‘Golden Girls’: Bea Arthur Revealed Her First Reaction to Racy Jokes in Show’s Script

by Joe Rutland

When actress Bea Arthur first saw the script for “The Golden Girls,” it was funny to her even with some racy jokes in there.

Arthur was asked about her thoughts on the show dialogue during a 2007 interview with National Public Radio.

“When I read the first script, I thought it was one of the funniest, most adult, intelligent scripts I’d ever read,” Arthur, who died in 2009, told NPR’s Terry Gross. “I never even stopped to think, hey these are older women. It just seemed very funny to me.”

She said that she remembers “the first time you saw women – I hate that expression – of a certain age well-groomed and having active sex lives and great earrings.”

Arthur played Dorothy on “The Golden Girls,” which is a stark contrast to her previous TV role as Maude Findlay on CBS’s “Maude.”

Fans, Actors Thought ‘Golden Girls’ Star Was ‘Scary’

Many people, including fans and other actors, thought Bea Arthur was “scary” to work with.

One of her costars on “The Golden Girls” took exception to that, though.

Rue McClanahan said Arthur was not like her on-screen characters.

“Not just the public!” McClanahan, who died in 2010, told Entertainment Weekly. “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!’,” McClanahan said. “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.”

Rue McClanahan Reveals Arthur’s Sensitive Side

While Arthur played tough characters on-screen, McClanahan said she had a sensitive side to her off-screen.

“As a friend, she was giving and loving to me,” McClanahan of “The Golden Girls” said. “She was a very close, quiet, rather timid person, very gentle.”

She remembered seeing someone make a remark that didn’t mean to be cutting toward Arthur. But those words apparently hit the actress the wrong way, sending her into tears.

“That was not seen very often, but those emotions were right under the surface,” McClanahan, who played Blanche on “The Golden Girls,” said.