AKA Bernice Frankel
Birthplace: New York City
Location of death: Los Angeles, CA
Cause of death: Cancer - Lung
Remains: Cremated (ashes in family's possession)
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Maude and The Golden Girls
Military service: US Marine Corps (1943-45)
Doing her part for the war effort, Bea Frankel enlisted in the US Marines in 1943, and she was assigned typist and truck driving duties. She soon married a fellow Marine, Robert Alan Aurthur (who later wrote Grand Prix for James Garner), and while the marriage did not last long she kept her new name — Bea Arthur. She later enrolled in a drama workshop, where her classmates included Harry Belafonte, Marlon Brando, and Gene Saks. Arthur and Saks were soon married, and he went on to a lengthy career as a Broadway director, and also directed several films.
The husky-voiced Arthur appeared in amateur plays and got good notices, eventually working her way into paid performances and making her Broadway debut at 28, in a 1954 production of The Threepenny Opera with Charlotte Rae and John Astin. In the 1960s, she appeared in the original Broadway productions of Fiddler on the Roof with Zero Mostel and Mame with Angela Lansbury, for which Arthur won a Tony.
Her first TV appearance was a 1951 episode of Kraft Television Theatre, and her first regular work was on Caesar's Hour, Sid Caesar's mid-1950s sketch comedy show. In the 1970s, she starred as the title character in Maude, a once-widowed, twice-divorced, remarried and very outspoken woman with a quick wit. Unlike most sitcoms then and now, Maude dealt with real-world issues from abortion to hysterectomies. Arthur was Emmy-nominated five years, but won just once.
In the 1980s, she roared back with the sitcom The Golden Girls, with Betty White, Rue McClanahan, and Estelle Getty. Much to Arthur's surprise, the show was a hit. "I cannot believe what has happened with this show," she said when the first ratings came in. "They're telling us it's a hit! And for the first time we're seeing three older women who look good, dress well, live well and are bright. They're not pushing wheelchairs. And they're not playing crazed matriarchs of horrible families". The program also won Arthur a second Emmy.
Father: Philip Frankel (owned a department store)
Mother: Rebecca Frankel (b. 1902, d. 1986)
Husband: Robert Alan Aurthur (screenwriter, b. 10-Jul-1922, div., d. 20-Nov-1978)
Husband: Gene Saks (Broadway director, m. 28-May-1950, div. 1978, two sons)
Son: Matthew Saks (adopted, actor, b. 14-Jul-1961)
Son: Daniel Saks (adopted, set designer, b. 8-May-1964)
High School: Linden Hall High School, Lititz, PA
University: Blackstone College, Blackstone, VA
University: Franklin Institute of Science and Arts
Emmy 1972, Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy, for Maude
Emmy 1988, Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy, for Golden Girls
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
The Golden Girls Dorothy Zbornak (1985-92)
Amanda's Amanda Cartwright (1983)
Maude Maude Findlay (1972-78)
All in the Family Maude Findlay (1971-72)
Caesar's Hour Regular (1956-57)
FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
Broadway: The Golden Age (Apr-2003) · Herself
For Better or Worse (18-Feb-1996)
The Star Wars Holiday Special (17-Nov-1978)
Lovers and Other Strangers (12-Aug-1970)
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