Rue McClanahan, American actress, Died at 76

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Eddi-Rue “Rue” McClanahan died on June 3, 2010 at the age of 76, she was an American actress.

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 (July 4, 1908 – February 20, 1999) a building contractor.

McClanahan made her professional stage début at Pennsylvania’s Erie Playhouse in 1957, in the play Inherit the Wind.

She began acting off-Broadway in New York City in 1957, 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 musical, Jimmy Shine, with Dustin Hoffman in the title role.

She also appeared as a leader of Al-Anon in a 1970s informational video called “Slight Drinking Problem,” in which Patty Duke played the enabling and eventually self-empowered wife of an alcoholic.

In feature films, McClanahan starred in 1961’s The Rotten Apple, as well as Walk the Angry Beach in 1968.

In 1971, she played a vicious fag hag in the film Some of My Best Friends Are…, which was set in a gay bar.

In 1990, McClanahan starred as Matilda Joslyn Gage, mother-in-law of L. Frank Baum in the made-for-TV movie The Dreamer of Oz.

She was noticed by television executive Norman Lear.

Lear cast her in a number of television shows, including All in the Family (1971) with Carroll O’Connor and Maude (1972) with Bea Arthur.

McClanahan next co-starred with Vicki Lawrence, Ken Berry, Betty White and Carol Burnett in Mama’s Family (1983) for three years, and, after it was canceled by NBC, McClanahan was probably best known for her role as the saucy, sharp southern belle, “Blanche Devereaux”, in The Golden Girls (1985). She once again worked with Bea Arthur and Betty White, and with relative newcomer Estelle Getty.

All four of the women won Emmy Awards for their roles.

After Bea Arthur left the show after seven seasons, McClanahan, White and Getty returned for a brief spin-off in The Golden Palace (1992).

In the mid-nineties, McClanahan was diagnosed with cancer, but was able to fight it successfully.

McClanahan was the youngest, by at least 10 years, of the four actresses who played the Golden Girls, well-dressed, clever-tongued, over-50 women who shared a house in Miami.

The others were Bea Arthur (Dorothy), Betty White (Rose) and Estelle Getty (Dorothy’s mother, Sophia). McClanahan, who never tired of talking about Blanche, was wise to her.

Though Sophia, the dotty mother of the witty, dominant Dorothy, could be pointed, calling Blanche “Sheena, Queen of the Slut People,” Ms. McClanahan saw the character differently — as a woman who mainly just talked about sex.

She was a lifelong liberal Democrat.

In 2003 she wrote a letter to presidential nominee John Kerry telling him that he lost both her vote and respect due to pheasant hunting.

She endorsed Barack Obama in the 2008 Presidential election.

She was a supporter, donor, and advocate for Methodist Healthcare and its 15 care services.

She even gave a speech about her battle with cancer at the Travis Park United Methodist Church on May 11, 2000 East Travis, Texas.

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