They've been gracing our television screens for decades and we still can't get enough of them. The Golden Girls taught us the value of friendship and, while they were at it, they shattered some of the most ridiculous stereotypes about older women. Brought to life by Betty White, Rue McClanahan, Bea Arthur and Estelle Getty, these ladies were passionate, funny, sarcastic, ambitious, and totally obsessed with cheesecake. They reminded viewers that older women can lead exciting and fulfilling lives, and that's exactly why we still find them all so darn lovable.
If you're obsessed with the show like we are, then chances are you've already seen your fair share of re-runs on the Hallmark channel (and maybe you can recite a dialogue or two). But have you ever wondered about what went on behind the scenes? For instance, were the actresses as close in real life? Did they get the roles that they originally auditioned for? And did they have any awkward moments on the set?
We found the answers to these questions and more with these behind-the-scenes secrets!
We kid you not! Bea Arthur, who played the role, didn't have her ears pierced, so the show's stylist had no choice but to use heavy clip-ons. While Bea loved the extravagant jewelry, they often left her ears in pain by the end of filming. Guess it's true what they say: Beauty is pain.
Blanche had the most gorgeous wardrobe, from her gorgeous dresses to her impressive jewelry collection. And lucky for Rue, she got to keep it all because she added a clause to her contract that would allow her to keep them. She got to take home over 500 outfits!
How crazy is that? Since Estelle appeared to look so youthful, she spent tons of extra time getting her makeup done so she could look old enough to be Dorothy's mother. It usually took over an hour every single day. When you look very closely, you can tell that Estelle isn't quite as wrinkly as her makeup artist would like us to believe.
She was by far the boldest and wittiest Golden Girl, but behind the cameras, she was a nervous wreck. Her lack of experience made her feel a bit intimidated, especially since she had to perform in front of a live audience. Rue once explained that Estelle would get so nervous that she'd often freeze up while filming.
As Dorothy, she happily indulged in the dessert. It satisfied her sweet tooth and took away her worries... But in real life? She couldn't stand the stuff. It must've taken some serious willpower for her to eat so much cheesecake on the set.
Rue was supposed to play Rose and Betty was supposed to play Blanche, believe it or not. It sounds kind of bizarre, considering how different their characters are, but the producers assumed that they'd be the perfect fit because both actresses played similar characters in the past. The pilot director, Jay Sandrich, decided to make them switch their roles - and the result was just magical.
Rue said: “It would have been painful for me to have to go to work every day and play Rose. They loved what [Betty] did. She did a beautiful, funny job.”
In fact, it's because of Bea that the show ended when it did. She wanted to leave after five seasons, but the producers convinced her to stay for two more.
According to Golden Girls Forever: An Unauthorized Look Behind The Lanai, Bea felt that the quality of the show was getting weaker, and she simply grew tired of playing her character.
It's kind of insane, considering that they worked together before they started The Golden Girls. But even with all the time that they spent together on set, it didn't change the fact that Bea was turned off by Rue's personality.
Rue once said: “Bea and I didn’t have a lot of relationship going on. Bea is a very, very eccentric woman. She wouldn’t go to lunch [with me] unless Betty would go with her. She was very dependent on keeping everything as it always had been, and I was anything but that.”
According to Rue, Bea wasn't that friendly towards Betty either. She once revealed that, while drunk, Bea called Betty a "c**t" at a lifetime achievement award ceremony. Yikes... No matter what era, there's always a co-star feud happening behind-the-scenes, it looks like. Though, according to more recent photos, the two did reconcile.
Can you imagine the Golden Girls living with a Golden Boy? According to the original script, Charles Levin was supposed to play Coco Davis, the girls' gay cook. They even filmed a pilot that included him. But they ultimately decided to scrap his role because the audience seemed to love Sophia's character more. All of the one-liners that were meant for him were rewritten for Sophia.
We imagine that spending long hours on set can be a drag, but Betty and Rue were quite close and they knew how to keep themselves entertained. They often played games between takes.
Rue said: “Betty and I loved word games, and we would play word games every day. We had games going all the time off camera.”
We wouldn't have been able to tell, but according to Betty, Estelle was extremely uncomfortable whenever they filmed scenes that involved death or funerals.
“Death frightened her very much. It was almost a phobia!” Betty said in an interview.
They created it this way so that no one's back would be facing the camera. That's why you would always see one of them either standing up or sitting on a stool instead.
It may have seemed silly when we were watching — but it served a purpose!
Yep, that's right. One of the most popular settings in The Golden Girls is actually a hand-me-down from another series. And get this: There was no kitchen written into the original script, so the show's assistant director had no choice but to snag one at the last minute and make some alterations. Talk about a close call.
"Miami Nice" started as a joke between two actresses (Selma Diamond and Doris Roberts) while they were presenting at NBC’s fall preview special. They mentioned that it would be another version of Miami Vice, except it would be about retired people living in Florida. The NBC president actually liked that idea, and once he got a team together to work on the show, the name stuck for a while. However, NBC decided to change it because they thought that having two shows with such similar names would be too confusing for viewers.
20th Century Fox
In addition to that clever joke he'd heard about "Miami Nice," the NBC president got some inspiration from a film about three women who rent an apartment together. He thought it would be interesting to try out a similar idea, but with older women.
It's tough to imagine The Golden Girls without Sophia, with her unfiltered thoughts and hilarious, over-the-top stories. But originally, she wasn't supposed to live with the girls. Her character was supposed to live in a nursing home and she only visited her daughter occasionally. But thankfully, the producers saw how much the audience loved her and decided to change her recurring role to a main one.
Why, you ask? Well, Brandon Tartikoff, NBC's president at the time, thought that her audience appeal was too low. Although she was well-known at the time, she just wasn't considered likable enough - and it was all because of a previous role she played (it was a controversial TV character named Maude Finley, who chose to get an abortion before the passage of Roe v. Wade). Producers worried that this could actually hurt the ratings for The Golden Girls. However, the part was already written with Bea in mind, and the show creator insisted on getting her.
The Broadway star came so close to snagging the role. In his book Golden Girls Forever: An Unauthorized Look Behind The Lanai, Jim Colucci said, “They wanted a bawdy broad and Elaine was cut from the same cloth.” But apparently, Elaine didn't nail the audition. She improvised her lines and even dropped an F-bomb.
So apparently, Bea wasn't too thrilled about playing Dorothy either. Rue mentioned in an interview that Bea was reluctant to join the cast after getting the part. So she called her up and said: “Why are you going to turn down the best script that’s ever going to come across your desk as long as you live?” To this day, we're still grateful that Rue gave Bea that final push. Because we can't imagine anyone else bringing Dorothy's character to life.
The guy's name was Kent Zbornak, and he worked as the show's stage manager for every single season. Susan Harris