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Bea Arthur talks ‘Maude’ – the TV show made just for her (1972-1978)

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Maude TV show sitcom cast

Bea Arthur’s Maude — The very outspoken liberal relative of Archie Bunker (1972)

By Carolanne Griffith, Fort Lauderdale News (Florida) September 8, 1972

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — Beatrice Arthur describes herself as a “flawed liberal.”

Coincidentally, that’s the same way she views her role as Archie Bunker’s outspoken cousin in CBS’ new series, “Maude.”

The two ladies are a lot alike. For instance, Bea Arthur recently took her landlord to small claims court over a money matter.

“It cost me $150 to get my $78 back,” explained the Broadway actress, “But I think people ought to be exposed if they’re not abiding by laws. “Maude would have done the same thing.”

The say-anything, do-anything Maude will be one of a parade of new series which marches onto the screen in the glow of the top-rated “All in the Family.”

“Maude” was borne from an “All in the Family” episode; “Bridget Loves Bernie” will humorize a Catholic-Jewish marriage with ethnic overtones; “M*A*S*H” will satirize military medicine; and the syndicated “Wait Til Your Father Gets Home” will carry the banner of Archie Bunker humor.

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“Maude is really the other side of Archie Bunker,” Miss Arthur explained. “We show her way of life and her intricate character. The writers can’t wait to put words into that woman’s mouth.

“She’s a woman. who’s been divorced once, has buried two husbands and lives with her daughter who’s also ‘divorced. There’s also a husband No. 4 (played by Bill Macy). The focus will be on current issues which can conceivably enter into the lives of a family.

“We’ve found that to be honest about an upper middle-class woman who’s liberal, we can keep her around the home. She wouldn’t go out for that many activities, and, like most, her views are more effective when they affect the members of her own family. This is much more effective than a woman tied to a steam roller.

“It’s the same as with Archie. Maude is human and frequently wrong. She’s liberal with a capital L. Politics is a by-product. Nobody’s involved in politics everyday except a politician himself.”

The most outstanding similarity between the Maude and Archie televised philosophies is the man behind the action.

“Norman Lear (the show’s producer) told me he’d like to do an ‘All in the Family’ — I come out of retirement about every four years, it seems, and this was it. Then they broached the idea for a series, saying it would be filmed in New York, where I lived. Now it’s in California, which is exciting, but also anxiety-ridden. We had to find a house with land for two boys and two German Shepherds.”

Bea Arthur TV guide cover for Maude 1972

Despite the fact that she’ll be taping “Maude” before a live audience, Miss Arthur is happy to be away from her stage roles, such as Yenta the Matchmaker in “Fiddler on the Roof” and Vera Charles in “Mame.”

“The night-after-night routine leaves little time for a private life. I’d prefer not doing a stage show,” she said. “But, still, all the people who are in the ‘Maude’ cast are stage people, and the laughs still have to come from an audience.”

But it’s nice to have the choice between stage and TV. Back in acting school, Bea Arthur was tagged the ‘heroine’ by her German director- producer-teacher who practically guaranteed success.

“I had high hopes. When I got out of acting school, I couldn’t find a job. So I decided that with the experience of the classic dramatic roles, I’d become a singer. I tried to sound like Lena Horne and bombed. Then turned to comedy, and the jobs started coming.

“Three Penny Opera” and “Shoestring Revue” brought her to the attention of Lear, who offered her a regular role on TV’s “The George Gobel Show.” Later, she was Tallulah Bankhead’s standby in the “Ziegfeld Follies.”

“Whenever Miss Bankhead didn’t want to do a sketch, I would,” recalls Miss Arthur, whose husky voice makes the whole idea most believable.

Maude’s a choice role, and is strictly Bea Arthur’s character. When she talks about Maude, she frequently slips into the first person and talks about herself in the same light.

“Maude grew up loving Roosevelt. She’s a liberal of the ’40s who’s trying to be a liberal of the ’70s.

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There’s such a vast difference between the two, but she doesn’t see it.

“I’m so much this woman — she hates bores, loves life. I’m a lusty lady. We touch every area that’s best for Maude, but we don’t conflict with Archie’s topics. I’m the anti-heroine and don’t think of myself as a sex symbol.

She gives loads of hints but won’t add the meat to the upcoming “Maude” stories.

“We poke fun at liberals. Having a woman who’s universally right with her causes every time would be boring and too predictable. I don’t see her as being a larger than life figure. She lives in today’s world, and tries to cope.

“I call her Everywoman. Everybody’s got a Maude in the family somewhere. That’s what I call appeal.”

Bea Arthur - actress - Maude


Bea Arthur loves Maude (1977)

By Vernon Scott, Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, New Mexico) June 8, 1977

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.

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“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 Arthur 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.

“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.

MORE: Get Maude on DVD


The 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.

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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.

“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.”

Maude - Be Arthur on vintage TV Guide magazine cover


“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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