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Rue McClanahan

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Title: Rue McClanahan  
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Subject: Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, The Golden Girls, Mama's Family, Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Musical or Comedy, The Golden Girls: Their Greatest Moments
Collection: 1934 Births, 2010 Deaths, 20Th-Century American Actresses, 21St-Century American Actresses, Actors Studio Members, Actresses from New York City, Actresses from Oklahoma, American Film Actresses, American Memoirists, American Methodists, American Musical Theatre Actresses, American People of Choctaw Descent, American People of Irish Descent, American Soap Opera Actresses, American Stage Actresses, American Television Actresses, American Women Comedians, American Women Writers, Animal Rights Advocates, Breast Cancer Survivors, Deaths from Cerebral Hemorrhage, Deaths from Stroke, Lgbt Rights Activists from the United States, Neurological Disease Deaths in New York, New York Democrats, Oklahoma Democrats, Outstanding Performance by a Lead Actress in a Comedy Series Primetime Emmy Award Winners, People from Carter County, Oklahoma, University of Tulsa Alumni, Women Memoirists, Writers from New York City, Writers from Oklahoma
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Rue McClanahan

Rue McClanahan
McClanahan at a book signing for her book My First Five Husbands, May 17, 2007
Born Eddi-Rue McClanahan
(1934-02-21)February 21, 1934
Healdton, Oklahoma, U.S.
Died June 3, 2010(2010-06-03) (aged 76)
New York, New York, U.S.
Cause of death Stroke
Education Ardmore High School
Alma mater University of Tulsa
Occupation Actress, Comedienne, Author, Fashion Designer
Years active 1957–2010
Television Maude,
Mama's Family,
The Golden Girls,
The Golden Palace
Spouse(s) Tom Bish
(1958–1959) (divorced) 1 son
Norman Hartweg
(1959–1961) (divorced)
Peter DeMaio
(1964–1971) (divorced)
Gus Fisher
(1976–1979) (divorced)
Tom Keel
(1984–1985) (divorced)
Morrow Wilson
(1997–2010) (her death)

Eddi-Rue "Rue" McClanahan (February 21, 1934 – June 3, 2010) was an American actress, best known for her roles on television as Vivian Harmon on Maude (1972–78), Fran Crowley on Mama's Family (1983–85), and Blanche Devereaux on The Golden Girls (1985–92), for which she won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series in 1987.


  • Early life 1
  • Early career 2
  • Primetime success 3
    • Maude 3.1
    • Mama's Family 3.2
    • The Golden Girls 3.3
    • Other work 3.4
  • Later life 4
  • Health and death 5
  • Nominations and awards 6
  • Television work 7
  • Filmography 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10

Early life

Eddi-Rue McClanahan was born in Healdton, Oklahoma.[1][2] She was the daughter of Dreda Rheua-Nell (née Medaris),[3] a beautician, and William Edwin "Bill" McClanahan (July 4, 1908 – February 20, 1999)[4] a building contractor.[1][5][6] Her family and she were Methodists.

She was of Irish and Choctaw ancestry.[6] Her Choctaw great-grandfather was named Running Hawk according to her autobiography My First Five Husbands... and the Ones Who Got Away (2007). She grew up in Ardmore, Oklahoma; she graduated from Ardmore High School.[7] McClanahan earned a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Tulsa, where she majored in German and Theater and joined the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority.[1] She was also a National Honor Society member.

Early career

A life member of the Actors Studio,[8] McClanahan made her professional stage début at Pennsylvania's Erie Playhouse in 1957, in the play Inherit the Wind.[1] She began acting off-Broadway in New York City in 1957,[9] but did not make her Broadway début until 1969, when she portrayed Sally Weber in the original production of John Sebastian and Murray Schisgal's musical, Jimmy Shine, with Dustin Hoffman in the title role.[2]

Her role as Caroline Johnson on Another World (from July 1970 to September 1971) brought her notice. On the show, while taking care of twins Michael and Marianne Randolph, Caroline fell in love with their father, John, and began poisoning their mother, Pat. The short-term role was extended to more than a year before Caroline was finally brought to justice after kidnapping the twins. Once her role on Another World ended, McClanahan joined the cast of the CBS soap Where the Heart Is, in which she played Margaret Jardin.[5]

Primetime success


On Maude, broadcast from 1972 to 1978, McClanahan played Maude's (Bea Arthur) best friend, Vivian Harmon, wife of Dr. Arthur Harmon (Conrad Bain).

