Some actors and actresses are happy to live a life that entails standing in front of the camera, saying their lines, looking pretty, and enjoying the affluence and privileges that come with being famous. Asides the foregoing, they care less about people around them. It is a culture that has made regular people consider Hollywood members to be out of touch. However, amongst the multitude of people whose wealth and fame has driven away from the issues facing the common man, there are still a few whose life work and legacy crossed the boundaries of film into affecting real-life issues. One of such standouts was Bea Arthur, the award-winning actresses whose excellence was much in front of the screen as it was off of it.
Who is Bea Arthur and what could a look through her professional career teach modern actors and actresses? Keep reading below to find out.
Who Was Bea Arthur?
Bea Arthur was born as ‘Bernice Frankel’ on the 13th of May, 1922 to the middle-class family of Rebecca and Phillip Frankel in New York. Born to Jewish parents, she, along with her sisters, Gertrude and Marian, was raised in a period when Jewish people were overtly discriminated against. It is possible Bea’s adult life of activism was as a result of her childhood experiences.
Her parents’ enterprising nature took them to Cambridge, Maryland. While the family was in Maryland, Beatrice developed a medical condition that kept her blood from clotting called coagulopathy.
While Bea Arthur was a young adult and had completed her basic education, World War II began. Not looking to sit back while someone else fought the battles she should be fighting for herself, she joined the army and served as a truck driver and typist. She served under the United States Marine Corps and finished her service as a Staff Sergeant.
When she returned home, she was faced with the decision of determining what she wants to do with the rest of her life. Although Bea Arthur originally wanted to pursue a career in medicine, she abandoned it and chose acting instead.
Having chosen to be an actor, she quickly began her education to be one, applying and studying at the Dramatic Workshop of the New School in New York. While she learned, she became part of a theatre group that produced off-Broadway plays at the Cherry Lane Theatre.
Before she starred in the musical Mame, which earned her recognition across the theatre and film scene, she participated in a few plays including a Broadway called Fiddler on the Roof. Her role as Vera Charles in Mame earned her a Tony award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical, a culmination of her short but successful theatre career.
The glory of Bea Arthur’s acting career shone mostly on Television and it all started after a guest appearance on All in the Family. Appearing as an outspoken liberal feminist, Beatrice’s character, Maude, was well received by the studio executives and the audience and she was immediately given her own show – off just one-episode appearance.
She would go on to star as the lead in the show titled Maude. With the show, Maude lent her voice to the social and political issues of the time, ranging from the Vietnam War, alcoholism, women’s liberation, gay rights, and many others. The show was an instant success, with its Thanksgiving Special recording a reported 65 million viewers.
After Maude, Beatrice appeared in a few other shows before she joined The Golden Girls. The show earned Beatrice her second major acting award, winning an Emmy in 1988.
When it came to feature films, however, Beatrice did not appear in a lot of them despite her fame. Her few notable appearances include a reprisal of her role as Vera Charles in the film adaptation of Mame and a 1995 movie, For Better or Worse.
As a woman who was never content just being a Hollywood princess, she was an activist for issues such as animal and LGBT rights.
Was She Gay?
Although she had a lasting personal relationship with Adrienne Barbeau who was her co-star on Maude, which, along with her fervent defence of gay rights, sparked rumours that she was gay, but Bea Arthur was as straight as they came. She was married twice in her lifetime, both times to men.
Her first marriage was to a fellow marine, Robert Alan Aurthur, who she married when she was in the military. Though the two later got divorced, Bea kept using his surname – albeit a modified spelling of the name. Robert later found a career in the entertainment industry as well, becoming a screenwriter, director and film producer.
Her next marriage was to Gene Saks, an American director in 1950. The couple adopted two sons – Matthew and Daniel – together. The two sadly got divorced in 1978, after nearly three decades together.
What Was Her Net Worth?
A successful and inspiring career helped Bea Arthur amass a net worth of $8 million. Her successful and iconic shows like Maude and The Golden Girls were huge commercial hits and made a considerable impact on the material value of Bea’s work.
Cause of Death
After a long and accomplished life, Bea Arthur died in her home on April 25, 2009, of lung cancer. After her death, her body was cremated and her ashes spread throughout Miami per her wishes. She is survived by two sons, two granddaughters and a legacy of using her fame and influence to help people around the world.