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Bea Arthur

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Actress-comedienne Bea Arthur was born on May 13, 1922 in New York City to a Jewish family. She grew up in Maryland where her parents ran a dress shop. By the time she was 12 years old, she grew to be 5'9" and was the tallest girl in her school. She earned the title "wittiest" girl in her school, but Bea's family was not in show-business and she did not think her family would support her dream. She then worked as a laboratory technician, drove a truck and worked as a typist in the Marine Corps. She also had a brief first marriage, which ended in divorce. Afterwards she told her parents she really wanted to pursue a career in show business, and they supported her decision to join the New York's Dramatic Workshop for the New School for Social Research. She played classical and dramatic roles, and it would take years before she found her niche in comedy. Her breakthrough came on stage while appearing in the musical play "The Threepenny Opera" with Lotte Lenya. She was also a regular on television on Sid Caesar's show Caesar's Hour for one season in the 1950s. Then in 1964 she truly became famous when she appeared in the original Broadway production of "Fiddler on the Roof" as Yente the Matchmaker. In this supporting role she stole the show night after night.In 1966 she went to work on a new Broadway musical, "Mame", directed by her second husband, Gene Saks. For the featured role of Vera Charles in "Mame" she won a Tony Award. The star of the show, Angela Lansbury, also won a Tony Award and they became lifelong friends. In 1971 Bea appeared on the hit sitcom All in the Family as Maude Findlay, Edith Bunker's cousin, who was forever driving Archie Bunker crazy with her liberal politics. This guest appearance led to her own series, entitled Maude in 1972. The show was a hit and ran for six years, during which time many controversial topics, including abortion, were tackled. Bea also won an Emmy Award for her work on Maude. During the show's run Bea repeated the role of Vera Charles in the film version of Mame, again directed by Gene Saks, but the film was a dismal flop. She also appeared on none other than The Star Wars Holiday Special. While doing "Maude" she also raised her two adopted sons with her husband Gene Saks. After "Maude" ended her second marriage ended in divorce and she never remarried. She became a lifelong animal rights activist.In 1983 she started work on a new sitcom, Amanda's, which was patterned after British situation comedy Fawlty Towers, but it did not last long. In 1985 however, she got sweet compensation when her new sitcom, The Golden Girls hit the air. Co starring Betty White, Rue McClanahan and Estelle Getty, it was a show about four middle-aged women living in Miami. It was an immediate hit and ran for seven seasons. All of the cast members, including Bea, won Emmy Awards during the show's run. It should be worth noting that both Maude and The Golden Girls had to be canceled when Bea announced she was leaving each of them. In both cases she left when she thought each show was at its peak and, in both cases, the producers of the shows realized the shows just would not be the same without her. Since The Golden Girls was canceled in 1992, Bea kept a low profile, appearing in only a couple of movies: For Better or Worse and Enemies of Laughter.In 1999 she made a very successful and welcome Comedy Central Presents: The N.Y. Friars Club Roast of Jerry Stiller. She did a one-woman stage show in 2001 for which she received a Tony Award nomination. In 2003 she reunited with Betty White and Rue McClanahan for a The Golden Girls reunion special on Lifetime Channel. Noticeably absent was supporting actress Estelle Getty who was ill. The three lead actresses would make public appearances together for the rest of the decade to promote DVD releases of the The Golden Girls. In 2008 they appeared together for the last time at the TV Land Awards, where they received a standing ovation as they accepted the Pop Culture Award. Bea then attended (with Angela Lansbury, when she was inducted to the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame. On April 25, 2009, Bea Arthur died at age 86 of cancer, at home with her family. She is survived by her two sons Matthew and Daniel, and her grandchildren Kyra and Violet. In her will she left a donation of $300,000 to New York's Ali Forney Center, an organization supporting homeless Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender youths.  See full bio on IMDb »

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