Rue McClanahan in a publicity portrait for The Joe Franklin Show
February 21, 1934
Healdton, Oklahoma, U.S.
|Died||June 3, 2010 (aged 76)|
New York City, U.S.
|Education||Ardmore High School|
|Alma mater||University of Tulsa|
|Occupation||Actress, comedian, author, fashion designer|
The Golden Girls
The Golden Palace
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.
Eddi-Rue McClanahan was born in Healdton, Oklahoma, on February 21, 1934. She was the daughter of Dreda Rheua-Nell (née Medaris; 1912 – 1973), a beautician, and William Edwin "Bill" McClanahan (1908 – 1999), a building contractor. Her mother's maiden name was a Portuguese or Galician surname variation of Madeiros.
She was raised Methodist and was of Irish and Choctaw ancestry. 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, where she acted in school plays and won the gold medal in oration. A National Honor Society member, she 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, serving as vice-president.
A life member of the Actors Studio, McClanahan made her professional stage début at Pennsylvania's Erie Playhouse in 1957, in the play Inherit the Wind. She began acting off-Broadway in New York City in 1957, 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.
Her role as Caroline Johnson on the TV show Another World (from July 1970 to September 1971) brought her notice. On the show, while taking care of twins Michael and Marianne Randolph, Caroline fell in love with their father, John, and began poisoning their mother, Pat. The short-term role was extended to more than a year before Caroline was finally brought to justice after kidnapping the twins. 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.
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 Harmon, wife of Dr. Arthur Harmon (played by Conrad Bain).
On Mama's Family (1983–90), McClanahan portrayed 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.
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 an Emmy Award in 1987 for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for her work on the show. The Golden Girls franchise reunited Rue with her former Maude co-star Bea Arthur.
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 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.
An animal welfare advocate and vegetarian, McClanahan was one of the first celebrity supporters of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. She supported Alley Cat Allies, 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. In a July 2008 interview, she weighed in on the 2008 Presidential campaigns. Regarding Barack Obama, she said:
In 2003, she appeared alongside Mark Hamill in the two-hander Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks at the Coconut Grove Playhouse in Miami. She chose not to continue with the production and was replaced by Polly Bergen for the Broadway performances. 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.
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".
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. 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.
Betty White told Entertainment Tonight that McClanahan was a "close and dear friend".
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. No funeral service was held for McClanahan; her family created an official memorial page on Facebook, and memorial services were held during the summer of 2010 in New York and Los Angeles. On June 10, 2010, her New York apartment went on the market for an asking price of $3.95 million.
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. However, after less than a year in business, the cafe closed in November 2017.
|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|
|1961||The Grass Eater||Loraina|
|1961||Five Minutes to Live||Pamela||Uncredited|
|1961||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|
|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 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 Turner|
|1997||This World, Then the Fireworks||Mrs. Lakewood|
|1997||Out to Sea||Ellen Carruthers|
|1997||Annabelle's Wish||Scarlett (voice)||TV movie|
|1997||Starship Troopers||Biology Teacher|
|1998||Border to Border||Mrs. 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|
|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||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 Pembrooke||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 (Host)||Television 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"|
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.