Mama's Family

On Mama's Family (1983-1990), McClanahan portrayed uptight spinster sister Fran Crowley to Mama Harper (Vicki Lawrence), who was also a journalist for the local paper. McClanahan appeared on the series for two seasons before the show was revamped.

The Golden Girls

On The Golden Girls (1985–1992) and the short-lived successor The Golden Palace, McClanahan portrayed man-crazed southern belle Blanche Devereaux, owner of a house in which she lived and rented out to her three roommates and best friends: Dorothy Zbornak (Bea Arthur), Rose Nylund (Betty White), and Sophia Petrillo (Estelle Getty). McClanahan received an Emmy Award in 1987 for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for her work on the show.

The handprints of Rue McClanahan in front of The Great Movie Ride at Walt Disney World's Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park, 2007.

Other work

She also appeared as a leader of Al-Anon in a 1970s informational video called "Slight Drinking Problem," in which Patty Duke played the enabling and eventually self-empowered wife of an alcoholic. In feature films, McClanahan starred in 1961's The Rotten Apple, as well as Walk the Angry Beach in 1968. In 1971, she played a vicious fag hag in the film Some of My Best Friends Are..., which was set in a gay bar. In 1990, McClanahan starred as Matilda Joslyn Gage, mother-in-law of L. Frank Baum in the made-for-TV movie The Dreamer of Oz.

McClanahan guest-starred on Newhart. She also voice-acted in cartoons, voicing Scarlett in the 1997 Fox Christmas special Annabelle's Wish. She played the role of Steve's grandmother in the Blue's Clues video Blue's Big Treasure Hunt (1999). In the 1994 Spider-Man: The Animated Series episode "Doctor Octopus: Armed And Dangerous", she was Anastasia Hardy.[5] The 2007 King of the Hill episode "Hair Today, Gone Today" cast her as Bunny. In 2009, she appeared in an episode of Law & Order as a woman who had an affair with John F. Kennedy.

On Broadway, McClanahan replaced Tammy Grimes as "The Visitor from New York" (Hannah Warren) in the Neil Simon comedy California Suite from April 4, 1977 until the show's closing on July 2 of that same year.

Later life

An animal welfare advocate and vegetarian,[1][10] McClanahan was one of the first celebrity supporters of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).[1] McClanahan also supported Alley Cat Allies,[11] a non-profit advocacy organization dedicated to transforming communities to protect and improve the lives of cats, and appeared in a public service announcement for the organization in early 2010.

A Democrat, in December 2003 she wrote a letter informing Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry that his pheasant hunting had cost him her vote and respect.[1] In a July 2008 interview, she weighed in on the 2008 Presidential campaigns. Regarding Barack Obama, she said:

This is the damnedest election I've ever lived through, and Obama is the most amazing candidate I've ever bumped into. The man has unshakable integrity. He's the nearest thing to Lincoln we've seen.
— Rue McClanahan, Interview at[12]

In 2003, she appeared in the musical romantic comedy film The Fighting Temptations as Nancy Stringer, which costarred Cuba Gooding, Jr., Beyoncé Knowles, Mike Epps and Steve Harvey. On Broadway, she replaced Carole Shelley as Madame Morrible in the musical Wicked on May 31, 2005. She played the role for eight months and departed the cast January 8, 2006. She was replaced by Carol Kane on January 10, 2006.

Her autobiography, My First Five Husbands ... and the Ones Who Got Away, was released in 2007.[1][10]

In June 2008, The Golden Girls was awarded the 'Pop Culture' award at the Sixth Annual TV Land Awards. McClanahan accepted the award with costars Bea Arthur and Betty White.[13]

McClanahan's final acting role was in the cable series Sordid Lives on the Logo network, which premiered July 23, 2008, playing Peggy Ingram, the older sister of Sissy Hickey and mother of Latrelle, LaVonda and Earl "Brother Boy".

Rue was a supporter of gay rights, including advocating for same-sex marriage in the United States. In January 2009, she appeared in the star-studded "Defying Inequality: The Broadway Concert – A Celebrity Benefit for Equal Rights".[14]

Health and death

In June 1997, McClanahan was diagnosed with breast cancer, for which she was treated successfully.

