Bea Arthur talks ‘Maude’ – the TV show made just for her (1977)

Bea Arthur talks Maude

Maude TV show sitcom cast

Bea Arthur loves Maude

By Vernon Scott

Ask Bea Arthur how much she resembles “Maude,” the female chauvinist she plays each week on the tube, and the stately, gray-haired actress lays it on the line — just like Maude.

“I adore Maude,” Bea said.

“I love her because she is earthy, lusty and a bubble-pricker. She doesn’t take anything from anybody. If someone is stuffy, she does something about it. She’s a vital go-getter, which I love.

“She has great love and concern for life. Whether you disagree with her tactics or not, she DOES something. She refuses to sit around and let the world go by. She’s a fighter.

“1 have some of her qualities. Physically, of course, we are one and the same. The big thing we have in common is candor. I can cut through the bull like Maude does.

“I may not be as assertive or politically active. But if something bugs me and I feel something needs attention, I give it.

“I’m very vocal about things that move me. The whole animal movement is a project of mine — zero pet population growth and doing away with trapping.

“Maude is politically-oriented and very strong in the women’s lib movement which is something I never thought of in my life.

“I’m personally not involved with the lib movement. But as early as my tenth birthday, I wondered why women always took their husbands’ names when they got married. But that was the extent of it.

“I understand the lib point of view, but not in the theater. If a woman’s role comes up, a woman gets it. There is no competition among men and women for roles, nor discrimination against actresses.”

It was noon in Beverly Hills, and Bea socked away a couple of pre-lunch martinis.

Bea has been somewhat hesitant about interviews in the five years “Maude” has been on the air. Being an instant national celebrity makes her somewhat uneasy. And the press often makes her angry.

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“The first year ‘Maude’ was on the air, I gave an interview saying I wanted to lose weight,” she said. “I mentioned casually that I might do it by dropping martinis.

“Well, the story appeared with a picture of me. The caption called me stout and the story talked about my ‘drinking problem.”‘

Bea sighed and sipped her martini. The accompanying raised eyebrow and grimace would have done Maude proud.

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Bea Arthur talks Maude

TV show made just for Bea Arthur

It’s logical that the dividing line between Bea and Maude is finer than the proverbial hair’s breadth. As she explained, the character of Maude was based on Bea Arthur.

“The show was made for me,” she said. “I wasn’t the subject of a search to play Maude. Norman Lear didn’t have a ready-made series or a pilot script that needed an actress to fill it.”

Bea and her husband, actor-director Gene Saks, came to Hollywood on business. During their stay, Lear prevailed on Bea to play a guest shot on “All in the Family,” portraying Edith Bunker’s politically liberal cousin.

Her characterization was so strong and effective, Lear decided immediately to spin “Maude” off on a series of her own.

“They kept the name Maude and the essentials of her personality,” Bea said. “Sometimes I wonder who came first, me or Maude.

“My relationship with Gene is something like that between Maude and Walter on the show. I’m the more aggressive of the two.

“But it’s like the German shepherd and the trainer. It’s ‘kill’ or ‘sit’ — the trainer is really in charge.”

Bea has now plunged into her sixth year as “Maude,” a prospect she looked forward to with fervor.

“I love doing the show,” she said in the strong voice her character usually reserves for browbeating Walter. “On the whole, I think we are a cut above the other series on the air.

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“Last season was the best we’ve done so far. The writing was better and the work easier. I enjoy the whole thing. I even watch the show at home with the family, if I can stay awake that long.”

Bea Arthur - actress - Maude

“Maude” theme song and opening credits

“Maude” theme song lyrics

And Then There’s Maude

Lady Godiva was a freedom rider
She didn’t care if the whole world looked
Joan of Arc with the Lord to guide her
She was a sister who really cooked

Isadora was the first bra-burner
Ain’t ya glad she showed up? (Oh, yeah!)
And when the country was fallin’ apart
Betsy Ross got it all sewed up

And then there’s Maude
And then there’s Maude
And then there’s Maude
And then there’s Maude
And then there’s Maude
And then there’s Maude
And then there’s…

That uncompromisin’, enterprisin’, anything but tranquilizin’
Right on Maude!

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