"I worked in so many areas. I mean, I used to get a laugh when I said the only things I haven't done are rodeo and porno."
―Bea Arthur[src]

Bea Arthur (born Bernice Frankel; May 13, 1922April 25, 2009) was an American actress known for her deep voice and sharp delivery of comedic lines who gained fame acting on Broadway, in television, and in films throughout her long career. One highlight of her carrer, Maude, was a show of her own which ran for six successful seasons.

In 1978, Arthur was invited to appear on The Star Wars Holiday Special, a holiday-themed variety show set in the Star Wars universe that was attempting to capitalize off of the success of the wildly popular film of the previous year, Star Wars. Arthur portrayed Ackmena, a gruff bartender at the Mos Eisley Cantina whose rowdy patrons refused to obey a planet-wide curfew imposed by the Galactic Empire. Ackmena resorted to singing the song "Goodnight, But Not Goodbye," which caused them to waltz out the door.

Arthur found further success on television when she played the pragmatic Dorothy Zbornak on the 1980s sitcom The Golden Girls, a very popular show throughout its seven year run. After falling ill from cancer, Arthur passed away in her home in 2009. She was remembered fondly by friends, family, and the Broadway community.

Biography[edit | edit source]

The Star Wars Holiday Special[edit | edit source]

"It was a wonderful time, but I had no idea it was even a part of the whole Star Wars thing."
"Well, that song was great."
"Well, thanks. It's odd. I've gotten so many letters and requests for autographed photos from that thing. I just remember singing to bunch of people with funny heads."
―Bea Arthur, interviewed by the Portland Mercury[src]

Arthur sang to a group of intoxicated aliens in The Star Wars Holiday Special.

As the Emmy-winning lead of one of television's most popular shows, Arthur was a star.[5] In 1978, she was invited by[6] Ken and Mitzie Welch,[7] the composers of a song called "Goodnight, But Not Goodbye," to sing it on a television program called The Star Wars Holiday Special.[6] Star Wars had been a wildly successful film released the previous year,[8] and a holiday-themed variety show was being produced to capitalize off of its success.[9] Arthur played the role of Ackmena, a gruff and assertive bartender working the night shift at the Mos Eisley Cantina, who was forced to close down the bar after the Galactic Empire imposed a planet-wide curfew. When the patrons refused to leave, she resorted to singing "Goodnight, But Not Goodbye," which prompted everyone present to waltz out the door.[3]

Arthur's scene proved to be a lengthy shoot,[7] spanning twenty-four hours,[10] but she nevertheless enjoyed working on the special, even though she was unaware that it was part of the larger Star Wars franchise. Years later, she would recall singing to a group of people with funny heads,[6] as the various cantina patrons had been aliens from throughout the Star Wars galaxy.[3] The special itself received good reviews at the time,[11] but ultimately came to be almost universally panned by later reviewers.[12][13][14][15] Arthur's musical performance has been cited as one of its high points,[16] despite being considered just as bizarre as the rest of the production.[14][7] Arthur's role led to scores of letters and requests for autographed photos from Star Wars fans throughout the proceeding years.[6]

Death[edit | edit source]

"All in all, I've had a damn good life."
―Bea Arthur[src]

After becoming ill from cancer, she passed away at her home on April 25, 2009,[1][17] and her body was cremated.[18] Arthur was remembered fondly by many of her friends and co-stars, including Angela Lansbury, Betty White, and Adrienne Barbeau,[19][20] and the Broadway community paid tribute to her life by dimming the marquees of New York City's Broadway theatre district for one minute on April 28, 2009.[21]

Filmography[edit | edit source]

Star Wars[edit | edit source]

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Year Title Role Other notes
1978 The Star Wars Holiday Special Ackmena Television

Other[edit | edit source]

