‘The Golden Girls’: How Bea Arthur Knew Dorothy was the Role for Her Immediately After Reading Script

by Joe Rutland
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Bea Arthur, who established herself as an actress on Broadway and TV, found her way back to the small screen on “The Golden Girls.”

Arthur, who took “Maude” and made the “All in the Family” spinoff one of Norman Lear’s biggest hits, joined “The Golden Girls” cast for the NBC sitcom.

“Well, when I was sent the first script for the pilot, I just read it and said, ‘Oh my God, this is literate, it’s adult, it’s funny,” Arthur said in a 1991 “Today” interview with Joe Garagiola. “Normally, you get script after script that’s usually ho-hum or something that you don’t care for and I just thought, ‘This is wonderful.'”

Take a look at Arthur and her fellow “The Golden Girls” cast members, Betty White, Rue McClanahan, and Estelle Getty, chat it up about their show.

‘The Golden Girls’ Provides Bea Arthur With Another Hit

As mentioned earlier, Arthur had established herself as a Broadway star. Her first love actually was working on stage. But television work also helped Arthur’s career.

It didn’t hurt that, once again, Arthur was part of a television hit show in “The Golden Girls.”

Arthur played Auntie Mame in a stage production of “Mame.” In a 2001 interview, she talked about how her stage background shaped the way she portrayed her characters on television.

“I was bringing my theater training to television,” said Arthur. “I remember somebody said — and it’s true — that I was trying to turn sitcom into an art form.”

If anyone could pull that off, then it definitely was Arthur, who died in 2009.

Arthur Loved Her Time Working on TV Shows in Career

TV work proved creatively satisfying for her, too.

“Working with such talented people,” she said. “You know, the writers, the directors, the producers. Doing material that was bright and literate and original and adult and daring.”

So “The Golden Girls” managed to be a second TV hit for Arthur after “Maude.” Both shows performed well, landing in the Top 10 of the Nielsen ratings for periods of time.

Arthur did “The Golden Girls” for seven seasons, then left. A spinoff proved unsuccessful, lasting one season. But Bea Arthur could proudly say that two of television’s most recognizable characters are tied to her name.

That’s some creative power right there.

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