As if the role of the Golden Girls had been written on her body, Bea Arthur embodied Dorothy Zbornak.
And… And… That’s because it was her. Writer Susan Harris wrote Dorothy with Bea Arthur in mind for the role, as she had probably seen the unparalleled acumen and flawless comedic timing of Arthur in Maude. Some sources say, however, that NBC was opposed to casting Arthur in the sitcom.
Then-NBC president Brandon Tartikoff thought that, according to MentalFloss, Arthur’s “Q” score (a measure of the audience appeal of an actor) was too poor.
Since Arthur had developed a reputation as a far-left person (as suggested in 1985 by such a description), the actor was considered recognizable but not likable enough across the board.
So Elaine Stritch had the opportunity to read the position – more from the station’s side.
So Stritch came in for the part to read. But whether or not she was reading, in her own right, remains a controversial issue. As Variety records, some producers say she came but did not read. In short, the Elaine Stritch/Bea Arthur Golden Girls story has a few distinct historical accounts. Still, in any event, Stritch had some intense feelings about losing.
Betty White felt she was going to die in front of her “Golden Girls” castmates.
Elaine Stritch speaks of losing Dorothy Zbornak’s place in “The Golden Girls”
Elaine Stritch, the Broadway legend who has a similar voice to Bea Arthur, is well known for her dramatic works, singing one of the most famous versions of “Ladies Who Lunch.” by Stephen Sondheim. Yet she almost landed a part in a consistent performance with top-notch pay. Speaking of The Golden Girls, Stritch said the following:
“I blew it. I blew it. I didn’t get the job. Ha ha ha, I blew it. For the first 13 weeks (and after that who knows) job, I blew a 35, 40 or maybe even 50 (if they needed me bad enough) thousand dollars an episode. I blew it.
Elaine Stritch | as quoted by Variety. A multi-billion, zillion dollar, worldwide, syndicated, leftover-grabbing, bofferooni, smasherooni, television situation comedy entitled ‘The Golden Girls.
And even though Elaine Stritch scored a TV hit, Bea Arthur didn’t want the gig at first, apparently (at least according to her co-star Rue McClanahan, who played Blanche).
Reportedly, Bea Arthur needed some convincing to play Dorothy.
McClanahan and Arthur recall the beginnings of The Golden Girls a bit differently, as ABCNews reports. Although Arthur recalls being excited from the start, McClanahan recalls having to give a little push to the Maude star. Said McClanahan:
“I said, ‘Why are you turning down the best script that’s ever going to come across your desk as long as you live?’ and she said, ‘Rue, I’m not interested in playing Maude and Vivian meets Sue Ann Nevins.'” McClanahan | ABCNews.
When Arthur learned that McClanahan would play Blanche and Betty White Rose, her feelings about the show allegedly changed, as she thought that her two co-stars would play against her kind.