Year Title Role Other notes
1951 Once Upon a Tune Television
1951 Studio One in Hollywood Radio
1953 Kraft Television Theatre Actress Television
1955 Max Liebman Presents: Kaleidoscope Guest Television
1956 Caesar's Hour Regular Television
1956 Washington Square Television
1958 The Seven Lively Arts Hostess Television
1958 Omnibus Ugly Witch Television
1958 Hallmark Hall of Fame Ms. Abercrombie Television
1959 That Kind of Woman Uncredited
1963 The Sid Caesar Show Regular Television
1970 Lovers and Other Strangers Bea Vecchio
1971 All in the Family Maude Findlay Television
1972 Maude Maude Findlay Television
1974 Mame Vera Charles
1977 Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In Television
1979 The Mary Tyler Moore Hour Television
1980 Soap Angel Television
1980 The Bea Arthur Special Herself Television
1981 History of the World, Part I Dole office clerk Uncredited
1983 Amanda's Amanda Cartwright Television
1984 a.k.a. Pablo Television
1984 P.O.P. Rosalyn Gordon Television
1985 The Golden Girls Dorothy Zbornak Television
1988 My First Love Jean Miller Television
1989 Empty Nest Dorothy Zbornak Television
1992 The Golden Palace Dorothy Zbornak Television
1995 For Better or Worse Beverly Makeshift
1996 Judge Judy Herself Television
1997 Dave's World Mel Bloom Television
1999 Emily of New Moon The Voice Television
2000 Malcolm in the Middle Mrs. White Television
2000 Enemies of Laughter Paul's Mother
2001 Futurama Femputer (voice) Television
2005 Curb Your Enthusiasm Larry's Mother Television


Bibliography[edit | edit source]

Notes and references[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Weber, Bruce (2017-04-25). Bea Arthur, Star of Two TV Comedies, Dies at 86. The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Archived from the original on April 9, 2020. Retrieved on April 9, 2020.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 YouTube.png Bea Arthur Pt I/5 on the dingdong131 YouTube channel (backup link)
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 The Star Wars Holiday Special
  4. Bea Arthur – Broadway Cast & Staff. Internet Broadway Database. The Broadway League. Archived from the original on April 9, 2020. Retrieved on April 9, 2020.
  5. YouTube.png Bea Arthur Pt 4/5 on the dingdong131 YouTube channel (backup link not available)
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Gardner, Will (2005-10-13). The Bea Arthur Interview. Portland Mercury. Index Newspapers LLC. Archived from the original on April 9, 2020. Retrieved on April 9, 2020.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 DiGiacomo, Frank (2008-12-22). The Han Solo Comedy Hour!. Vanity Fair. Condé Nast. Archived from the original on January 13, 2020. Retrieved on April 10, 2020.
  8. Empire of Dreams
  9. StarWars.com Holiday Special: Script and Directors on StarWars.com (content now obsolete; backup link) (Filmfax magazine #69/70)
  10. Millar, Natalie. Starlog Number 19, February 1979: "'Star Wars' Invades TV"
  11. THR Staff (2014-11-17). 'The Star Wars Holiday Special': THR's 1978 Review. The Hollywood Reporter. Prometheus Global Media, LLC. Archived from the original on May 7, 2019. Retrieved on April 10, 2020.
  12. Holiday Special Multimedia. StarWarsHolidaySpecial.com. Archived from the original on August 27, 2018. Retrieved on August 27, 2018.
  13. StarWars.com Star Wars: Episode II | Part 9: Bucket Head on StarWars.com (content now obsolete; backup link)
  14. 14.0 14.1 Liebenson, Donald (2008-11-16). May the farce be with you. Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times Communications LLC. Archived from the original on November 15, 2019. Retrieved on April 10, 2020.
  15. SWInsider.png "Jawa's Corner"—Star Wars Insider 94
  16. SWInsider.png "I Have a Bad Feeling About This!"—Star Wars Insider 106
  17. Two-time Emmy Award winner Bea Arthur dead at 86. CNN International. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. (2009-04-27). Archived from the original on November 23, 2019. Retrieved on April 10, 2020.
  18. Hufford, Bob (2009-04-25). Bea Arthur. Find a Grave. Ancestry. Archived from the original on December 27, 2019. Retrieved on April 10, 2020.
  19. Angela Lansbury 'Deeply Saddened' By Bea Arthur's Passing. ETonline. CBS Interactive Inc. (2009-04-25). Archived from the original on August 18, 2010. Retrieved on April 11, 2020.
  20. Eng, Joyce (2009-04-27). Friends and Colleagues Remember Beatrice Arthur. TV Guide. CBS Interactive Inc. Archived from the original on September 29, 2019. Retrieved on April 11, 2020.
  21. Broadway Plans Tribute To Bea Arthur. ETonline. CBS Interactive Inc. (2009-04-28). Archived from the original on August 20, 2010. Retrieved on April 11, 2020.

External links[edit | edit source]

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