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Rue McClanahan

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Rue McClanahan
McClanahan in a publicity portrait for The Joe Franklin Show
Eddi-Rue McClanahan

(1934-02-21)February 21, 1934
DiedJune 3, 2010(2010-06-03) (aged 76)
New York City, U.S.
Alma materUniversity of Tulsa
  • Actress
  • comedian
  • author
  • fashion designer
Years active1957–2010
Mama's Family
The Golden Girls
The Golden Palace
Tom Bish
(m. 1958; div. 1959)
Norman Hartweg
(m. 1959; div. 1961)
Peter DeMaio
(m. 1964; div. 1971)
Gus Fisher
(m. 1976; div. 1981)
Tom Keel
(m. 1985; div. 1986)
Morrow Wilson
(m. 1997)
RelativesAmelia Kinkade (niece)

Eddi-Rue McClanahan (February 21, 1934 – June 3, 2010) was an American actress and comedian best known for her roles on television as Vivian Harmon on Maude (1972–78), Aunt Fran Crowley on Mama's Family (1983–84), 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

Eddi-Rue McClanahan was born in Healdton, Oklahoma, on February 21, 1934. She was the daughter of Dreda Rheua-Nell (née Medaris), a beautician, and William Edwin "Bill" McClanahan, a building contractor. Her mother's maiden name was a Portuguese or Galician surname variation of Medeiros.[1][2][3][4]

She was raised Methodist and was of Irish and Choctaw ancestry.[4] 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,[5] where she acted in school plays and won the gold medal in oration.[6] A National Honor Society member, McClanahan earned a Bachelor of Arts degree, cum laude, at the University of Tulsa, where she majored in both German and Theatre, and joined the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority,[1] serving as vice-president.[7]

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 the TV show Another World (from July 1970 to September 1971) brought her notice. Once her role on Another World ended, McClanahan joined the cast of the CBS soap opera Where the Heart Is, in which she played Margaret Jardin.

Primetime success

All In the Family. L-R: McClanahan, Carroll O'Connor, Jean Stapleton and Gardenia (1972)
All In the Family. L-R: McClanahan, Carroll O'Connor, Jean Stapleton and Gardenia (1972)

In the 1972 episode of All in the Family, "The Bunkers and the Swingers", McClanahan and Vincent Gardenia play a swinging couple who meet the unsuspecting Bunkers.[10]


McClanahan first worked with actress Beatrice Arthur on the sitcom Maude (1972–78). Arthur played Maude Findlay, and McClanahan played Maude's best friend Vivian Cavender, who eventually married Maude's next-door neighbor Dr. Arthur Harmon (played by Conrad Bain).

Mama's Family

On Mama's Family (1983–90), McClanahan portrayed an uptight spinster sister Fran Crowley to Mama Thelma Harper (Vicki Lawrence). Fran was a journalist for the local paper. Also in the cast was McClanahan's future Golden Girls costar Betty White. McClanahan and White appeared on the first two seasons before the show was cancelled by NBC and then retooled for first run syndication.

The Golden Girls

On The Golden Girls (1985–92) and its short-lived successor The Golden Palace (1992–93), McClanahan portrayed man-crazed Southern belle Blanche Devereaux, owner of the house she lived in and rented out to her three roommates and best friends: Dorothy Zbornak (Beatrice Arthur), Rose Nylund (Betty White), and Sophia Petrillo (Estelle Getty). McClanahan received four Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for her work on the show, winning the award in 1987.[citation needed]

The handprints of Rue McClanahan in front of The Great Movie Ride at Walt Disney World's Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park, 2007
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 film called Slight Drinking Problem, in which Patty Duke played the enabling and eventually self-empowered wife of an alcoholic. In feature films, she appeared in The Rotten Apple (1961) and Walk the Angry Beach (1968). She appeared as Ruth Rempley, the wife of a swinger couple in an episode of All in the Family in 1972. She appeared in the Walter Matthau-Jack Lemmon comedy Out to Sea (1997).

On television, she appeared as Matilda Joslyn Gage, mother-in-law of L. Frank Baum in the made-for-TV movie The Dreamer of Oz (1990). She made guest appearances on Murder, She Wrote and Newhart. In the early 1990s, McClanahan appeared as Margaret Becker in a trilogy of made-for-television films: Children of the Bride, Baby of the Bride, and Mother of the Bride. She 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). On Spider-Man: The Animated Series, she appeared in the 1994 episode "Doctor Octopus: Armed And Dangerous" as Anastasia Hardy. She played a biology teacher in 1997's Starship Troopers.[citation needed] She voiced the role of Bunny in a 2007 episode of King of the Hill, "Hair Today, Gone Today". 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 closed on July 2 of that same year.