On November 14, 2009, she was to be honored for her lifetime achievements at an event "Golden: A Gala Tribute to Rue McClanahan" at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco, California.[15] The event was postponed due to McClanahan's hospitalization. She had triple bypass surgery on November 4. It was announced on January 14, 2010, by Entertainment Tonight that, while recovering from surgery, she had suffered a minor stroke. In March 2010, fellow Golden Girls cast member Betty White reported on The Ellen DeGeneres Show that McClanahan was doing well and that her speech had returned to normal.[16]

McClanahan died on June 3, 2010, at the age of 76, at New York–Presbyterian Hospital after she suffered a brain hemorrhage.[2][17][18][19][20] She was cremated after her death.[21]

McClanahan's longtime friend Betty White, who co-starred with her on both Mama's Family and The Golden Girls, told Entertainment Tonight that McClanahan was a "close and dear friend" and that her death "hurts more than I ever thought it would".[22]

McClanahan was survived by her sixth husband, Morrow Wilson (from whom she separated in 2009); her son from her first marriage, Mark Bish of Austin, Texas; her sister, Melinda L. McClanahan, of Silver City, New Mexico; and a nephew, Brendan Kinkade.[23] There were no funeral services for McClanahan so her family created an official memorial page on Facebook to honor her,[24] and memorial services were held during the summer of 2010 in New York and Los Angeles.[23] On June 10, 2010, McClanahan's New York apartment went on the market for $3.95 million.[25][26]

Nominations and awards

Emmy Award nominations:

  • Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for: The Golden Girls (1986, 1987 (won), 1988, 1989)

Golden Globe nominations:

  • Best Performance by an Actress in a TV-Series – Comedy/Musical for: The Golden Girls (1986, 1987, 1988)

Obie Awards (off-Broadway):

  • Best Actress for Who's Happy Now (1969) (won)

Golden Apple Awards:

  • Female Star of the Year for: The Golden Girls (1986) (won)

TV Land Awards:

  • Pop Culture Award for: The Golden Girls (2008) (won)
  • Quintessential Non-traditional Family for: The Golden Girls (2003) (won)

Television work



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Rue McClanahan: Biography".  
  2. ^ a b c Douglas, Martin (June 3, 2010). "Rue McClanahan, Actress and Golden Girl, Dies at 76".  
  3. ^ "'Golden Girl' Rue McClanahan aimed to show 'that when people mature, they add layers'".  
  4. ^ "William Edwin "Bill" McClanahan at Find a Grave". Retrieved January 20, 2012. 
  5. ^ a b c "Rue McClanahan Biography (1934?-)". Film Reference. Advameg, Inc. Retrieved 18 March 2014. 
  6. ^ a b McClanahan, Rue (April 10, 2007). My First Five Husbands.. And the Ones Who Got Away.  
  7. ^ "TV star Rue McClanahan in Chicago promoting her new book".  
  8. ^ Garfield, David (1980). "Appendix: Life Members of The Actors Studio as of January 1980". A Player's Place: The Story of The Actors Studio. New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc. p. 279.  
  9. ^ Triggs, Charlotte; Silverman, Stephen M. (3 June 2010). "Golden Girls Star Rue McClanahan Dies at 76".  
  10. ^ a b Jooley Ann (April 27, 2007). interviews Rue McClanahan"Austinist".  
  11. ^ "I’m an Alley Cat Ally" Campaign
  12. ^ "Sex"Rue on Obama, Boring .  
  13. ^ "TV Land Awards Party Like It's 1979".  
  14. ^ Gans, Andrew. "Prop 8 Musical Will Be Part of Star-Studded Defying Inequality Benefit". Retrieved January 26, 2009. 
  15. ^ "Tickets for GOLDEN: A GALA TRIBUTE TO RUE MCCLANAHAN with Television Icon Live In Person! / Hosted by DEL SHORES - Castro Theatre at TicketWeb". TicketWeb. 
  16. ^ "Betty White on Ellen Degeneres". 
  17. ^ star Rue McClanahan dies at age 76"Golden Girls" New York Daily News, June 3, 2010.
  18. ^ "Youngest Golden Girl Rue McClanahan dies of stroke".  
  19. ^ Itzkoff, Dave (June 3, 2010). "Rue McClanahan, Actress and 'Golden Girls' Star, Has Died".  
  20. ^ "Rue McClanahan (1934 - 2010) - Find A Grave Memorial". 
  21. ^ "Rue McClanahan".  
  22. ^ ET Online report
  23. ^ a b Nelson, Valerie J. (June 4, 2010). Golden Girl' Rue McClanahan dies"'".  
  24. ^ "The Official Rue McClanahan Memorial Page". Facebook. 
  25. ^ Rue McClanahan's Apartment Hits the Market
  26. ^ "Rue Mcclanahan – Mcclanahan's Apartment Up for Sale". Retrieved June 13, 2010. 

External links

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