‘The Golden Girls’: Sophia Actress Estelle Getty Bought Character’s Iconic Purse as a Prop for Audition

by Josh Lanier

Actors bring something special to every role. But Estelle Getty literally brought one of the most recognizable props from The Golden Girls with her to her audition.

According to the New York Post, Getty spotted the iconic straw purse while shopping at a thrift store in Los Angeles. She brought it with her to the audition and producers liked it so much it ended up in the show. For the entire run of the series.

It’s one of the props most associated with Getty’s character Sophia outside of her oversized glasses.

It was apparently Getty’s idea for Sophia to always carry the signature handbag. She felt that older women are forced to give up so much that everything they keep ends up in their purse, the Los Angeles Times said in her 2008 obituary. Sophia wasn’t going to relinquish what little she had left.

“Nobody puts down their life very easily,” she told Newsday in 1992, according to the Times.

The purse was sold at auction in 2009 for more than $9,000. The purchaser’s name wasn’t released so where it is now is unclear.

Estelle Getty Suffered From Severe Stage Fright

While Estelle Getty was one of the best comedic sitcom actresses of the past generation, it wasn’t easy for her to record in front of The Golden Girls’ live studio audience. In fact, it was terrifying.

So scary that she couldn’t remember her lines and would need to write them all over the set.

“She had an awful time remembering her lines because she would freeze and panic,” Rue McClanahan said. “The day before tape day, you could see a big difference in her. She’d be walking around like Pig-Pen under a black cloud. By tape day, she was unreachable.”

It caused a problem once because Getty had written Sophia’s lines on a banana. Getty staring at the fruit during rehearsal caused an issue with producers.

“Should Estelle really be staring at a banana? Is that odd?” writer and producer Mort Nathan asked production assistant Nina Feinberg Wass. “Oh my God, she’s written her lines on the fruit.”

Wass was sent to the set and told Getty he’d need to take the banana.

“You may not move my banana!” Getty yelled, though she eventually gave in, the NY Post said.

Getty won an Emmy for the role in 1988. Knowing she was working under such duress makes her performance even more captivating. She was able to put aside her fear and deliver some of the show’s best and funniest one-liners.

“You thought, ‘She’s never going to be able to take a step on that stage.’ She’s one of the reasons for the success of the show with young people,” Betty White said. “They get such a kick out of little Estelle telling big Bea (Arthur) off!”