Later life

An animal welfare advocate and vegetarian,[1][11] McClanahan was one of the first celebrity supporters of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.[1] She supported Alley Cat Allies,[12] a nonprofit 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 liberal 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[13]

In 2003, she appeared alongside Mark Hamill in the two-hander Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks at the Coconut Grove Playhouse in Miami.[14] She chose not to continue with the production and was replaced by Polly Bergen for the Broadway performances.[15] The same year, 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 until 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][11]

In June 2008, The Golden Girls was awarded the 'Pop Culture' award at the Sixth Annual TV Land Awards. McClanahan accepted the award with co-stars Bea Arthur and Betty White.[16]

McClanahan's final acting role was in the cable series Sordid Lives on the Logo network, which premiered July 23, 2008, playing Peggy Ingram.

McClanahan 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".[17]

Health and death

In June 1997, McClanahan was diagnosed with breast cancer, for which she was treated successfully.[18]

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.[19] 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.[20]

McClanahan died on June 3, 2010, at age 76, at NewYork–Presbyterian Hospital after she suffered a brain hemorrhage.[21][2][22][18] After cremation, her ashes were given to her family.

Betty White told Entertainment Tonight that McClanahan was a "close and dear friend".[23]

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; nephews, Brendan and Sean Kinkade, and nieces Marcia and Amelia.[24][failed verification] No funeral service was held for McClanahan; her family created an official memorial page on Facebook,[25] and memorial services were held during the summer of 2010 in New York and Los Angeles.[24][failed verification] On June 10, 2010, her New York apartment went on the market for an asking price of $2.25 million.[26][27]


In February 2017, a Golden Girls-themed eatery named Rue La Rue Cafe, owned by McClanahan's close friend Michael La Rue (who inherited many of the star's personal belongings and in turn decorated the restaurant with them), opened in the Washington Heights section of the New York City borough of Manhattan.[28] However, after less than a year in business, the cafe closed in November 2017.[29]

Awards and nominations

Year Award Nominated work Result
1969 Obie Award for Best Actress Who's Happy Now Won
1986 Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Comedy Series The Golden Girls Nominated
1986 Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series Nominated
1986 Golden Apple Award for Female Star of the Year Won
1987 Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Comedy Series Nominated
1987 Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series Won
1988 Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Comedy Series Nominated
1988 Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series Nominated
1989 Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series Nominated
2003 TV Land Award for Quintessential Non-traditional Family Won
2008 TV Land Pop Culture Award Won



Year Title Role Notes
1961 The Grass Eater Loraina
1961 Five Minutes to Live Pamela Uncredited
1963 Five Minutes to Love Sally "Poochie" Alternate titles: The Rotten Apple / It Only Takes Five Minutes
1964 How to Succeed with Girls Lorena
1965 Angel's Flight Dolly Alternate title: Shock Hill
1968 Walk the Angry Beach Sandy Alternate titles: Hollywood After Dark / The Unholy Choice
1970 The People Next Door Della
1971 The Pursuit of Happiness Mrs. O'Mara
1971 They Might Be Giants Daisy
1971 Some of My Best Friends Are... Lita Joyce
1973 Blade Gail
1978 Having Babies III Gloria Miles TV movie
1978 Sergeant Matlovich vs. the U.S. Air Force Mat's Mother TV movie
1978 Rainbow Ida Koverman TV movie
1979 Topper Clara Topper TV movie
1980 The Great American Traffic Jam Adele Sherman TV movie
1981 World of Honor Maggie McNeill TV movie
1982 The Day the Bubble Burst Barbara Arvey TV movie
1986 Picnic Flo Owens TV movie
1987 The Little Match Girl Frances Dutton TV movie
1988 Liberace Frances Liberace TV movie
1988 Take My Daughters, Please Lilah Page TV movie
1989 The Man in the Brown Suit Suzy Blair TV movie
1989 The Wickedest Witch Avarissa TV special
1990 Modern Love Mrs. Evelyn Parker
1990 The Earth Day Special Blanche Devereaux TV special
1990 After the Shock Sherra Cox TV movie
1990 Children of the Bride Margret Becker TV movie
1990 To My Daughter Laura Carlson TV movie
1990 The Dreamer of Oz: The L. Frank Baum Story Matilda Electa Joslyn Gage TV movie
1991 Baby of the Bride Margret Becker-Hix TV movie
1993 Mother of the Bride Margret Becker-Hix TV movie
1993 Message from Nam Beatrice Andrews TV miniseries
1993 Nunsense Reverend Mother Regina TV movie
1994 A Burning Passion: The Margaret Mitchell Story Grandma Terry Stephens TV movie
1994 Nunsense 2: The Sequel Reverend Mother Regina TV movie
1995 A Holiday to Remember Miz Leona TV movie
1996 Innocent Victims Marylou Hennis TV miniseries
1996 Dear God Mom Rue Turner
1997 This World, Then the Fireworks Mrs. Tessa Lakewood
1997 Out to Sea Ellen Carruthers
1997 Annabelle's Wish Scarlett (voice) TV movie
1997 Starship Troopers Ruth the Biology Teacher
1998 Border to Border Mrs. Eda Kirby
1998 Rusty: A Dog's Tale Edna Callahan Alternate title: Rusty: The Great Rescue
1998 Nunsense 3: The Jamboree Reverend Mother Regina TV movie
1999 A Saintly Switch Aunt Fanny TV movie
2000 The Moving of Sophia Myles Mary-Margaret TV movie
2001 Nuncrackers: The Nunsense Christmas Musical Reverend Mother Regina Direct-to-video
2003 Miracle Dogs Katherine Mannion TV movie
2003 The Fighting Temptations Nancy Stringer
2005 Wit's End Dean Madison
2005 Back to You and Me Helen Ludwick TV movie
2008 Generation Gap Kay TV movie


