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June 03, 2010

Golden Girls Star Rue McClanahan Passes

The classic sitcom’s ‘Blanche Devereaux’ won a Primetime Emmy for the role and earned three additional nominations.

Rue McClanahan, the former Broadway star who branched into television at the urging of producer of Norman Lear and went on to win a Primetime Emmy for her performance as Southern belle Blanche Devereaux on the hit comedy series The Golden Girls, died June 3, 2010. McClanahan, who succumbed to a stroke, was 76.

McClanahan underwent successful treatment for breast cancer in 1997, and last year she had heart bypass surgery.

The Healdton, Oklahoma, native was born Eddi-Rue McClanahan to a building contractor father and beautician mother. After graduating from the University of Tulsa, she began her acting career on the stage. She performed at the Pasadena Playhouse and studied in New York with the respected acting teachers Uta Hagen and Harold Clurman.

In 1970, McClanahan won an Obie award for the off-Broadway production Who’s Happy Now.

She also appeared in small film roles, found work in daytime television dramas and had the occasional guest role on primetime series.

Her TV career expanded when producer Norman Lear cast her in a guest role on the popular comedy All in the Family in 1971. After that, she scored a regular role in the All in the Family spin-off Maude, playing Vivian, a neighbor and best friend of series star Beatrice Arthur. When Maude ended, McClanahan co-starred as Aunt Fran on the comedy Mama's Family.

Her most enduring legacy began in 1985, when she joined Arthur, Betty White and Estelle Getty in The Golden Girls, an ensemble comedy about four women living together in Miami.

McClanahan won an Emmy for her performance as the sexually liberated Blanche in 1987, and was nominated in 1986, 1988 and 1989.

After The Golden Girls ended in 1992, McClanahan, White and Getty re-teamed for a short-lived spin-off, Golden Palace.

In the years since, she continued to work on the stage, in films, and on television. In 2007 she appeared in the Logo network comedy Sordid Lives: The Series, and her most recent television appearances included episodes of the series Law & Order and Meet the Browns.

In 2007, the six-times-married star published a memoir, My First Five Husbands ... And the Ones Who Got Away.

She is survived by her husband, Morrow Wilson, whom she wed on Christmas Day in 1997, and a son, Mark Bish, from her first marriage, to Tom Bish.

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