Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Friday, June 04, 2010

Another Golden Girl gone to glory

Some sad news to end the week on,folks. Actress Rue McClanahan passed away yesterday at the age of 76. She had dealt with several bouts of illness,including breast cancer and heart bypass surgery just last year but was still active in her career(one of her most recent TV appearances was on a Christmas episode of Tyler Perry's Meet the Browns).

Rue is,of course,best known as Blanche Devereux,the oversexed Southern belle,on Golden Girls,a role that won her an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy back in 1987.

She was also a stage performer,both on and off Broadway,appearing with Dustin Hoffman in the musical Jimmy Shine in 1969 and in 2005,took over the part of Madam Morrible in Wicked for eight months. While her work on television gave her the most fame,Rue acted in numerous major motion pictures such as Hollywood After Dark,Out to Sea,The Fighting Temptations and even Starship Troopers.

Rue was a lively and outspoken lady,whose sparkling personality and knack for verbal zingers were reflected in many of her roles over the years. As a fitting tribute to her lovable legacy,we here at LRG have selected a few of those funny gals she played that lighten up our lives.

I first recall seeing Rue on the first season of Mama's Family,the sitcom spun off from the Carol Burnett show skits about Eunice and her wacky family. Rue played Aunt Fran,the slightly more refined spinster sister of cankerous Thelma Harper(Vicki Lawrence)who wrote for the local newspaper and had some other lofty literary aspirations as well.

Many guest appearances were made that first season by those who had originally appeared on the Carol Burnett Show,including Carol herself as the obnoxious Eunice and future Golden Girl co-star Betty White as her supposedly superior sister Ellen,who was less than perfect as she wanted everyone to think. Rue's ability to easily blend into an ensemble was on good display here:

Rue also had early experience with another Golden Girl lead,Bea Arthur. On Maude,Rue played next neighborhood and best friend since college Vivian Harmon who was married to the best buddy of Maude's husband Walter(played by Diff'rent Strokes dad Conrad Bain). Her willingness to get physical in her humorous antics goes along swimmingly with her comic timing:

A prime example of her combined physical and verbal silly skills is this bit from the televised version of the Broadway show,Nunsense. As Mother Superior,she sniffs a vial that's not filled with smelling salts and gets a real otherworldly experience:

It would be a real sin to ignore Rue's marvelous work in Golden Girls,so let's get down to the naughty nitty-gritty of Blanche. She was vain,prone to over dramatics, in full denial about her age and loved to regal anyone and everyone with tall tales of her sexual prowess.

Despite and at times because of those flaws,Blanche was a good friend and the most sentimental of the bunch. One of her funniest and sweetest bits on the show was when she became jealous of Dorothy's singing ability that dazzled all the men at her favorite bar and tried to outshine her with a piano side performance that ended up flat.

Her confession to Dorothy afterward about being impressed with her musical talent is a vulnerability that her character rarely revealed on purpose and made for a very touching moments between those two:

Blanche's delusions of grandeur caused her to get carried away with herself many a time and not just in the bedroom. Her determination to write the Great American Novel drove Blanche into an overwrought frenzy due to lack of sleep yet she gave one hell of a one woman performance out of that amusing artistic experiment:

Rue continued the role in the short lived spin-off to Golden Girls,The Golden Palace,with Betty White's Rose and Estelle Getty as Sophia all running a hotel together in Miami with Don Cheadle and Cheech Marin on the staff. Golden Palace isn't on the rerun circuit much these days but perhaps it may yet get a revival due to the sad loss of it's stars or a DVD release at the very least:

As one of the last of the Golden Girls(Betty White is our remaining gem in that comic crown royal set),Rue celebrated that lingering flash of fame with pride and honor. On the book tour for her memoir,My First Five Husbands and The Ones that Got Away,she was treated to a Golden Girls/ Pulpwood Queens parody performance live,not only as part of the book tour but at her insistence also.

Rue McClanahan's love of life and celebration of friendship is inspiring and we will miss her dearly. Those who were fortunate enough to have Rue as part of their personal lives will feel her loss more keenly and all of our heartfelt condolences go out to them. One consoling thought to keep in mind is that when Rue went to her reward in the after world,she had a couple of good friends waiting for her, with a cheesecake on hand to catch up on old times:

1 comment:

Ladytink_534 said...

I love all the Golden Girls but she was always one of my favorites.