Rue McClanahan, the Emmy-winning actor who brought the sexually liberated Southern belle Blanche Devereaux to life on the hit TV series The Golden Girls, has died. She was 76.
Her manager, Barbara Lawrence, said Ms. McClanahan died Thursday (June 3, 2010) at 1 a.m. at New York-Presbyterian Hospital of a brain hemorrhage.
She had undergone treatment for breast cancer in 1997 and later lectured to cancer support groups on "aging gracefully." In 2009, she had heart bypass surgery.
Ms. McClanahan had an active career in off-Broadway and regional stages in the 1960s before she was tapped for TV in the 1970s for the key best-friend character on the hit series Maude, starring Beatrice Arthur. After that series ended in 1978, Ms. McClanahan landed the role as Aunt Fran on Mama's Family in 1983.
But her most loved role came in 1985, when she co-starred with Arthur, Betty White and Estelle Getty in The Golden Girls, a runaway hit that broke the sitcom mold by focusing on the foibles of four aging women living together in Miami.
Golden Girls aimed to show "that when people mature, they add layers," she told the New York Times in 1985. "They don't turn into other creatures. The truth is we all still have our child, our adolescent, and your young woman living in us."
Fellow Golden Girl Betty White called Ms. McClanahan a close and dear friend.
"I treasured our relationship," said White, who was working in Los Angeles on the set of her TV Land comedy Hot in Cleveland on Thursday. "It hurts more than I even thought it would, if that's even possible."
Ms. McClanahan snagged an Emmy for her work on the show in 1987.
Ms. McClanahan was married six times: Tom Bish, with whom she had a son, Mark Bish; actor Norman Hartweg; Peter D'Maio; Gus Fisher; and Tom Keel. She married husband Morrow Wilson on Christmas Day in 1997.
She called her 2007 memoir My First Five Husbands … And the Ones Who Got Away.