Before she became famous for playing Dorothy Zbornak on “The Golden Girls,” actress Bea Arthur had a pretty impressive career. She appeared on the Broadway stage in such shows as “Fiddler On the Roof,” on television in the “All In the Family” spinoff “Maude,” and in movies.
There was one project, however, that Arthur probably would have been happy to wipe off of her filmography if she could.
That project was the 1974 movie version of the Broadway musical “Mame.” The future “Golden Girls” actress played the character, Vera Charles, in the film. That was the role she also played on Broadway. In the film, she starred opposite the legendary “I Love Lucy” actress Lucille Ball. Ball was cast in the title role of Mame Dennis.
The original Broadway production of “Mame” starred Angela Lansbury in the title role. According to Playbill.com, the show opened on May 24, 1966. It played for 1,508 performances before it closed on Jan. 3, 1970. The story of “Mame” took place on the stage at the Broadway Theatre on West 41st Street in Manhattan.
The Broadway production of “Mame” was a big hit. That really isn’t a surprise given the actors and creative forces behind the show. In addition to Arthur and Lansbury, iconic composer and lyricist Jerry Herman was the man behind the music for the show. The book for the famous musical was written by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee.
Both Angela Lansbury and Bea Arthur won Tony Awards for their work in “Mame,” according to Playbill.com. This wouldn’t be the last major award “The Golden Girls” actress would receive during her decades-long career.
‘Golden Girls’ Actress Bea Arthur Brought Her Broadway Character to Screen in Film Version of ‘Mame’
With the Broadway show such a success, it’s not a surprise that “Mame” was made into a movie. However, the resulting product was not something Bea Arthur was proud of. She talked about this during an interview with Greg Triggs prior to her death in 2009.
When the film version of “Mame” came up during the interview, Arthur began to share her feelings about the project. Triggs told the actress he enjoyed her performance in the movie. Then she reportedly said: “Oh God, no! You saw the film version of ‘Mame’? It’s horrible.”
Arthur then goes on to say that she felt pressured to be part of the film.
“I hated it. Absolutely hate the film of ‘Mame,'” Arthur also said. “It was one of those things you get talked into doing. At the time, I was married to the director of the film. He said, ‘As my wife you owe it to me.'”
So, what did “The Golden Girls” actress believe was wrong with the film version of “Mame”? Well, she believed the casting wasn’t right.
“I just felt that it was so badly miscast,” Bea Arthur said.
Bea Arthur appeared on “The Golden Girls” as Dorothy Zbornak from 1985 until 1992, according to IMDb.com. She reprised the role in the spinoff series “The Golden Palace” during 1992 and on “Empty Nest” during 1989. Arthur’s portrayal of the divorced Dorothy on “The Golden Girls” earned her an Emmy award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series in 1988, according to IMDb.com.