Actress Estelle Getty, best known for playing wise cracking Sophia on The Golden Girls, passed yesterday at the age of 64.She had been suffering from Lewy body dementia for many years.
Estelle Getty was born Estelle Scher in New York City on July 25, 1923. She entered entertainment through the Yiddish theatre and performed as a comedian in Catskills resorts. In 1947 she married Arthur Gettleman, from whom she took her stage name. They remained married until his death in 2004. While married she worked as a secretary for an attorney, although she continued to act in smaller theatres in New York. Getty made her film debut in a small part in Team-Mates in 1978. Small roles in Tootsie and Deadly Force would follow.
In 1982 she received her big break, being cast as Mrs. Beckoff in Torch Song Trilogy on Broadway. She made her television debut in a guest appearance on Cagney and Lacey 1983. It was in 1985 that Getty was cast in the role that would bring her face, that of Sophia on The Golden Girls. Despite being younger than both Bea Arthur and Betty White, Getty played the octogenarian mother of Dorothy on the show. The series would run until 1992. Getty would reprise the show on the short lived spinoff, The Golden Palace.
Getty guest starred on the shows Newhart, Empty Nest, Nurses, and Touched by an Angel. She appeared in the films Mask, Mannequin, Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot, Stuart Little, and The Million Dollar Kid.
Although Estelle Getty found success late in life, she undoubtedly a talented actress. Sophia Petrillo was one of the most memorable characters on television and, no doubt, much of the reason for The Golden Girls success. She also displayed that talent playing the mother of Cher in Mask and many other roles. Although she will chiefly be remembered as Sophia Petrillo, she deserves to be remembered for so much more.