Rue McClanahan
McClanahan in a publicity portrait for The Joe Franklin Show, c. 1972
Eddi-Rue McClanahan

(1934-02-21)February 21, 1934
DiedJune 3, 2010(2010-06-03) (aged 76)
EducationUniversity of Tulsa (BA)
  • Actress
  • comedienne
  • author
  • fashion designer
Years active1957–2010
Mama's Family
The Golden Girls
The Golden Palace
Tom Bish
(m. 1958; div. 1959)
Norman Hartweg
(m. 1959; div. 1961)
Peter DeMaio
(m. 1964; div. 1971)
Gus Fisher
(m. 1976; div. 1981)
Tom Keel
(m. 1985; div. 1986)
Morrow Wilson
(m. 1997; sep. 2009)
RelativesAmelia Kinkade (niece)

Eddi-Rue McClanahan (February 21, 1934 – June 3, 2010) was an American actress, comedienne, author and fashion designer. She was best known for her roles on television sitcoms, including Vivian Harmon on Maude (1972–78), Aunt Fran Crowley on Mama's Family (1983–84), and Blanche Devereaux on The Golden Girls (1985–92), and its spin-off series The Golden Palace (1992–93).

McClanahan won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series in 1987 for her role in The Golden Girls.

Early life

Eddi-Rue McClanahan was born in Healdton, Oklahoma, on February 21, 1934. She was the daughter of Dreda Rheua-Nell (née Medaris), a beautician, and William Edwin "Bill" McClanahan, a building contractor.[1][2][3][4]

She was raised Methodist and was of Irish and Choctaw ancestry.[4] 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,[5] where she acted in school plays and won the gold medal in oration.[6] A National Honor Society member, McClanahan earned a Bachelor of Arts degree, cum laude, at the University of Tulsa, where she majored in both German and theater and joined the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority,[1] serving as vice president.[7]


A life member of the Actors Studio,[8] McClanahan made her professional stage début at Pennsylvania's Erie Playhouse in 1957, in the play Inherit the Wind.[1] She began acting off-Broadway in New York City in 1957,[9] 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 play with music, Jimmy Shine, with Dustin Hoffman in the title role.[2]

Her role as Caroline Johnson on the TV show Another World (from July 1970 to September 1971) brought her notice. 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.

All In the Family. L-R: McClanahan, Carroll O'Connor, Jean Stapleton and Gardenia (1972)

In the 1972 episode of All in the Family "The Bunkers and the Swingers," McClanahan and Vincent Gardenia play a swinging couple who meet the unsuspecting Bunkers.[10] McClanahan first worked with actress Bea Arthur on the sitcom Maude (1972–78). Arthur played Maude Findlay, and McClanahan played Maude's best friend Vivian Cavender, who eventually married Maude's next-door neighbor Dr. Arthur Harmon (played by Conrad Bain).

After Maude, McClanahan starred in Apple Pie, a series created for her by Norman Lear, but which aired only two episodes before it was canceled. In an interview, McClanahan said she also did another of the pilot episodes The Baxters for Lear but told him she did not want to do the series itself. It is unknown if her appearance was in the actual pilot or an unaired pilot, presumably the latter given she is not credited and the show is not attributed to her anywhere. It is also possible she never actually filmed the episode but was just considering it. Many years later, a script binder entitled The Baxters was discovered to be a part of her collection.[11][12]

On Mama's Family (1983–90), McClanahan portrayed Fran, an uptight spinster sister 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 canceled by NBC and then retooled for first run syndication.

On The Golden Girls (1985–92) and its short-lived spin-off 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 (Arthur), Rose Nylund (White), and Sophia Petrillo (Estelle Getty). McClanahan received four Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for her work on the show, winning the award in 1987.[13]

She 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 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 played a biology teacher in 1997's Starship Troopers.[14] 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 appeared in the all-woman cast of The Women in 2001-2002,[15] alongside Cynthia Nixon, Jennifer Coolidge, among others. She 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.

In 2003, she appeared alongside Mark Hamill in the two-hander Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks at the Coconut Grove Playhouse in Miami, Florida.[16] She chose not to continue with the production and was replaced by Polly Bergen for the Broadway performances.[17] 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.

Her autobiography, My First Five Husbands ... and the Ones Who Got Away, was released in 2007.[1][18] In June 2008, The Golden Girls was awarded the Pop Culture award at the Sixth Annual TV Land Awards; McClanahan accepted the award with co-stars Arthur and White.[19] McClanahan's final acting role was as Peggy Ingram in the cable series Sordid Lives on the Logo network, which premiered July 23, 2008.


