"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 career, Maude, was a sitcom 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.[3] In 1978, she was invited by[4] Ken and Mitzie Welch,[5] the composers of a song called "Goodnight, But Not Goodbye," to sing it on a television program called The Star Wars Holiday Special.[4] Star Wars had been a wildly successful film released the previous year,[6] and a holiday-themed variety show was being produced to capitalize off of its success.[7] 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.[8]

Arthur's scene proved to be a lengthy shoot,[5] spanning twenty-four hours,[9] 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,[4] as the various cantina patrons had been aliens from throughout the Star Wars galaxy.[8] The special itself received good reviews at the time,[10] but ultimately came to be almost universally panned by later reviewers.[11][12][13][14] Arthur's musical performance has been cited as one of its high points,[15] despite being considered just as bizarre as the rest of the production.[13][5] Arthur's role led to scores of letters and requests for autographed photos from Star Wars fans throughout the proceeding years.[4]

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][16] and her body was cremated.[17] Arthur was remembered fondly by many of her friends and co-stars, including Angela Lansbury, Betty White, and Adrienne Barbeau,[18][19] 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.[20]

Filmography[edit | edit source]

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

Bibliography[edit | edit source]

Notes and references[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Weber, Bruce. Bea Arthur, Star of Two TV Comedies, Dies at 86 (2017-04-25). The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Archived from the original 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. YouTube.png Bea Arthur Pt 4/5 on the dingdong131 YouTube channel (backup link not available)
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Gardner, Will. The Bea Arthur Interview (2005-10-13). Portland Mercury. Index Newspapers LLC. Archived from the original on April 9, 2020.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 DiGiacomo, Frank. The Han Solo Comedy Hour! (2008-12-22). Vanity Fair. Condé Nast. Archived from the original on January 13, 2020.
  6. Empire of Dreams: The Story of the Star Wars Trilogy
  7. StarWars.com Holiday Special: Script and Directors on StarWars.com (content now obsolete; backup link) (Filmfax magazine #69/70)
  8. 8.0 8.1 The Star Wars Holiday Special
  9. Millar, Natalie. Starlog Number 19, February 1979: "'Star Wars' Invades TV"
  10. THR Staff. 'The Star Wars Holiday Special': THR's 1978 Review (2014-11-17). The Hollywood Reporter. Prometheus Global Media, LLC. Archived from the original on May 7, 2019.
  11. Holiday Special Multimedia. StarWarsHolidaySpecial.com. Archived from the original on August 27, 2018.
  12. StarWars.com Star Wars: Episode II | Part 9: Bucket Head on StarWars.com (content now obsolete; backup link)
  13. 13.0 13.1 Liebenson, Donald. May the farce be with you (2008-11-16). Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times Communications LLC. Archived from the original on November 15, 2019.
  14. SWInsider.png "Jawa's Corner"—Star Wars Insider 94
  15. SWInsider.png "I Have a Bad Feeling About This!"—Star Wars Insider 106
  16. Two-time Emmy Award winner Bea Arthur dead at 86 (2009-04-27). CNN International. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc.. Archived from the original on November 23, 2019.
  17. Hufford, Bob. Bea Arthur (2009-04-25). Find a Grave. Ancestry. Archived from the original on December 27, 2019.
  18. Angela Lansbury 'Deeply Saddened' By Bea Arthur's Passing (2009-04-25). ETonline. CBS Interactive Inc.. Archived from the original on August 18, 2010.
  19. Eng, Joyce. Friends and Colleagues Remember Beatrice Arthur (2009-04-27). TV Guide. CBS Interactive Inc. Archived from the original on September 29, 2019.
  20. Broadway Plans Tribute To Bea Arthur (2009-04-28). ETonline. CBS Interactive Inc.. Archived from the original on August 20, 2010.

External links[edit | edit source]

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