‘Golden Girls’ Star Rue McClanahan Once Played the Mother of Liberace in Film

by Anna Dunn

The Golden Girls star Rue McClanahan was arguably most known for her hilarious portrayal of the flirty and self-centered Blanche Devereaux.

But she played a ton of roles in her time, including the Mother of famous pianist Liberace in the 1988 film Liberace. In a 1989 interview with Pat Sajak, McClanahan talked about the role.

Apparently, her role as Frances Liberace required a lot of makeup, but McClanahan, known for her hilarious jokes during interviews, said the makeup was required especially when they had to make her “look younger.”

She also admitted that she didn’t know much about Liberace before the film began.

“I didn’t really follow his career. My mother just adored him all that time,” she said, but that doesn’t mean she didn’t learn. “Boy, did I learn a lot. I looked at the tapes and he was quite a showman. Quite a character.”

The film starred Andrew Robinson as Liberace. Rue McClanahan’s role in Liberace is one of the many lesser-known gems of her career.

Sadly, Rue McClanahan passed away on June 3, 2010.

‘Golden Girls’ Actress got Her TV and Film Start because of Norman Lear

Rue McClanahan had a long and fruitful career before The Golden Girls. While she was a new york stage actress starting in the 1950s, she made her on-screen acting debut in the 1970s. This is partially thanks to Norman Lear, who cast her in roles on Maude and All in the Family.

Her work on Maude helped McClanahan make a name for herself. She played Vivian Cavender Harmon from 1972 through 1978. After Maude, she featured in a number of TV shows and films before landing the role of Blanche on The Golden Girls. This included shows such as Mama’s Family, Fantasy Island, and The Love Boat.

McClanahan wasn’t the only Golden Girls star to get a big break from Norman Lear. Bea Arthur had an incredibly similar story. Arthur was a stage actress in New York starting in the 1940s. Norman Lear discovered her in 1971.

Just like McClanahan, he added her to the cast of All in the Family and Maude, where she worked alongside McClanahan. The two became fast friends.

“As a friend, she was giving and loving to me,” McClanahan said of Arthur following her passing. Thanks in part to Norman Lear, the two Hollywood icons got to work together and create side-splitting comedy for decades.

While McClanahan’s work as Blanche is best known, her other work, like her acting in Liberace, is also worth applause.