Before finding success on TV in “Maude” and “The Golden Girls,” Bea Arthur established herself as a Broadway star. One moment stands out.
In 1954, Arthur appeared in the initial English translation of “The Threepenny Opera,” a famed German musical written by Kurt Weill and Bertold Brecht. Arthur plays Lucy and, in one scene, finds herself singing a song with actress Jo Sullivan Loesser.
Let’s stick with Arthur’s moment before bringing up a couple of music trivia moments. In a National Public Radio interview from 2007, Arthur said it was her first time doing comedy.
“There’s a reality and an honesty (to comedy),” she said, “and it made my life. I always pictured myself as – not as a tragedian, but certainly as a very tall, very young leading woman.”
‘Golden Girls’ Star Bea Arthur Couldn’t Believe Audience’s Laughing
Bea Arthur, who died on April 26, 2009, calls appearing in that play “the most exciting moment of my life.”
“I walked into stage left and I started singing and my first lyrics were: I used to believe in the days I was pure,” Arthur said to NPR’s Terry Gross. “And the audience started laughing.”
She said that she thought to herself, “Why the hell are you laughing at me?”
“And then my next line was: and I was pure like you used to be,” she said. “And they laughed again.”
Arthur said she thought, “Hey that’s what comedy is. It’s being true to what you’re playing and you must never show people that you’re trying to be funny.”
Oh, let’s touch on those music trivia parts from “The Threepenny Opera.”
What famous song from singer-entertainer Bobby Darin comes from this musical? “Mack The Knife,” a song about Macheath, a murderer, gets jazzed up first by Louis Armstrong before Darin’s famous 1959 single.
For rock music fans, “Alabama Song (Whiskey Bar)” from The Doors’ debut album in 1967 also comes from this same musical, too.
Arthur’s ‘All in the Family’ Turn Leads To ‘Maude’
Obviously before “The Golden Girls,” Bea Arthur made herself a household name as Maude Findlay on CBS’s “Maude.”
What makes the appearance of “Maude” on CBS so amazing is that Arthur single-handedly forced a show to be done.
No, it was not from pushing people to get it done. That was executive producer Norman Lear’s job. Arthur, though, makes an appearance on “All in the Family.” Her time on the screen with Archie Bunker, played by Carroll O’Connor, proved to be enough to give “Maude” a chance.
The half-hour sitcom became yet another big hit for Lear and CBS, too. “Maude” tackled social issues in the 1970s. Arthur played her role to the hilt. That show, though, would not have happened without a standout 13-minute performance on “All in the Family.”
Maude didn’t back down from Archie. Their back-and-forth interaction became legendary, remaining one of that show’s standout moments.
So, Bea Arthur went from Broadway to the small screen. She still held her own in “Maude” and as Dorothy on “The Golden Girls.”