While primarily noted as a director of stage and screen, Gene Saks actually began his career as an actor. Trained at the Dramatic Workshop of the New School for Social Research (which was a precursor...
Veteran actresses Betty White and Rue McClanahan have paid tribute to their Golden Girls co-star Bea Arthur, who died on Saturday.
The actress passed away peacefully in her sleep at her Los Angeles home after losing her battle with cancer at age 86, according to personal assistant Dan Watt.
Arthur, who starred on the hit show from 1985 until 1992, won an Emmy Award for her role as Dorothy Zbornak in the sitcom, which chronicled the lives of three retirees in Miami.
And co-stars White and McClanahan fondly recall the seven happy years they spent with Arthur on the series.
McClanahan tells Entertainment Tonight, "(Thirty-seven) years ago she showed me how to be very brave in playing comedy. I'll miss that courage. And I'll miss that voice."
White adds, "I knew it would hurt, I just didn't know it would hurt this much. I'm so happy that she received her Lifetime Achievement Award while she was still with us, so she could appreciate that.
"Bea was such an important part of a very happy time in my life and I have dearly loved her for a very long time. How lucky I was to know her."
Born in 1922, Arthur grew up in New York and earned a degree as a medical laboratory technician, before enrolling in a drama course at the New School of Social Research in the city.
She shot to fame in her twenties with numerous stage roles and won critical acclaim for her performance in a 1964 production of Fiddler on the Roof on Broadway.
Arthur also landed a Tony Award for her turn as Vera Charles in 1966 musical Mame -- and composer Jerry Herman was taken aback by her natural acting ability and comic timing.
He says, "There was no one else like Bea. She would make us laugh during Mame rehearsals with a look or with a word. She didn't need dialogue. I don't know if I can say that about any other person I ever worked with."
The actress moved on to television in her fifties and won the starring role in 1970s show Maude, for which she also won a coveted Emmy Award, before landing her part in The Golden Girls.
Arthur married twice -- first to producer and director Robert Alan Aurthur and then to director Gene Saks from 1950 to 1978. The couple adopted two sons.
She is survived by a sister, her children Matthew and Daniel and two granddaughters.
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Helmed the film version of "Mame", starring Lucille Ball
Directed the TV adaptation of "Bye Bye Birdie" (ABC)
New York stage debut as actor, "Juno and the Paycock" off-Broadway
Had supporting role in the films "Nobody's Fool" and "I.Q."
Directed Christopher Plummer in the one-man show "Barrymore"
Staged Simon's Pulitzer-winning "Lost in Yonkers"
Film acting debut, "A Thousand Clowns"
Fired from pre-Broadway tryout of Simon's musical "The Goodbye Girl" in Chicago
Acted in Herb Gardner's feature adaptation of "The Goodbye People"
Won critical praise for staging the musical "Mame"
Formed co-operative acting troupe at Cherry Lane Theatre in late 1940s
Began directing on Broadway with "Enter Laughing"
Was director of the trilogy of Simon's semi-autobiographical plays, "Brighton Beach Memoirs" (1983), "Broadway Bound" (1985) and "Biloxi Blues" (1988)
Had supporting role in the film version of Simon's "The Prisoner of Second Avenue"
Co-starred in the NBC TV-movie "On Seventh Avenue"
Helmed the film comedy "Cactus Flower", starring Walter Matthau, Ingrid Bergman and Goldie Hawn in her Oscar-winning role
First stage acting appearance in nearly ten years, "The Goodbye People" at Berkshire Theatre Festival, Stockbridge, MA
Film directorial debut "Barefoot in the Park"; also first collaboration with Neil Simon
Directed and acted in the ABC special "Love, Sex, and Marriage"
While primarily noted as a director of stage and screen, Gene Saks actually began his career as an actor. Trained at the Dramatic Workshop of the New School for Social Research (which was a precursor of the Actors Studio), he was a co-founder of an acting troupe in the late 1940s. Saks made his stage debut with the company in "Juno and the Paycock" in 1947 and he went on to spend the next decade and a half in a number of plays and one musical, "South Pacific". By the early 60s, he had begun his directing career with Carl Reiner's play "Enter Laughing" (1963) and went on to excel in staging comedies and musicals, including "Mame" (1966), which made a Broadway musical star of Angela Lansbury and also featured Saks' then-wife Beatrice Arthur, Bernard Slade's romantic comedy "Same Time, Next Year" (1975) with Ellen Burstyn and Charles Grodin as illicit lovers who tryst on an annual basis and the Cy Coleman musical "I Love My Wife" (1977). But Saks is perhaps best recalled for his long stage association with Neil Simon. The director helped shaped Simon's award-winning autobiographical trilogy ("Brighton Beach Memoirs" 1983, "Biloxi Blues" 1985, and "Broadway Bound" 1986) and guided a number of performances to what many critics felt were the performances of their careers. Among the latter were Matthew Broderick in "Brighton Beach Memoirs", Barry Miller in "Biloxi Blues" and Linda Lavin in "Broadway Bound". Additionally, Saks was the director of Simon's farcical "Rumors" (1988) and the playwright's Pulitzer-winning "Lost in Yonkers" (1991). A dispute over the direction of the 1993 stage musical based on "The Goodbye Girl" led to a rift between Saks and Simon which has reportedly been healed.<p>On the big screen, Saks has been both actor and director. In the former capacity, he was featured in films adapted from two Herb Gardner plays, "A Thousand Clowns" (1965) and "The Goodbye People" (1984) as well as one based on Simon's "The Prisoner of Second Avenue" (1974). In 1994, he had two prominent supporting roles as Paul Newman's lawyer friend in "Nobody's Fool" and as a colleague of Walter Matthau's Albert Einstein in "I.Q." Under Saks' direction, Robert Redford in "Barefoot in the Park" (1967) first demonstrated his easy charm and comedic abilities while Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau seemed near-perfect as Felix and Oscar in "The Odd Couple" (1968). Goldie Hawn earned an Oscar for her performance as the giddy object of affections for a dentist (Matthau). One prominent misfire was the big screen version of "Mame" (1974) which featured a miscast Lucille Ball in the title role and Beatrice Arthur and Jane Connell reprising their stage roles.
directed her on stage in "Mame" and "A Mother's Kisses"; married May 28, 1950; divorced
mother, Beatrice Arthur
mother, Beatrice Arthur
Dramatic Workshop of the New School for Social Research
"All thing happen by chance in this business, but after I started directing I seemed to have no time for acting. I always thought that was a pity, since I'm a good actor and enjoy doing it." --Gene Saks quoted in Newsday, February 12, 1995.
He was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame (1991)