Bea Arthur, the Tony Award-winning actress who starred in the controversial 1970s television show Maude and the quintessential 1980s sitcom The Golden Girls, passed away today at her Los Angeles home. She was 86.
Bea Arthur’s family spokesman Dan Wyatt told the press that she died surrounded by family and that the cause of death was cancer, but provided no further details.
Bea Arthur won a Tony Award in 1966 for her work as Vera Charles in the play Mame.
The tall, deep-voiced actress was well-known for her role as Maude on All in the Family. Her character’s outspoken liberal political views created great tension between Maude and the All in the Family patriarch Archie Bunker. She later became the star of her own show of the same name, and Maude dealt with numerous then-taboo topics, including the likes of pornography and abortion.
Bea Arthur went on to star as Dorothy Zbornak, jilted ex-wife of slimeball Stanley, daughter to Sophia Petrillo, and confidante to sexpot Blanche Devereaux and innocent Minnesotan Rose Nylund, on The Golden Girls. The smash-hit comedy debuted in 1985 and chronicled the lives of three widows and a divorcee living together in a South Florida house during their golden years of life. Love of The Golden Girls still runs deep with today’s viewers; of the over 18,000 TV shows rated on tv.com, it is currently ranked number 289 in popularity.
Arthur earned an Emmy each for her work on The Golden Girls (1988) and Maude (1977). She was nominated a total of eleven times from 1973 through 2000. Arthur also received nine Golden Globe nods, but never took home the award.
In addition to Mame, Maude and The Golden Girls, Bea Arthur compiled an extensive list of theatrical and television appearances, using her talents in productions ranging the gamut from Soap to Malcolm in the Middle to The Howard Stern Show.
During her later years, Bea Arthur joined PETA and campaigned on behalf of the animal rights group. According to an entry posted in the PETA blog today, Arthur was an honorary director of the organization.
Bea Arthur is survived by two sons and two granddaughters.
‘Golden Girls’ star Bea Arthur Dies at 86, AP
The Golden Girls Cast and Crew Listing, TV.com
Two-Time Emmy Award Winner Bea Arthur Dead at 86, CNN
Beatrice Arthur, Wikipedia
Dan Mathews, Honorary PETA Director, Bea Arthur Passes On, PETA Files