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October 8, 2015

The Rue McClanahan You Never Knew

by Joel Keller, posted Jun 3rd 2010 1:20PM
Rue McClanahan Dies

In what was already a sad week in entertainment, Rue McClanahan passed away this morning from a massive stroke at the age of 76.

This leaves the resurgent Betty White as the only one of the 'Golden Girls' quartet who's still with us, a remarkable thought considering that it didn't seem like that long ago when White, McClanahan, Bea Arthur and Estelle Getty were all making us laugh on Saturday nights.

Most people know McClanahan from her 'Girls' role of sexy senior Blanche Devereaux. But McClanahan's on-screen career stretches back almost fifty years, and she's been featured in a number of interesting television roles before and since her years on that lanai in Miami.

Here are some of the more interesting parts of Rue's career you may or may not have known about:

McClanahan and Arthur worked together before 'The Golden Girls.'
Most TV fans know that Arthur spent six years in the 1970s playing super-feminist Maude Findlay in the hit CBS series 'Maude.' But perhaps not every one of those fans might remember that McClanahan spent the duration of that series playing Maude's best friend Vivian.

In this scene from the series' most famous episode, 'Maude's Dilemma,' Maude tells Vivian that she's pregnant and has to figure out whether she wants to get an abortion. The ironic thing about this is that Rue was only 38 when she did this episode, and she was aged up to play Vivian:

McClanahan didn't always play loose and sexy. Before her stint on 'Girls,' McClanahan appeared in the first two years of another successful series, 'Mama's Family.' She played Fran, the uptight sister of Vicki Lawrence's title character. When McClanahan moved to 'The Golden Girls' in 1984, Fran suffered an ignominious death -- by toothpick. I guess the producers figured 'Girls' was going to be a hit even then. Here's McClanahan in 'The Wedding' episode, trying to loosen up with a cup of chardonnay:

Rue loved to set sail. McClanahan played five different roles on 'The Love Boat', even coming back to the show in 1984 after 'Golden Girls' started. Over the seven-year span of the show, she played April Dunlevy, Mary Hubble, Doris Simpson, Laura Hayes and Shirley Enicker. She even climbed aboard the ill-fated 'The Love Boat: The Next Wave' series in the late '90s to play a character named Abigail Jordan. Unfortunately, I couldn't find online footage of any of these roles, but I'm pretty sure at the end of all of them she found the love of her life.

She was Scott Baio's rival. During the first season of 'Charles in Charge,' McClanahan twice played Irene Pembroke, grandmother to the first set of kids Scott Baio's character took care of. In the first of the two episodes, 'Home for the Holidays,' Irene tells Charles in no uncertain terms that she doesn't want to compete with him for the kids' affections. I got the same chill Charles did at the end of this scene:

Which of Rue McClanahan's non-'Golden Girls' roles is the most memorable to you?

[Follow @joelkeller on Twitter.]

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It's funny how people are talking to Betty White about she feels about Rue's passing. The one I think they should talk to is Conrad Bain. In just the past week, he's lost his adopted TV son (Gary Coleman - Diff'rent Strokes) and his TV wife (he was Rue's husband in Maude).

June 03 2010 at 6:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

She was a biology teacher on one of the BEST MOVIES EVER: Starship Troopers. Farewell Rue, you were always entertaining. :(

June 03 2010 at 1:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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