Things You Probably Never Knew About The Golden Girls

Impossible Age Gap

Although The Golden Girls may have been a bunch of older ladies, they weren’t all the same age. That counts for both on and off screen. Estelle Getty, who played Sophia Petrillo on the series, was one year younger than co-star Bea Arthur. That might come as a bit of a surprise considering that Sophia was actually the mother of Dorothy, Arthur’s character. The makeup department did a good job there. It’s no wonder it took they spent 45 minutes working on Getty’s face before every episode.

Switching It Up

Betty White is a national treasure, partly because she’s more than a one-trick pony. However, it took some work to convince producers of that at first. When she joined the series, White was cast as the wilder Blanche, but she allegedly wasn’t too happy about that. It was a similar role to ones she’d had before, such as on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and she was worried about getting typecast. Fortunately, she and McLanahan were asked to switch last-minute, and so White was given the chance to shine as the dim Rose – and McLanahan as the voracious Blanche.

House Layout Didn’t Make Sense

On top of the oven problems, The Golden Girls kitchen set didn’t work with the layout of the house. Based on the established locations of other rooms, the kitchen posed serious logistical problems. With its addition, it was no longer clear to viewers where the garage was located, Rose’s room looked like it was in the backyard, the lanai’s orientation was flip-flopped, etc. Hynes shares in Golden Girls Forever that the team planned to fix it after the pilot, but it never happened.

NBC Was Against Casting Bea Arthur

Harris actually wrote the role of Dorothy with Arthur in mind, having worked with the actress on several episodes of Maude. But then-NBC president Brandon Tartikoff was against the idea, stating that Arthur was recognizable, but not “loveable,” thanks to Maude’s liberal leanings. Broadway legend Elaine Stritch was a contender for the part, but she alienated the producers by improvising her dialogue and dropping an “F” bomb during her audition.

Switching It Up

Betty White is a national treasure, partly because she’s more than a one-trick pony. However, it took some work to convince producers of that at first. When she joined the series, White was cast as the wilder Blanche, but she allegedly wasn’t too happy about that. It was a similar role to ones she’d had before, such as on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and she was worried about getting typecast. Fortunately, she and McLanahan were asked to switch last-minute, and so White was given the chance to shine as the dim Rose – and McLanahan as the voracious Blanche.

Change of plans

As great as The Golden Girls was, it did have a few inconsistencies here and there. It added to the comedy of the program, although you might not have realized how many there actually were. A lot of inconsistencies surrounded the family members of the show’s four female leads. It was established early on that Dorothy had one sibling – a sister named Angela. Later on, however, this changed to being a brother called Angelo. The number of children the girls had also varied wildly.

Rue Mcclanahan Pushed Bea Arthur To Pursue The Part

Rue McClanahan gave her reluctant Maude co-star the final push to convince her to give The Golden Girls a try. According to McClanahan, she phoned Arthur and asked her incredulously, “Why are you going to turn down the best script that’s ever going to come across your desk as long as you live?”

This Royal Is Loyal

The Queen invited the stars of the show to perform live at 1988’s Royal Variety Performance in London. The Girls reenacted two of their kitchen table scenes (with a bit of censoring, so as not to offend any royal sensibilities). One line that was surprisingly left intact was Sophia’s interjection to Dorothy’s question to Blanche about how long she had waited to have sex again after her husband had died. The then-88-year-old Queen Mum was spotted in the Royal Box chuckling heartily at Sophia’s risqué response: “Until the paramedics came.”

Arthur Did Not Have Pierced Ears

All of those “crazy earrings” (Arthur’s words) that Golden Girls stylist Judy Evans gave Dorothy were clip-ons. Arthur loved the dramatic effect of the jewelry, but hated that her ears were numb with pain by the end of the day.

Real Life

The two-part episode entitled “Sick and Tired” was based on Susan Harris’ real-life struggle with chronic fatigue syndrome, and Dorothy’s struggle to find a doctor who would take her symptoms seriously is still relevant for many women. A 2011 study showed that 62 percent of doctors referred men to cardiologists when they complained of chest pain and shortness of breath, while less than 30 percent did the same for their female patients—instead, they counseled those women to “take it easy” and prescribed them anti-anxiety medications.

Flat Shoes Nod To Real Life

The nearly 5-foot-10-inch actress once stated in an interview that when she was younger she wished she could wear heels, but that would have meant towering over most of her dates in high school, then later over the actors she worked with in the theater. By the time “heightism” was no longer a concern, Arthur found that she couldn’t balance properly or walk elegantly in even one-inch heels.

The Show Created A New Word

The Golden Girls introduced a new word to non-Floridian viewers: lanai. Architecturally speaking, a lanai is a porch or veranda with a cement floor and an awning and is sometimes also enclosed by screens. Of course, we can always count on Sophia to simplify matters.

What’s In A Name?

