Rue McClanahan, best known as Golden Girls' man-hungry Southern debutante Blanche Devereaux and Maude's scatterbrained Vivian Harmon, has died. She was 76.
McClanahan suffered a cerebral hemorrhage Monday and died at 1 a.m. Thursday with family at her side at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, the actress' manager, Barbara Lawrence said in a statement.
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McClanahan had been in ill health as of late. She suffered a stroke in January, two months after undergoing a cardial bypass.
Her death follows those of her Golden Girls
co-stars, Estelle Getty
, who died in July 2008, and Bea Arthur
, who died in April 2009. Betty White
is the sole surviving cast member of the iconic '80s NBC hit.
"Rue was a close and dear friend. I treasure our relationship," White said in a statement. "It hurts more than I ever thought it would, if that's even possible."
See photos of Rue McClanahan over the years
An Oklahoma native, McClanahan started acting off-Broadway in 1957 and made her Broadway debut 12 years later in the musical Jimmy Shine
with Dustin Hoffman. She moved into television the following year, when she joined on the NBC soap Another World
She found prime-time success in 1972, when she was cast on the groundbreaking All in the Family
, opposite Arthur's titular feminist character. She played Maude's sweet and clueless best friend.
"I saw her off-Broadway and I brought her out here for Maude
. This was one of the loveliest, funniest, most grounded...I don't have good enough words for her," Family
creator Norman Lear
said in a statement to Entertainment Weekly
. "There are wonderful actors who can do comedy, and there are wonderful actors who can do comedy who are also funny. Rue was funny walking into a room. Her earlobes were funny. Her knuckles were funny. She was just funny."
Check out Rue McClanahan's TV Guide Magazine covers
But Golden Girls
is where McClanahan's legacy rests. She won an Emmy for her portrayal of the man-crazed Blanche. McClanahan was originally cast as the dim Rose, while White — who played the sex-obsessed Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show
— was tapped for Blanche, but the actresses requested to swap roles to avoid being typecast. McClanahan reprised the role on the Golden Girls
' spin-off, The Golden Palace
, which lasted for one season.
Golden Girls' Rue McClanahan suffered a stroke
Seldom appearing in feature films, McClanahan continued to be a TV presence in her later years, starring in TV movies and guest-starring on such shows as Boy Meets World, Hope & Faith, King of the Hill and Law & Order. Her last role as a series regular was on Logo's 2008 sitcom Sordid Lives: The Series and her screen appearance was on a 2009 episode of Meet the Browns.
A breast cancer survivor, McClanahan was married six times. She is survived by her husband, Morrow Wilson, whom she married in 1997; her son, Mark Bish, from her first marriage; and her sister, Dr. Melinda L. McClanahan.