Born on 13 May 1922 in New York City, Arthur launched her career as a member of the Off-Broadway company at the Cherry Lane Theatre. She went on to appear in the Broadway musical premieres of Fiddler on the Roof and, in 1966, Mame. In the latter, she played Vera Charles opposite Angela Lansbury’s title character, and went on to recreate the role in the 1974 film adaptation starring Lucille Ball.
But it was television that made Arthur a household name. In addition to the 1980s hit Golden Girls, in which she played Florida retiree Dorothy, her many best known small screen credits included All in the Family and its spin-off Maude in the 1970s, as well as various one-offs such as The Beatrice Arthur Special.
In her recent one-woman revue, originally called And Then There's Bea, Arthur took an acerbic view of her life, recalling the trials and tribulations of her career, interwoven with songs. She took it on a nationwide tour of the US in 2001, followed by an extended 2003 season at Broadway's Booth Theater, where it was titled Bea Arthur on Broadway: Just Between Friends. In September 2003, she brought the show to the West End’s Savoy Theatre, this time retitled as Bea Arthur at the Savoy.
- by Terri Paddock