No-one on the show had a more peculiar surname than Dorothy Zbornak. While the name may have seemed like a random decision by the series’ writers, it was actually inspired by Bea Arthur’s stage manager, Kent Zbornak. The pair had a great working relationship, and Arthur wanted to cherish that by using his surname. It’s a nice nod to their friendship, although hopefully, Kent didn’t take offense. After all, Dorothy’s ex-husband, the man who gave her the surname on the program, wasn’t the nicest of guys.

Dessert Delights

The girls on the show really did love their cheesecake. In fact, the characters were such a big fan of the dessert that they ate more than 100 of them during the filming of the series. That’s a lot of cheesecake across 180 episodes. The actresses did well to keep their bodies in great shape despite all the food they had to eat on set. It’s a good thing the girls all loved the dessert, right? Well, not quite. Poor Bea Arthur actually hated cheesecake!

Against The Plan

Sophia wasn’t originally supposed to stick around week after week. The idea was that she’d visit her daughter Dorothy, but her residence would be a retirement home called Shady Pines. Fortunately for us all, the network couldn’t bear to see her go. Audiences reacted so well to Getty’s performance during pilot tapings that Sophia went from a recurring character to a scene-stealing regular.

Seeing Double

If you ever thought that the kitchen used in The Golden Girls looked familiar, then you weren’t wrong. The set had been on TV before in another sitcom that Susan Harris had created. The series in question was It Takes Two, and it wasn’t quite the success that Harris had hoped it would be. The show only lasted one season before it was canceled, although it could have been worse. At least Harris went on to give us The Golden Girls, and the kitchen still got put to good use.

Head Adjustment

Bea Arthur was a very tall woman – much taller than her co-stars. The difference in height between her and the other girls could have made the staging seem off, so producers were very strategic about where she was placed in various scenes. If the other girls were standing, she would be sitting. If three of them were at the table, Dorothy would be in the middle seat. Bea Arthur also didn’t wear heels, although that was mainly the actress’ choice. She preferred comfort over style.

Speaking Of Sitting Down

Speaking of sitting down, did you ever wonder why only three of the girls were sat at the dinner table during any one time. When the four of them were together, it would surely have made sense for them all to be at the table, no? Well, producers couldn’t do that, because then one of them would have had their back to the camera. Considering the show was filmed in front of a live studio audience, they couldn’t have one of the stars facing away from everyone like that.

A Moment To Remember

The girls all had their moments and episodes from the show’s run that were their favorites, but do you know what Rue McClanahan’s was? She absolutely loved the episode “Journey to the Center of Attention” where she did an incredible performance of “I Wanna Be Loved By You.” Of course, it was incredible because everything went wrong, as was often the case whenever Blanche was around. Did you know, though, that that was intentional? The producers hired a choreographer to ensure that Blanche did as badly as she possibly could.

Finding Dorothy

Casting Dorothy wasn’t simple. On the one hand, the character had been written with someone like Bea Arthur in mind. However, NBC was wary of having the actress on the show because she had a “Q” rating. This meant that audiences knew her, but didn’t necessarily like her. Even when they were convinced, Arthur herself was still hesitant. She felt the character was too similar to the one she played on sitcom Maude. Thankfully, Rue McClanahan talked her round, and Arthur agreed to play Dorothy.

Under The Spotlight

It’s easy to be intimidated by your work, no matter who you are. Although the other actresses felt comfortable under the spotlight, Estelle Getty actually suffered from stage fright quite a lot. The star wasn’t as seasoned as the other girls, and as a result, she had a habit of forgetting her lines. It obviously wasn’t a massive problem, because she managed to last through all seven seasons of the show. Still, we can’t blame her. Just look at the amazing women she was surrounded by.

Unlikely Fans

The Golden Girls was one of the biggest series on TV during the ‘80s, but you might be surprised to know who it was popular with. Although older women were fans of the show, so too were many young girls. The cast often received letters from these viewers asking if they could live with the characters. It’s good to know that a program aimed at an older target audience can still appeal to other age ranges too. No wonder it frequently ranked in the top ten most watched shows.

Not Quite Norwegian

During her time on the show, Betty White did a little bit of fibbing. Her character Rose was a Norwegian-American who hails from the small town of St. Olaf in Western Minnesota. As a result of her heritage, Rose can speak Norwegian, something that White demonstrated over the years. Only she didn’t. Betty White never learned any Norwegian. Whenever she was supposedly talking in the language, she was actually speaking gibberish. The subtitles that were used as a translation were just there to add to the comedy.

Different Name

Miami Nice may have been a joke, but the title stuck around for quite a while. Ultimately, though, the network thought it would be too confusing to have shows called both Miami Vice and Miami Nice, according to Golden Girls Forever. Their choice was a good one.

Worldwide Fans

The Golden Girls wasn’t just a hit during its run from 1985 to 1992; the show remains popular in syndication and is frequently referenced in pop culture. (Remember Summer’s obsession with the show on The OC ?) There’s also been an impressive amount Golden Girls-inspired drag shows that have cropped up in seemingly all corners of the United States over the years. Everyone loves the four lovely ladies.