Bea Arthur’s death this past Saturday marks the passing of one of television’s distinctive voices. Her portrayal of Edith Bunker’s outspoken cousin on All In the Family led to a spin-off of her own with Maude and her Dorothy Zbornak on The Golden Girls stands out even among the three other wonderful characters on the series.
Beginning her career on the stage, she starred in Broadway productions of Fiddler on the Roof and most famously in Mame, a role she reprised for the 1974 film version with Lucille Ball. Her place in television history was assured during her guest starring episodes on All in the Family. Maude was a liberal and a feminist and the perfect counterpart to blustery Archie Bunker. Her apearance on the series was so striking that upon first seeing her on All in the Family, the network realized that Arthur had created a character with a life of her own and one who warranted her own series.