
"Just because you look like Yoda, I thought you were also wise."

I LOVE the GOLDEN GIRLS all the years in was aired. I still watch it on TV every time it's on.... now my one year grandson knows the Golden Girls. Every time the theme song comes on he stops and listen and watch the first 3 minutes of the show.

I was blessed to watch these lovely ladies. I first was watch them when I was pregnant with my first child in 1986. And I pretty much lived there life at the table with cheese cake at 2 a.m. in the morning talking to my mother on the phone or when she stayed at my house to help me with my girls.

I will miss them and I hope they will NEVER take them of the air. I schedule my day and night to watch the girls to calm down my long day with a good LOL.

I watched The Golden Girls as often as it comes on. I will miss you. Rest in Peace. Lydis

May you Rest in Peace Blanche. You will continue to make me laugh forever as I always watch Golden Girls reruns. I was so saddened to hear of your passing today, as I cried for you and I cried for your good friends too. I even cried watching the final show of Golden Girls. You will be greatly missed. God be with you.


we love you and will miss you very much blanche. may you rest in peace.

posted by: "The Queen"

How sad! I'm in tears at this moment. RIP Rue McClanahan. You'll forever live in my heart. Thank you so much for all the laughs Ms. Blanche Devereaux & God bless you.

First Dennis Hopper and now Rue McClanahan. Aren’t you tired of the talented actors passing away? Why won’t Lindsay Lohan, Jessica Alba or Paris Hilton bite the bullet; it’s not like they’re doing much with their lives anyway.

Goodbye Rue! I have watched you since day 1 and you are on right now.
Thank you for all the years of laughs.




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