An animal rights advocate and vegetarian,[1][18] McClanahan was one of the first celebrity supporters of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.[1] She supported Alley Cat Allies,[20] 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.[citation needed]

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.[21]

Personal life and death

In June 1997, McClanahan was diagnosed with breast cancer, for which she was treated successfully.[22]

On November 4, 2009, McClanahan underwent triple bypass surgery after being hospitalized for cardiac related symptoms. An event scheduled for November 14, 2009, to honor her lifetime achievements, Golden: A Gala Tribute to Rue McClanahan, at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco, California,[23] had to be postponed. On January 14, 2010, Entertainment Tonight reported that while recovering from surgery, the actress 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.[24]

McClanahan died on June 3, 2010, at age 76, at NewYork–Presbyterian Hospital after she suffered a brain hemorrhage.[25][26][22] After cremation, her ashes were given to her family. White told Entertainment Tonight that McClanahan was a "close and dear friend."[27]

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 Lou McClanahan (of Silver City, New Mexico); and other family, including her niece, actress and author Amelia Kinkade.[28][2][29]

No funeral service was held for McClanahan; her family created an official memorial page on Facebook,[30] and memorial services were held during the summer of 2010 in New York and Los Angeles.[28][failed verification] On June 10, 2010, her New York apartment went on the market for an asking price of $2.25 million.[31][32]

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.[33] However, after less than a year in business, the cafe closed in November 2017.[34]

Awards and nominations

The handprints of Rue McClanahan in front of The Great Movie Ride at Walt Disney World's Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park, 2007
Year Award Nominated work Result
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



Year Title Role Notes
1961 The Grass Eater Loraina
1961 Five Minutes to Live Pamela Uncredited
1963 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
They Might Be Giants Daisy
Some of My Best Friends Are... Lita Joyce
1973 Blade Gail
1978 Having Babies III Gloria Miles TV movie
Sergeant Matlovich vs. the U.S. Air Force Mat's Mother TV movie
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 Little Match Girl Frances Dutton TV movie
1988 Liberace Frances Liberace TV movie
Take My Daughters, Please Lilah Page TV movie
1989 The Man in the Brown Suit Suzy Blair TV movie
The Wickedest Witch Avarissa TV special
1990 Modern Love Mrs. Evelyn Parker
The Earth Day Special Blanche Devereaux TV special
After the Shock Sherra Cox TV movie
Children of the Bride Margret Becker TV movie
To My Daughter Laura Carlson TV movie
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
Message from Nam Beatrice Andrews TV miniseries
Nunsense Reverend Mother Regina TV movie
1994 A Burning Passion: The Margaret Mitchell Story Grandma Stephens TV movie
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
Dear God Mom Rue Turner
1997 This World, Then the Fireworks Mrs. Tessa Lakewood
Out to Sea Ellen Carruthers
Annabelle's Wish Scarlett (voice) TV movie
Starship Troopers Ruth the Biology Teacher
1998 Border to Border Mrs. Eda Kirby
Rusty: A Dog's Tale Edna Callahan Alternate title: Rusty: The Great Rescue
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
The Fighting Temptations Nancy Stringer
2005 Wit's End Dean Madison
Back to You and Me Helen Ludwick TV movie
2008 Generation Gap Kay TV movie


Year Title Role Notes
1961 The Aquanauts 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
Grandpa Goes to Washington Grace Episode: "Pilot"
1978–84 The Love Boat Various Characters 6 episodes
1979 $weepstake$ Episode: "Vince, Pete and Patsy, Jessica and Rodney"
Supertrain Janet Episode: "Where Have You Been Billy Boy"
Fantasy Island Margaret Fielding Episode: "Bowling/Command Performance"
1980 Lou Grant Maggie McKenna Episode: "Guns"
Here's Boomer Thelma Episode: "Private Eye"
1981 Gimme a Break! Marian Episode: "The Second Time Around"
Darkroom Mrs. Louise Michaelson Episode: "Daisies"
1982 Trapper John, M.D. Mary Renquist Episode: "John's Other Life"
Fantasy Island Gertie Episode: "Dancing Lady/The Final Round"
1983 Newhart Eleanor Smathers Episode: "The Way We Thought We Were"
American Playhouse Fortune Teller Episode: "The Skin of Our Teeth"
Small & Frye Miss Parsifal Episode: "Pilot"
1983–84 Mama's Family Aunt Fran Crowley 24 episodes
1984 Gimme a Break! Katrina Episode: "Grandpa's Secret Life"
Alice Mother Goose Episode: "Big Bad Mel"
1984–85 Charles in Charge Irene Pembroke 2 episodes
1985 Cover Up Mattie Bernstein Episode: "Murder in Malibu"
Crazy Like a Fox Angie Episode: "Turn Off the Century Fox"
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?"
Touched by an Angel Amelia Bowthorpe Archinald Episode: "Manny"
Spider-Man Mrs. Hardy

Episode: "Dr. Octopus: Armed and Dangerous"

1995 The Mommies Amanda Kellogg Episode: "The Mother of All In-Laws"
1997 Promised Land Valerie Carter Episode: "Intolerance"
Murphy Brown Virginia Redfeld Episode: "Mama Miller"
1998 Columbo Verity Chandler Episode: "Ashes to Ashes"
Love Boat: The Next Wave Abigail Jordan Episode: "Captains Courageous"
1999 Safe Harbor Grandma Loring 11 episodes
Blue's Clues Steve's Grandma Episode: "Blue's Big Treasure Hunt"
2000 Ladies Man Aunt Lou 2 episodes
Intimate Portrait Herself Episode: "Rue McClanahan"
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 (co-host) TV special
2004 Whoopi Marion Episode: "American Woman"
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"
Meet the Browns Lorraine Episode: "Meet Mr. Wrong"



