’Golden Girls’ actress Estelle Getty dies at age 84

Estelle Getty, the diminutive actress who spent 40 years struggling for success before landing a role of a lifetime in 1985 as the sarcastic octogenarian Sophia on TV’s “The Golden Girls,” has died. She was 84.

LOS ANGELES — Estelle Getty, the diminutive actress who spent 40 years struggling for success before landing a role of a lifetime in 1985 as the sarcastic octogenarian Sophia on TV’s “The Golden Girls,” has died. She was 84.

Getty, who suffered from advanced dementia, died at about 5:30 a.m. Tuesday at her Hollywood Boulevard home, said her son, Carl Gettleman of Santa Monica.

“She was loved throughout the world in six continents, and if they loved sitcoms in Antarctica she would have been loved on seven continents,” her son said. “She was one of the most talented comedic actresses who ever lived.”

“The Golden Girls,” featuring four female retirees sharing a house in Miami, grew out of NBC programming chief Brandon Tartikoff’s belief that television was ignoring its older viewers.

Three of its stars had already appeared in previous series: Bea Arthur in “Maude,” Betty White in “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and Rue McClanahan in “Mama’s Family.” The last character to be cast was Sophia Petrillo, the feisty 80-something mother of Arthur’s character.

“Our mother-daughter relationship was one of the greatest comic duos ever, and I will miss her,” Arthur said in a statement.

When she auditioned, Getty was appearing on stage in Hollywood as the carping Jewish mother in Harvey Fierstein’s play “Torch Song Trilogy.” In her early 60s, she flunked her “Golden Girls” test twice because it was believed she didn’t look old enough to play 80.

“I could understand that,” she told an interviewer a year after the show debuted. “I walk fast, I move fast, I talk fast.”

She came prepared for the third audition, however, wearing dowdy clothes and telling an NBC makeup artist, “To you this is just a job. To me it’s my entire career down the toilet unless you make me look 80.” The artist did, Getty got the job and won two Emmys.

“The only comfort at this moment is that although Estelle has moved on, Sophia will always be with us,” White said in an e-mail to The Associated Press after Getty’s death was announced.

“The Golden Girls” culminated a long struggle for success during which Getty worked low-paying office jobs to help support her family while she tried to make it as a stage actress.

“I knew I could be seduced by success in another field, so I’d say, ’Don’t promote me, please,”’ she recalled.

She also appeared in small parts in a handful of films and TV movies during that time, including “Tootsie,” “Deadly Force” and “Victims for Victims: The Theresa Saldana Story.”

After her success in “The Golden Girls,” other roles came her way. She played Cher’s mother in “Mask,” Sylvester Stallone’s in “Stop or My Mom Will Shoot” and Barry Manilow’s in the TV film “Copacabana.” Other credits included “Mannequin” and “Stuart Little” (as the voice of Grandma Estelle).

“The Golden Girls,” which ran from 1985 to 1992, was an immediate hit, and Sophia, who began as a minor character, soon evolved into a major one.

Born Estelle Scher to Polish immigrants in New York, Getty fell in love with theatre when she saw a vaudeville show at age four.

She married New York businessman Arthur Gettleman (the source of her stage name) in 1947, and they had two sons, Carl and Barry. The marriage prevailed despite her long absences on the road and in “The Golden Girls.”

Getty was evasive about her height, acknowledging only that she was “under five feet and under 100 pounds.”

In addition to her son Carl, Getty is survived by son Barry Gettleman, of Miami; a brother, David Scher of London; and a sister, Rosilyn Howard of Las Vegas.

Just Posted

Photos: Children enjoy petting animals near Red Deer Sunday

Children and families learned about various animals and birds at a petting… Continue reading

Search for missing Tofino boaters scaled back, handed over to RCMP

TOFINO, B.C. — Jae Valentine woke to the sound of wolves howling… Continue reading

Get ready for the ‘internet of cows’: Farmers use technology to shake up agriculture

MONTREAL — Get ready for the “internet of cows.” Generations of farmers… Continue reading

WATCH: Red Deer cadets conclude year of learning

After a year of hard work, Red Deer’s local Air and Army… Continue reading

WATCH: Central Alberta High School Soccer League champs crowned

Lindsay Thurber girls’ team and Notre Dame boys’ team won Saturday at Edgar Park Field in Red Deer

5 dead as SUV chased by Border Patrol crashes in South Texas

BIG WELLS, Texas — At least five people were killed and several… Continue reading

Ramifications of a trade war: an expert look at the numbers for Canada

OTTAWA — A new analysis of escalating trade disputes involving the United… Continue reading

Deliberate spill: study launched to test crude and bitumen impact on lake life

KENORA, Ont. — Researchers were in northwestern Ontario over the weekend spilling… Continue reading

Two-spirit N.B. First Nation chief says his election points to progress

FREDERICTON — The new leader of a New Brunswick First Nation said… Continue reading

Google diversity report: Black women make up only 1.2 percent of its US workforce

Google released its annual workforce diversity report Thursday, marking only modest changes… Continue reading

Brazil held to 1-1 draw by Switzerland at World Cup

ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia — Brazil joined the list of big teams struggling to… Continue reading

Canada’s Auger-Aliassime wins Sopra Steria title for 2nd straight year

LYON, France — Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime defended his ATP Challenger Sopra Steria… Continue reading

Police: Taxi driver who hit 8 Moscow pedestrians fell asleep

MOSCOW — The suspect in a taxi crash near Red Square that… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month