Beatrice Arthur, the larger-than-life actress who scored on Broadway as the original matchmaker in Fiddler on the Roof and the hard-drinking actress in Mame before she went on to star in the groundbreaking '70s TV series Maude and, in the '80s, the beloved sitcom The Golden Girls, died early Saturday morning. She was 86.
Dan Watt, a spokesman for Arthur's family, told the Associated Press that the star had been suffering with cancer, though he did not specify what kind. She died peacefully at her Los Angeles home with her family by her side, said Watt, who remembered Arthur as "a brilliant and witty woman."
Maude, which debuted on CBS in 1972 (and ran until 1978) was a spin-off of the hit All in the Family. As the liberal cousin of archconservative Archie Bunker's wife Edith, the much-married Maude wasn't afraid to broach such controversial (especially for TV at the time) topics as abortion and civil rights.
Golden Girls, a popular NBC Saturday-night staple from 1985 to 1992, featured Arthur as the outspoken Dorothy Zbornak, who shared a Florida home with three other women, including her mother, played by Estelle Getty Ã¢â¬â who died last July, at 84. The other stars were Rue McClanahan and Betty White.