Rue McClanahan (born Eddi Rue McClanahan; February 21, 1934) is an Emmy Award-winning American actress, known for her roles on the television sitcoms Maude and The Golden Girls.
McClanahan was born in Healdton
, the daughter of Dreda Rheua-Nell (née Medaris), a beautician, and William Edwin McClanahan, a building contractor. She is of Irish
and Choctaw Indian ancestry, and grew up in Ardmore, Oklahoma
; she graduated from Ardmore High School in 1953. At the University of Tulsa
, she majored in German and Theatre and was a member of the sorority Kappa Alpha Theta
. She began acting on stage in New York City
in 1957, but her breakout role was of maniacal nanny Caroline Johnson on Another World
from July 1970 - September 1971. In the show, while taking care of twins Michael and Marianne Randolph, Caroline fell in love with their father, John, and began poisoning their mother, Pat. Due in part to McClanahan's performance, the short-term role was extended to over a year before Caroline was finally brought to justice after kidnapping the twins. McClanahan expected negative fan reaction but was generally popular, even getting one letter advising her on the best poisons with which to kill Pat. Unlike a number of actors who become famous after leaving soaps, McClanahan has always praised daytime drama and the people who work in it.
McClanahan starred in the long-running television series Another World
from 1970 to 1971, In Maude
, broadcast from 1972 to 1978, McClanahan played Maude's (Bea Arthur
) best friend, Vivian Harmon. 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. She later starred in the early seasons of Mama's Family
as "Aunt Fran" Crowley
from 1983 to 1985. Her character was killed off.
The Golden Girls
In The Golden Girls
, broadcast from 1985 until 1992, McClanahan portrayed man-crazed Southern belle Blanche Devereaux
. Deveraux was the owner of a house inhabited by four roommates: herself, Dorothy Zbornak
), Rose Nylund
), and Sophia Petrillo
). She received an Emmy Award
in 1987 for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for her work on The Golden Girls
She made a nod to her beginnings on Another World in an episode of The Golden Girls, called "The Flu" when, as Blanche, she, along with Dorothy and Rose, were sick with the flu, and Blanche wanted to watch Another World over the strenuous objections of Dorothy.
McClanahan starred in 1961's The Rotten Apple
, as well 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 May 2005, McClanahan took over the role of Madame Morrible
in the hit Broadway musical Wicked
, for which she received mixed reviews. She received positive notice from the "New York Times
" though: "The former Golden Girls
star Rue McClanahan, dressed in flamboyant
kimonolike costumes, is doing maaahvelous things with vowel sounds as Madame Morrible
, the flamboyant headmistress of the witches' school. She steals scenes with a flip of a hand." Rue also guest starred on Newhart
and was honored at the 2008 TV Land Awards for the cast's roll in the Golden Girls
, at which she was present.
A lifelong animal-rights advocate and vegetarian, McClanahan was one of the first celebrity supporters of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
(PETA). She is also a lifelong supporter of the Democratic Party
. In December 2003, she wrote a letter informing Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry
that his pheasant
hunting had cost him her vote. (Which went to Ralph Nader
She was diagnosed with breast cancer in June 1997 and survived with the help of cancer expert Dr. Larry Norton and her sixth husband, the much younger Morrow Wilson. She is also the mother of one child, a son, Mark Bish, from a previous marriage.
In 2003 she appeared in the musical romantic comedy The Fighting Temptations as Nancy Stringer. McClanahan co-starred with Cuba Gooding Jr., Beyonce Knowles, Mike Epps and Steve Harvey.
She replaced Carole Shelley as Madame Morrible in the musical Wicked on May 31, 2005. And was replaced by Carol Kane on January 10, 2006.
Her autobiography, My First Five Husbands, was released nationwide in the spring of 2007.
In June 2008, The Golden Girls was awarded the 'Pop Culture' award at the Sixth Annual TV Land Awards. Rue accepted the award with co-stars Bea Arthur and Betty White.
McClanahan is the aunt of author Amelia Kinkade.
Rue McClanahan is currently acting in the series Sordid Lives on the Logo network, which premiered July 23rd, 2008. She plays Peggy Ingram, the older sister of Sissy Hickey and mother of Latrelle, LaVonda and Earl "Brother Boy".
Emmy Award nominations
McClanahan was nominated for four Emmy Awards
- 1986 - Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series - "The Golden Girls" - (Nominated)
- 1987 - Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series - "The Golden Girls" - (Won)
- 1988 - Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series - "The Golden Girls" - (Nominated)
- 1989 - Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series - "The Golden Girls" - (Nominated)