Year Title Role Notes
1961 The Aquanauts N/A Episode: "The Double Adventure"
1964 Burke's Law Waitress Episode: "Who Killed April?"
1970–71 Another World Caroline Johnson Unknown episodes
1971 Love of Life Mrs. Baylee Unknown episodes
1971–72 Where the Heart Is Margaret Jardin #2 Unknown episodes
1971 Great Performances Josef Finn Episode: "Hogan's Goat"
1972 All in the Family Ruth Rempley Episode: "The Bunkers and the Swingers"
1972–78 Maude Vivian Cavender Harmon 101 episodes
1972 Great Performances Cora Episode: "The Rimers of Eldrich"
1973 The ABC Afternoon Playbreak Carol Babcock Episode: "My Secret Mother"
1974 Mannix Gloria Episode: "Game Plan"
1975 Great Performances Faye Precious Episode: "Who's Happy Now"
1978 Apple Pie Ginger-Nell Hollyhock 8 episodes
1978 Grandpa Goes to Washington Grace Episode: "Pilot"
1978–84 The Love Boat Various Characters 6 episodes
1979 Supertrain Janet Episode: "Where Have You Been Billy Boy"
1979 Fantasy Island Margaret Fielding Episode: "Bowling/Command Performance"
1980 Lou Grant Maggie McKenna Episode: "Guns"
1980 Here's Boomer Thelma Episode: "Private Eye"
1981 Gimme a Break! Marian Episode: "The Second Time Around"
1981 Darkroom Mrs. Louise Michaelson Episode: "Daisies"
1982 Trapper John, M.D. Mary Renquist Episode: "John's Other Life"
1982 Fantasy Island Gertie Episode: "Dancing Lady/The Final Round"
1983 Newhart Eleanor Smathers Episode: "The Way We Thought We Were"
1983 American Playhouse Fortune Teller Episode: "The Skin of Our Teeth"
1983 Small & Frye Miss Parsifal Episode: "Pilot"
1983–84 Mama's Family Aunt Fran Crowley 24 episodes
1984 Gimme a Break! Katrina Episode: "Grandpa's Secret Life"
1984 Alice Mother Goose Episode: "Big Bad Mel"
1984–85 Charles in Charge Irene Pembroke 2 episodes
1985 Cover Up Mattie Bernstein Episode: "Murder in Malibu"
1985 Crazy Like a Fox Angie Episode: "Turn Off the Century Fox"
1985 Murder, She Wrote Miriam Redford Episode: "Murder Takes the Bus"
1985–92 The Golden Girls Blanche Devereaux 180 episodes
1988 Empty Nest Blanche Devereaux Episode: "Fatal Attraction"
1989 Nightmare Classics Madam Episode: "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde"
1992 Nurses Blanche Devereaux Episode: "Moon Over Miami"
1992–93 The Golden Palace Blanche Devereaux 24 episodes
1993 Boy Meets World Bernice Matthews Episode: "Grandma Was a Rolling Stone"
1994 Burke's Law Jinxy Duke Episode: "Who Killed the Host at the Roast?"
1994 Touched by an Angel Amelia Bowthorpe Archinald Episode: "Manny"
1995 The Mommies Amanda Kellogg Episode: "The Mother of All In-Laws"
1997 Promised Land Valerie Carter Episode: "Intolerance"
1997 Murphy Brown Virginia Redfeld Episode: "Mama Miller"
1998 Columbo Verity Chandler Episode: "Ashes to Ashes"
1998 Love Boat: The Next Wave Abigail Jordan Episode: "Captains Courageous"
1999 Safe Harbor Grandma Loring 11 episodes
1999 Blue's Clues Steve's Grandma Episode: "Blue's Big Treasure Hunt"
2000 Ladies Man Aunt Lou 2 episodes
2001 Touched by an Angel Lila Winslow Episode: "Shallow Water" (Parts 1 & 2)
2002 Stage on Screen Countess de Lage Episode: "The Women"
2003 The Golden Girls: Their Greatest Moments Herself (co-host) TV special
2004 Whoopi Marion Episode: "American Woman"
2004 Wonderfalls Millie Marcus Episode: "Barrel Bear"
2005 Hope & Faith Sylvia Episode: "O, Sister, Where Art Thou?"
2007 King of the Hill Bunny Episode: "Hair Today, Gone Today"
2008 Sordid Lives: The Series Peggy Ingram 13 episodes
2009 Law & Order Lois McIntyre Episode: "Illegitimate"
2009 Meet the Browns Lorraine Episode: "Meet Mr. Wrong"


