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Rue McClanahan and the Art of Seduction

by Allison Waldman, posted Jun 3rd 2010 4:22PM
rue_mcclanahan_broadway_worldToday, we lost a brilliant comedienne with the death of Rue McClanahan at the age of 76. For most female stars who have images that are based on sex appeal, their prime years are when they're in their 20s or 30s, brimming with youth and allure. The secret success of 'Golden Girl' McClanahan is that she made her mark as a femme fatale when most actresses her age were struggling to find roles.

Rue was a master at making sexy fun, and she imbued her 'Golden Girl' alter ego, Blanche Devereaux, with all the passion and lust of a woman half her age. It made her character hilarious and lovable, but beneath the comedy was a real message about believing in your own sexual attractiveness no matter how old you are.

Writer Susan Harris created the character of Blanche, but it was Rue McClanahan who made her so memorable. As Blanche, she was overtly sexual and proud of it. She loved men and loved that men loved her back. Her beaus came in all shapes and sizes, ethnicities and ages. If you were a guy, you were on Blanche's radar.

Long before 'Desperate Housewives' Gaby leered at the lawn boy, Blanche was propositioning grocery clerks. And if there had been no Blanche Devereaux, would 'Cougar Town' be thriving with lecherous women ogling men? You can say Rue's character was a trailblazer and you wouldn't be stretching the truth.

Ironically, Rue wasn't always a hot tamale. I recall her starting out on television as Caroline Johnson, a nanny-turned-villain on the NBC soap opera 'Another World.' That was 1970, and as Caroline, she was conniving and ruthless, but even that character did it with a smile that was charming and deceptive. She fooled everyone around her.

But you never saw Rue as a female barracuda; that wasn't her style back then. When she was on 'Maude' as Bea Arthur's neighbor and good friend Vivian, she was a happily married lady who wasn't the type to deliver a shocking one-liners or double entendre. Who knew how amazing she could be as Blanche?

Blanche was a career-making role and, kudos to Rue, once she got the part, she knew how to make it work. Each character on 'The Golden Girls' had a shtick that complimented the other three. Blanche was the one who got them all together under one roof -- it was her home -- and she was by far the most social and sexually active.

And that wasn't a bad thing the way she played it. Why shouldn't Blanche enjoy the company of men -- many men -- just as a man her age might enjoy the company of a variety of ladies? She was a liberated woman with old-fashioned Southern charm and new age promiscuity.

But the most important thing about Rue's Blanche was that she was funny. In a sitcom like 'Golden Girls,' messages were sent, but the bottom line was entertainment. The timing and execution of the comedy by all four women -- Bea Arthur, Betty White, Estelle Getty and Rue -- was nothing short of brilliant. Check out some clips here in Andrew's post.

What do you remember about Rue? Her time as a vamp, a scamp and a bit of a tramp on 'Golden Girls,' or is there another memory you recall? Share with us.

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mediajunkie

I remember that she did two TV movies one called "Children of the Bride" and the followup "Baby of the Bride" - she was the original cougar who married a man in his 30s when she was 53, and later got pregnant with his baby. Was probably pretty popular back then because I don't know many TV movies that were given sequels.

June 04 2010 at 3:20 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Pumpkinhead

Forever changed the way I look at plastic food wrapping, circa 1976.

June 03 2010 at 9:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
laurie

(correction)
Dorothy-For starters,Jean is a lesbian.
Blanche-So,what's wrong with that?
Dorothy-You aren't surprised?
Blanche-No,isn't Danny Thomas one?

Another classic Blanche line.I watch Golden Girls nightly on Hallmark.I hope they do a tribute.So sad for Betty. Rest in peace,Rue.You were a classic.

June 03 2010 at 8:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
laurie

Dorothy-For starters,Pat is a lesbian.
Blanche-So,what's wrong with that?
Dorothy-You aren't surprised?
Blanche-No,isn't Danny Thomas one?

Another classic Blanche line.I watch Golden Girls nightly on Hallmark.I hope they do a tribute.So sad for Betty. Rest in peace,Rue.You were a classic.

June 03 2010 at 8:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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