'Golden Girls' star Bea Arthur dies at 86 -reports


June 18, 2010 Updated Jan 27, 2011 at 12:07 PM EDT

* Won Emmy awards for "Golden Girls" and "Maude"

* "Maude" role originated on "All in the Family"

* 1972 episode concerning abortion stirred controversy

By Dan Whitcomb

LOS ANGELES(Reuters) - Emmy Award-winning
actress Bea Arthur, best known as star of the hit TV comedies
"Maude" and "Golden Girls," has died at age 86, entertainment
news websites reported Saturday.

Arthur, a longtime stage actress whose comic timing and
deadpan delivery were a perfect fit for her sharp-tongued roles
on the two series, died of cancer at her Los Angeles home,
celebrity website TMZ reported.

Representatives for the actress, who won best-actress Emmys
-- America's top television award -- for "Maude" and "Golden
Girls," could not immediately be reached for comment.

"Thirty-seven years ago she showed me how to be very brave
in playing comedy," one of Arthur's co-stars, Rue McClanahan,
told TMZ in a statement. "I'll miss that courage and I'll miss
that voice."

Born Beatrice Frankel in New York on May 13, 1922, Arthur
began performing in college and appeared in Broadway and
off-Broadway roles, winning a Tony Award opposite Angela
Lansbury in "Mame."

In the early 1970s, Arthur appeared on the groundbreaking
television comedy "All in the Family" as Edith Bunker's
fiercely liberal cousin Maude. Producers who saw gold in the
role quickly devised a spinoff for the character.

"Maude" debuted on CBS in 1972 and became one of the
top-rated sitcoms on U.S. television during its six-year run.

In a two-part episode that aired in November 1972, the show
stirred protest and controversy when Maude decided to have an
abortion because of her age. The procedure was legal in New
York state, where the show was set, but not nationwide.

Two months later, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion
in its landmark Roe v. Wade decision.

Arthur followed with "Golden Girls," an unlikely hit from
1985 to 1992 that featured four female retirees living

Central to the popularity of "Golden Girls" was the comic
interplay between Arthur's character and her mother, played by
Estelle Getty -- who in real life was a year younger and who
also won an Emmy for the show.

Getty died last July at the age of 84.

According to CNN, no funeral services had been planned for
Arthur. She is survived by two sons and two grandchildren, and
family members have asked that in lieu of flowers donations be
sent to two of her favorite causes, the ArtAttack foundation
and the animal rights group PETA.

"People have lost one of the greatest comic actresses of
all time and animals have lost one of their all-time greatest
defenders," Dan Matthews, PETA senior vice president, said in a
(Editing by Xavier Briand)

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