'Golden Girl' Rue McClanahan aimed to show 'that when people mature, they add layers'
Emmy-winning actress Rue McClanahan brought the saucy Southern belle Blanche Devereaux to life on the hit TV series 'The Golden Girls.'
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Her manager Barbara Lawrence said McClanahan died Thursday.
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, 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 — and frequently eccentric — 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."
Blanche, who called her father "Big Daddy," was a frequent target of roommates Dorothy, Rose and the outspoken Sophia (Getty), who would fire off zingers at Blanche such as, "Your life's an open blouse."
McClanahan snagged an Emmy for her work on the show in 1987. In an Associated Press interview that year, McClanahan said Blanche was unlike any other role she had ever played.
"Probably the closest I've ever done was Blanche DuBois in 'A Streetcar Named Desire' at the Pasadena Playhouse," she said. "I think, too, that's where the name came from, although my character is not a drinker and not crazy."
Her Blanche Devereaux, she said, "is in love with life and she loves men. I think she has an attitude toward women that's competitive. She is friends with Dorothy and Rose, but if she has enough provocation she becomes competitive with them. I think basically she's insecure. It's the other side of the Don Juan syndrome."
After "The Golden Girls" was canceled in 1992, McClanahan, White and Getty reprised their roles in a short-lived spinoff, "Golden Palace."