"I really feel that I'm an exposed nerve. I don't know how else to say it. But I'm moved by everything."
About This Interview
Beatrice Arthur (1922-2009) declares her higher ideals for television: "I was bringing my theater training to television. I remember somebody said— and it's true— that I was trying to turn sitcom into an art form." Arthur won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy for her portrayal of "Maude Findlay" on Maude and as "Dorothy Zbornak" on The Golden Girls. In her over two-hour Archive interview, Arthur relates the origins of her stage name and looks back on her theater training at the New School for Social Research in New York City. She recounts being cast by Norman Lear on television's The George Gobel Show, and notes other television appearances she made at this time, such as on the now-classic Your Show of Shows. On her stage work, Arthur fondly points to "Mame" as a highlight (for which she won the Tony Award, followed up with a repeat performance in the film version— that was for her, a disappointment). She relates how she appeared as Edith Bunker's liberal cousin "Maude" on All in the Family, a guest-starring role for which she made such an impression, that the network ordered the spin-off, Maude. She discusses how Maude, in addition to offering over-the-top comedy set-ups, took on a number of controversial subjects— including abortion, psychoanalysis, and plastic surgery. Having never watched the series when it was running, Arthur mentions her reaction to catching episodes of Maude on early morning television, many years later. She then speaks briefly about her next series, Amanda's, and acknowledges the show's failure. She enthusiastically describes reading the pilot script of The Golden Girls, considering it "one of the funniest, most adult, hilarious, sophisticated, terrific, delicious things I had ever read." She notes some of her favorite moments from the show and compliments her fellow actors. Lastly, she identifies what she feels is her proudest career achievement as well as her biggest regrets, and offers advice on playing comedy. Karen Herman conducted the interview in Brentwood, CA on March 15, 2001.