Rue McClanahan, one of the stars of the hit 1980s TV show The Golden Girls, has died at the age of 76. The actress had been in bad shape lately after suffering a small stroke earlier this year following a bypass surgery that she underwent, and it was a massive stroke early this morning that proved too much for her body to handle.
Rue was incredibly popular as Blanche Devereaux on The Golden Girls, which ran from 1985 to 1992 and still airs reruns every single day, but despite the fact that she might not have been in the spotlight as much as the other ladies, McClanahan certainly did so much more than that one show in her long career.
Starting off as a Broadway star in the ’50s, it wasn’t until 1961 when she moved into doing many TV movies and specials for a while, but it was in the ’70s where she showed up on the hit show Maude (which starred future Golden Girls co-star Bea Arthur). That show ran from 1972 to 1978, and Rue starred in 100 episodes over the duration. She also had a significant run on Mama’s Family in the early ’80s before moving on to become one of the Girls.
Aside from those bigger shows, McClanahan’s career mostly consisted of an incredible amount of TV movies, short stints on TV shows, and cameos. After The Golden Girls, she actually did a 24-episode spinoff show called The Golden Palace, in which she, Estelle Getty, and Betty White open up a hotel. That show also starred Don Cheadle and Cheech Marin. She even played Blanche again in both Nurses and Empty Nest cameos.
In terms of movies, McClanahan didn’t do a ton of the bigger known ones, but she was in her share of them. Most notably was probably 1971’s They Might Be Giants with George C. Scott, and other titles that stand out are Out to Sea with legendary duo Jack Lemon and Walter Matthau, cult classic sci-fi flick Starship Troopers, where she played a teacher, and The Fighting Temptations.
As many older stars do later in life, Rue did do a little voice acting in an appearance on King of the Hill. The end of her career included a 12-episode role on Sordid Lives: The Series in 2008, and a 1-episode stint on Law & Order and Meet the Browns in 2009.
It’s been a very sad past couple of years for Golden Girls fans. With the passing of Getty, Arthur, and McClanahan just in the past two years, only Betty White remains with us in this life. Thankfully, she doesn’t look like she has any plans of slowing down any time soon.
1934 — 2010