26 Apr 2009

Golden Girls' star Bea Arthur dies at 86

10:03 am on 26 April 2009

Emmy Award-winning actress Bea Arthur, best known as star of the hit TV comedies "Maude" and "Golden Girls," has died at age 86, US media reports.

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

Born Beatrice Frankel in New York on May 13, 1922, Arthur began performing in college and appeared in a number of 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, and 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 US television during its six-season run.

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

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.

Bea Arthur is survived by two sons and two grandchildren.