‘Golden Girls’: Dorothy Actor Bea Arthur Revealed Why Working on Television Was ‘So Creatively Rewarding’

by Katie Maloney

After years of theater acting, Bea Arthur from The Golden Girls found creative fulfillment in television.

Bea Arthur wasn’t always a television actress. In fact, she began her career as a stage actress in New York. After making appearances in several different shows, Arthur landed the role of Vera alongside Angela Lansbury in the production Mame in 1966. The show was a huge success. Arthur won a Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical. A few years later, Arthur reprised her role as Vera for the 1974 film version of the show. Lucille Ball starred in the movie as Mame. After her success on the stage, Arthur had her pick of roles including Maude in All in the Family. Viewers loved Maude so much that producers created a spin-off series specifically for Bea Arthur called Maude. Following the series, Arthur snagged the role of Dorothy on The Golden Girls. During an interview in 2001, Arthur talked about how her stage background shaped the way she portrayed her characters on television.

“I was bringing my theater training to television,” said Arthur. “I remember somebody said— and it’s true— that I was trying to turn sitcom into an art form.” 

Bea Arthur Found Creative Fulfillment on The Golden Girls and Maude

Bea Arthur and the rest of The Golden Girls certainly did manage to turn acting in a sitcom into an art form. The Golden Girls received 68 Emmy Awards nominations (11 wins), 21 Golden Globe Awards nominations (four wins), and five American Comedy Awards (all wins). During a live recording of Arthur’s one-woman show, Bea Arthur on Broadway – Just Between Friends in 2001, Bea Arthur shared that working for television was creatively rewarding for her.

“But, I tell you, for me, for me TV was so creatively rewarding. Both with Golden Girls and with Maude. Working with such talented people. You know, the writers, the directors, the producers. Doing material that was bright and literate and original and adult and daring.”

In 1992 after seven successful seasons, Bea Arthur decided to leave The Golden Girls. Instead of canceling the characters entirely, producers decided to try a spin-off series with the girls minus Dorothy.

The spin-off, The Golden Palace, featured the ladies selling Blanche Devereaux’s home and buying a hotel. The ratings were pretty terrible and The Golden Palace was canceled after only one season. If we had to guess why the show didn’t make it, we’d say that it was because The Golden Girls could never truly be The Golden Girls without Bea Arthur as Dorothy.