‘Golden Girls’ Star Bea Arthur Said Women Treated Her Like ‘Joan of Arc’ for Role of ‘Maude’

by Joe Rutland
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Leave it to “The Golden Girls” star Bea Arthur for an interesting spin upon how women looked at her thanks to playing “Maude.”

Arthur managed to have two successful TV sitcoms in her life. “The Golden Girls” was on NBC, yet she had earlier success playing Maude Findlay on a CBS spinoff from “All in the Family.”

“It created some kind of furor,” Arthur said in a November 2002 interview with the Toronto Globe and Mail. “Because the next thing that Norman (show creator Lear) knew, the president of CBS said, ‘Let’s give her her own show.’

“So (in 1972) we took the character and what I was wearing and made ‘Maude,'” Arthur said. “It was extraordinary, because women all over the country regarded me like Joan of Arc, and I was really so unprepared and fairly disinterested.”

Bea Arthur Had Breakout TV Role Before ‘Golden Girls’

Arthur, who died on April 25, 2009, at 86 years old, was known for her work on Broadway. For her money, “The Golden Girls” star preferred theater work. She made a name for herself in that world but reached greater worldwide status with her TV work.

Obviously, the breakout TV role on “Maude” would put Arthur in millions of households on a weekly basis. The CBS comedy series, with costars Bill Macy and Adrienne Barbeau, ran for six seasons. It took on social issues of the 1970s, including women’s rights and abortion.

How did “Maude” become a show? Earlier, we mentioned the CBS executive giving Lear the go-ahead with a show for Arthur. Yet it was an appearance on “All in the Family” which sealed the deal.

Arthur appears in “Cousin Maude’s Visit” in 1971. What she did with a 13-minute effort on that show ultimately got a lot of people’s attention. Arthur’s character was the polar opposite of Carroll O’Connor’s Archie Bunker. She was liberal; he was conservative. 

The back-and-forth between them on the episode would be a victory not only for Arthur but Lear, too.

Many times, television and movie stars have been known to have eccentric clauses in their contracts. Arthur had a rather unique one in hers.

She didn’t like wearing shoes too much. Of course, when she was working that’s a different story. But walking around a set without shoes on suited Arthur quite well. She wanted the freedom to continue this tradition during her stint on “The Golden Girls.”

Arthur went so far as to having a clause in her contract that allowed her to do this.

According to CountryLiving.com, as part of the clause, Arthur had to agree not to hold the show responsible if she got hurt while walking around barefoot.

People had to be careful around Arthur and her bare feet. One misstep and you could sideline a star for a bit.

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