  1. ^ a b c d e f "Rue McClanahan: Biography". TV Guide. CBS Interactive. Retrieved June 3, 2010.
  2. ^ a b c Martin, Douglas (June 3, 2010). "Rue McClanahan, 76, Actress and Golden Girl, Dies". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved December 18, 2018.
  3. ^ "'Golden Girl' Rue McClanahan aimed to show 'that when people mature, they add layers'". The Christian Science Monitor. AP. June 3, 2010. Retrieved November 15, 2013.
  4. ^ a b McClanahan, Rue (April 10, 2007). My First Five Husbands.. And the Ones Who Got Away. Crown Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-7679-2779-6.
  5. ^ "TV star Rue McClanahan in Chicago promoting her new book". WLS-TV. May 17, 2007. Archived from the original on March 18, 2014. Retrieved March 18, 2014.
  6. ^ Ardmore High School Yearbook, 1950
  7. ^ University of Tulsa Yearbook, 1954
  8. ^ Garfield, David (1980). "Appendix: Life Members of The Actors Studio as of January 1980". A Player's Place: The Story of The Actors Studio. New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc. p. 279. ISBN 0-02-542650-8.
  9. ^ Triggs, Charlotte; Silverman, Stephen M. (June 3, 2010). "Golden Girls Star Rue McClanahan Dies at 76". People. Retrieved March 18, 2014.
  10. ^ "All in the Family: The Bunkers and the Swingers (TV)". Retrieved May 25, 2021.
  11. ^ "Rue McClanahan". Television Academy Interviews. October 23, 2017. Retrieved January 25, 2022.
  12. ^ ""The Baxters" Binder with the Annotated Book for Rue's Musical "Oedipus Shmedipus" Inside [SOLD] | The Estate of Rue". Retrieved January 25, 2022.
  13. ^ "Rue McClanahan - Emmy Awards, Nominations and Wins". Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.
  14. ^ "Starship Troopers". TV Guide.
  15. ^
  16. ^ Jones, Kenneth (June 27, 2003). "Rue McClanahan Bows Out of Bway's Six Dance Lessons; Hamill Ready to Dance". Playbill. Retrieved September 29, 2016.
  17. ^ Gans, Andrew (November 21, 2003). "Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks to Close Nov. 23". Playbill. Retrieved September 29, 2016.
  18. ^ a b Jooley Ann (April 27, 2007). "Austinist interviews Rue McClanahan". The Austinist. Archived from the original on February 4, 2010. Retrieved June 3, 2010.
  19. ^ "TV Land Awards Party Like It's 1979". E! Online. June 8, 2008. Archived from the original on July 31, 2008. Retrieved June 3, 2010.
  20. ^ "Alley Cat Allies - "I'm an Alley Cat Ally" Campaign". Alley Cat Allies. Archived from the original on November 20, 2010. Retrieved September 15, 2021.
  21. ^ Gans, Andrew. "Prop 8 Musical Will Be Part of Star-Studded Defying Inequality Benefit". Archived from the original on March 26, 2014. Retrieved January 26, 2009.
  22. ^ a b Itzkoff, Dave (June 3, 2010). "Rue McClanahan, Actress and 'Golden Girls' Star, Has Died". The New York Times. Retrieved June 4, 2010.
  23. ^ "Tickets for GOLDEN: A GALA TRIBUTE TO RUE MCCLANAHAN with Television Icon Live In Person!". TicketWeb. Retrieved August 23, 2016.
  24. ^ The Ellen DeGeneres Show. March 22, 2010.
  25. ^ Douglas, Martin (June 3, 2010). "Rue McClanahan, Actress and Golden Girl, Dies at 76". The New York Times. Retrieved November 15, 2013. 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.
  26. ^ "Golden Girls star Rue McClanahan dies at age 76" Archived June 6, 2010, at the Wayback Machine New York Daily News, June 3, 2010.
  27. ^ Rue McClanahan death Archived April 25, 2012, at the Wayback Machine,; accessed August 23, 2016.
  28. ^ a b Nelson, Valerie J. (June 4, 2010). "'Golden Girl' Rue McClanahan dies". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 4, 2010.
  29. ^ Price, Michael H. (February 3, 1989). "Horror Flick 'Night of the Demons' claims Fort Worth leading woman". Fort Worth Star-Telegram. p. 84. Retrieved August 26, 2022.
  30. ^ "The Official Rue McClanahan Memorial Page". Facebook.
  31. ^ Harris, Elizabeth A. (June 10, 2010). "Rue McClanahan's Apartment Hits the Market". The New York Times.
  32. ^ "Rue Mcclanahan – Mcclanahan's Apartment Up for Sale". June 13, 2010. Retrieved June 13, 2010.
  33. ^ "'Golden Girls' cafe Rue La Rue has soft opening in Washington Heights". February 7, 2017.
  34. ^ "Golden Girls Cafe Shutters After Less Than a Year". November 20, 2017.