Rue McClanahan, best known for her roles on the TV shows Maude and The Golden Girls, passed today at the age of 76. The cause was a stroke.
Rue McClanahan was born Eddi-Rue McClanahan in Healdton, Oklahoma. She grew up in Ardmore, Oklahoma. She graduated from the University of Tulsa with a degree in German and theatre arts. She began her career in the late Fifties on the stage. She performed at the Pasadena Playhouse in Pasadena, California. She also studied under Uta Hagen and Harold Clurman in New York. In 1961 she made her film debut in the movie The Grass Eater.
In 1961 she also appeared in an uncredited role in the feature film Five Minutes to Live. In 1963 Miss McClanahan appeared in the movie Five Minutes to Love. The following year she appeared in the film How to Succeed with Girls and made her television debut in a small part in an episode of Burke's Law. She appeared in an off-Broadway production of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. In 1965 she appeared in the film Angel's Flight.
Rue McClanahan made her Broadway debut in 1966 in the play The Best Laid Plans. She also appeared in the off-Broadway play Big Man/Duet For Three. In 1967 she appeared in the Off-Broadway play MacBird. in 1968 she appeared in the film Walk the Angry Beach and on Broadway in the play Jimmy Shine. in 1969 Miss McClanahan appeared in the off-Braodway play Tonight in Living Colour. Later that year she appeared in the off-Broadway play Who's Happy Now. In 1970 she appeared in the film The People Next Door and in a recurring role on the soap opera Another World. She also appeared in the off-Broadway play Dark of the Moon.
Rue McClanahan opened the Seventies appearing in the films They Might Be Giants (1971) and Some of My Best Friends Are (1971). In 1971 she also appeared in roles in the TV shows Love of Life and Where the Heart Is.. She also appeared on Broadway in the comedy Father's Day. In 1972 she guest starred on the series All in the Family, off Broadway in the play Dylan, on Broadway in the play Sticks and Bones. She was also cast in the role of Vivian on the TV series Maude. Vivian was a sharp contrast to next door neighbour Maude. While Maude was outspoken and often caustic, Vivien was sweet and a tad bit scatter brained. Miss McClanahan remained with the show for its entire run, from 1972 to 1978.
While Maude was still on the air, Rue McClanahan guest starred on Mannix and Having Babies. She also appeared on Broadway in California Suite, and off Broadway in Crystal and Fox. Following Maude, in 1978, she was cast in the lead role in the short lived sitcom Apple Pie. She ended the Seventies with guest appearances on Supertrain and Lou Grant.
In the Eighties Rue McClanahan guest starred on the shows Darkroom, Trapper John M.D., and Newhart. She played the recurring role of Fran on Mama's Family from 1983 to 1984. For the next few years Miss McClanahan guest starred on the shows Alice, Cover Up, Crazy Like a Fox, and Murder She Wrote. In 1985 Rue McClanahan was cast in the role of Blanche Devereaux, the lusty Southern belle of the group. Miss McClanahan would appear as Blanche in 1988 guest appearance on Empty Nest, a 1992 guest appearance on Nurses, and would reprise the role on the short lived series The Golden Palace (1992-1993).
In 1991 Miss McClanahan appeared in the movie Biosphere. In the Nineties she appeared in such TV movies as Nunsense, Message from Nam, Innocent Victims, and A Saintly Switch She appeared in the films Dear God (1996), Out to Sea (1997), and Starship Troopers (1997), She guest starred on the shows Boy Meets World, Burke's Law, Murphy Brown, Columbo, and Ladies Man. She had recurring roles on the TV shows Safe Harbour and The Lot.
In the Naughts she guest starred on the shows Touched by an Angel, Wonderfalls, Whoopi, King of the Hill, and Law and Order. In 2008 she was a regular on the TV series Sordid Lives: The Series. She appeared in the films Wit's End (2002). On Broadway she appeared in the plays The Women in 2001 and Wicked in 2005. Off Broadway she appeared in the plays After-Play and The Vagina Monologues.
Rue McClanahan was one of the few actors who was fortunate enough to appear in two hit television series, Maude and The Golden Girls. There can be little doubt that she was a large part of the success of both. Whether playing scatter brained Vivian on Maude or the oversexed Blanche on The Golden Girls, she always gave sterling performances. Miss McClanahan had a gift for comedy, with timing that was nearly perfect. With her passing we have lost an actress who was a true rarity, one who had created not one, but two memorable characters in two classic television series.