On The Golden Girls, Dorothy often grew so exasperated with naive Rose and her long stories about St. Olaf that she’d tell her roommate to just shut up.
Seems that in real life, Bea Arthur, who played Dorothy, wanted to do the same to Betty White, aka Rose.
White, who at 99 is the last surviving cast member, once told a reporter in 2011:
“She was not that fond of me,” White said. “She found me a pain in the neck sometimes. It was my positive attitude — and that made Bea mad sometimes. Sometimes if I was happy, she’d be furious!”
Arthur died in 2009, so she wasn’t around to respond to what White said in the interview.
Matthew Saks, Arthur’s son, provided another reason why his mother sometimes grew irritated with White. And like the TV show, in real life it also involved talking.
“Sometimes Betty would go out and smile and chat with the audience and literally go and make friends with the audience,” Saks told The Hollywood Reporter. “Which is a nice thing — a lot of them have come from all over the country and are fans. I think my mom didn’t dig that. It’s more about being focused or conserving your energy. It’s just not the right time to talk to fans between takes. Betty was able to do it and it didn’t seem to affect her. But it rubbed my mom the wrong way.”
Golden Girls Were On And Off Friends in Real Life
But the cast members did enjoy each other’s company. Rue McClanahan, who played Blanche, discussed the friendships during an interview with the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. McClanahan said Arthur wouldn’t go to lunch with her unless White also was invited.
In McClanahan’s book, she said that Arthur got mad what White won the first Emmy of the Golden Girls group. When the show began in 1985, Arthur already had a Tony and an Emmy to her credit. But White also was an Emmy winner. She earned two for supporting actress in a comedy series for her work on the Mary Tyler Moore Show.
Then White began the Golden Girls domination in the Outstanding Actress category. She won in 1986, followed by McClanahan in 1987 and Arthur in 1988. Estelle Getty, as Sophia, earned the Emmy for supporting actress in 1988.
But the main reason there was friction between Arthur and the others, including White, was because of the quips in the script. The show was known for these lines. But when it came to Rose and Blanche, the insults were about the character’s attributes, not about White and McClanahan. But often, the lines about Dorothy concerned her physical appearance. After all, she was tall on the show and real life.
Michael Colucci, author of Golden Girls Forever, an Unauthorized Biography, discussed this topic with Fox News.
Colucci said the insults “could roll off (White’s and McClanahan’s) backs because they were not like their characters.” But “the things that were said about Dorothy were that she was big and ugly. And that wears on an actress after a while.”