Cheers To 'Maude' Bea Arthur

She was tall, had a husky voice and had impeccable comedic timing — Bea Arthur, a legend of stage and screen, died of cancer at age 86.

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A final toast today to an actress who was born Bernice Frankel, became a star as Bea Arthur but may have been best known as Maude.

(Soundbite of television program, "Maude")

Unidentified Women: (Singing) And there's Maude.

Unidentified Man #1: (Singing) And there's Maude.

Unidentified Women: (Singing) And then there's Maude.

Unidentified Man #1: (Singing) And then there's Maude.

LYDEN: In the 1970s, Bea Arthur had a huge hit with the television sitcom "Maude." She played an outspoken, grey-haired feminist with a razor sharp tongue. The show was funny and bold, taking on all sorts of social issues, many of them taboo, like abortion.

Bea Arthur was tailor made for that role. She was tall, had a husky voice and impeccable comedic timing. She'd honed that timing at comedy resorts in the Poconos. In the '50s, she became a stage actress co-starring with Lotte Lenya in "The Threepenny Opera," with Angela Lansbury in "Mame" and with Zero Mostel in the original production of "Fiddler on the Roof" on Broadway.

But it was certainly on television where Bea Arthur became a household name. A decade after "Maude," she had another mega hit with "The Golden Girls," a sitcom about four, single, older women sharing an apartment and a lot of snappy dialogue.

(Soundbite of television program, "The Golden Girls")

Ms. BEA ARTHUR (Actor): (As Dorothy Petrillo Zbornak) Look, I'm sorry if I seemed insensitive, but in every relationship, there are always times when you don't want to be with each other. I mean, Stan and I went through a period where we had no marital relations at all. I totally cut off his sex.

Ms. BETTY WHITE (Actor): (As Rose Nylund) You mean it grows back?

(Soundbite of laughter)

LYDEN: Bea Arthur continued to make guest appearances on television and stage until just a couple of years ago. She died last night of cancer at the age of 86.

For our Parting Words tonight, I'll borrow a line from my mother, who always says, when she raises a glass, here's to the golden girls.

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Jacki Lyden.

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