[22 July 2008]
Estelle Getty, the diminutive actress who won an Emmy for her portrayal of sassy Sophia Petrillo on “The Golden Girls,” has died. She was 84.
Getty passed away Tuesday in her home in Los Angeles surrounded by her family and caregivers, it was posted on her official Web site. The actress had been suffering from Lewy Body dementia for years.
Getty was born Estell Scher on July 25, 1923, in New York City. She started her acting career in the Yiddish theater but took a break from her career to start a family when she married Arthur Gettleman in 1946. Later, she returned to acting and landed a part playing Harvey Fierstein’s mother on Broadway in “Torch Song Trilogy.”
Getty then made a number of guest appearances in TV shows before landing the role of octogenarian Sophia Petrillo on “The Golden Girls.” Although Getty was technically a year younger than her co-star Bea Arthur, she played Arthur’s mother on the show. On the show, the tiny Sophia always had a sarcastic comment for Dorothy (Arthur), Rose (Betty White) or Blanch (Rue McClanahan) and alternately used her advanced age as an excuse and leverage.
She went on to play Sophia in numerous crossovers including “Blossom,” “Empty Nest,” “The Golden Palace” and “Nurses.” On the big screen, she had roles in “Tootsie,” “Mask,” “Mannequin,” “Stuart Little” and opposite Sylvester Stallone in “Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot.”
In 2000 she stopped making public appearances due to her health problems, later discovering that she had Lewy Body dementia. In 2003, her failing health prevented her from participating in Lifetime television’s “Golden Girls” reunion.
She wrote her autobiography “If I Knew Then, What I Know Now ... So What?” with Steve Delsohn.
Getty is survived by her two sons: Carl and Barry Gettleman.