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Rue McClanahan: Biography". TV Guide. CBS Interactive Inc. Retrieved June 3, 2010.
  2. ^ a b c Douglas, Martin (June 3, 2010). "Rue McClanahan, Actress and Golden Girl, Dies at 76". The New York Times. Retrieved November 15, 2013. Her manager, Barbara Lawrence, said Ms. McClanahan died of a brain hemorrhage at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. She was treated for breast cancer in 1997 and had heart bypass surgery last year.
  3. ^ "'Golden Girl' Rue McClanahan aimed to show 'that when people mature, they add layers'". The Christian Science Monitor. AP. June 3, 2010. Retrieved November 15, 2013.
  4. ^ a b McClanahan, Rue (April 10, 2007). My First Five Husbands.. And the Ones Who Got Away. Crown Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-7679-2779-6.
  5. ^ "TV star Rue McClanahan in Chicago promoting her new book". WLS-TV. May 17, 2007. Retrieved March 18, 2014.
  6. ^ Ardmore High School Yearbook, 1950
  7. ^ University of Tulsa Yearbook, 1954
  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. ISBN 0-02-542650-8.
  9. ^ Triggs, Charlotte; Silverman, Stephen M. (June 3, 2010). "Golden Girls Star Rue McClanahan Dies at 76". People. Retrieved March 18, 2014.
  10. ^ "All in the Family: The Bunkers and the Swingers (TV)". Retrieved May 25, 2021.
  11. ^ a b Jooley Ann (April 27, 2007). "Austinist interviews Rue McClanahan". The Austinist. Archived from the original on February 4, 2010. Retrieved June 3, 2010.
  12. ^ "Alley Cat Allies - "I'm an Alley Cat Ally" Campaign". Alley Cat Allies. Archived from the original on November 20, 2010. Retrieved September 15, 2021.
  13. ^ "Rue on Obama, Boring 'Sex'". David Hauslaib. July 11, 2008. Retrieved June 4, 2010.
  14. ^ Jones, Kenneth (June 27, 2003). "Rue McClanahan Bows Out of Bway's Six Dance Lessons; Hamill Ready to Dance". Playbill. Retrieved September 29, 2016.
  15. ^ Gans, Andrew (November 21, 2003). "Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks to Close Nov. 23". Playbill. Retrieved September 29, 2016.
  16. ^ "TV Land Awards Party Like It's 1979". E! Online. June 8, 2008. Archived from the original on July 31, 2008. Retrieved June 3, 2010.
  17. ^ Gans, Andrew. "Prop 8 Musical Will Be Part of Star-Studded Defying Inequality Benefit". Archived from the original on March 26, 2014. Retrieved January 26, 2009.
  18. ^ a b Itzkoff, Dave (June 3, 2010). "Rue McClanahan, Actress and 'Golden Girls' Star, Has Died". The New York Times. Retrieved June 4, 2010.
  19. ^ "Tickets for GOLDEN: A GALA TRIBUTE TO RUE MCCLANAHAN with Television Icon Live In Person!". TicketWeb. Retrieved August 23, 2016.
  20. ^ The Ellen DeGeneres Show. March 22, 2010.
  21. ^ Martin, Douglas (June 3, 2010). "Rue McClanahan, 76, Actress and Golden Girl, Dies". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved December 18, 2018.
  22. ^ "Golden Girls star Rue McClanahan dies at age 76" New York Daily News, June 3, 2010.
  23. ^ Rue McClanahan death Archived April 25, 2012, at the Wayback Machine,; accessed August 23, 2016.
  24. ^ a b Nelson, Valerie J. (June 4, 2010). "'Golden Girl' Rue McClanahan dies". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 4, 2010.
  25. ^ "The Official Rue McClanahan Memorial Page". Facebook.
  26. ^ Harris, Elizabeth A. (June 10, 2010). "Rue McClanahan's Apartment Hits the Market" – via
  27. ^ "Rue Mcclanahan – Mcclanahan's Apartment Up for Sale". Retrieved June 13, 2010.
  28. ^ "'Golden Girls' cafe Rue La Rue has soft opening in Washington Heights".
  29. ^ "Golden Girls Cafe Shutters After Less Than a Year".

External links

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