‘Golden Girls’: Why Bea Arthur Called Being on Show and ‘Maude’ a ‘Little Box’

by Suzanne Halliburton
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The Golden Girls gave Dorothy a glorious ending. The only divorcee in the group fell in love with handsome Lucas Hollingsworth and married him in the series finale.

That’s how Bea Arthur’s character will be remembered. She was happy and in love with a character played by Leslie Nielsen. Plus, Hollingsworth was Blanche’s uncle, so Dorothy would be her best friend’s aunt.

In reality, Arthur wanted to leave the Golden Girls because she was tired of the daily grind of television. She’d played major characters for almost two decades.

“I really feel all my adult life has been spent in that little black box,” Arthur said in her one-woman show Bea Arthur on Broadway. The show was in 2001.

“If a wonderful part on TV came along, I would do it,” Arthur told the audience. “But I don’t want to do a recurring role. It would just be my luck that the thing would be successful. I’m old enough now and also secure enough financially that I really only want to do what I want to do.”

Arthur was the first of the Golden Girls who wanted to leave the show. Jim Colucci, who wrote a book on the series, discussed Arthur during an interview with Fox411.

“By the start of the 7th season, Bea made it very clear that she was done,” Colucci said. “She thought the quality was starting to slip.  She wanted to go out while it was still a good show and she felt she was done with it.”

The show ran from 1985-92. And before the Golden Girls, Arthur starred on Maude, a comedy that ran from 1972-78. And it was her decision to leave Maude.

Bea Arthur Was 70 When Golden Girls Finished. She No Longer Wanted a Full-time Role

Arthur was 70 when the Golden Girls ended with her wedding. There wasn’t much left to accomplish for Arthur, other than to win an Academy Award. She already had a Tony and two Emmys on her acting resume.

Her acting career started on stage and it its zenith in 1966 when she won a Tony for playing Vera Charles in Mame.

Norman Lear, who created All in the Family, saw Arthur on stage and cast her in his show in 1971. That’s when Arthur’s TV career officially started. She was 48 when she first started playing Maude Findlay, Edith Bunker’s cousin. Lear loved the character so much, he created a spinoff for the next season.

Arthur won an Emmy for Best Actress in a comedy in 1977.

Then in 1985, Arthur was cast in Golden Girls. The part was written with a Bea Arthur type in mind.

But six to seven years seemed to be Arthur’s limit. Once the Golden Girls ended, she did make a guest appearance when the show was reworked to become The Golden Palace. But that show, minus Arthur, floundered and was canceled.

Arthur’s true love was Broadway. She did two one-woman shows. One of them notched a Tony nomination.

She died in 2009 at age 86 as one of the best-known TV actresses of her time.

 

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