Estelle Getty, adored by her fans for her portrayal of the sassy elderly Sophia in the hit comedy show Golden Girls, left a significant void in Hollywood when she passed away in 2008.
Throughout her later years, Getty valiantly battled a serious illness, which sadly claimed her life. As we commemorate her birthday on July 25th, let us pay tribute to the talented entertainer who continues to bring joy and laughter through the enduring reruns of Golden Girls.
The 1980s proved to be a fortunate time for Estelle Getty. After years of performing on stage, hoping for a breakthrough, this New York native finally seized her big opportunity in 1982 when she landed a role in the Broadway production “The Torch Song.” The part was specially crafted for her by actor and playwright Harvey Fierstein, who also portrayed Getty’s character’s son in the play.
At nearly 60 years old, Getty assumed the lead role of Mrs. Beckhoff in a play that enjoyed both on and off-Broadway success for four years. Her exceptional performance in this play, centered around a drag queen in New York, caught the attention of a production team seeking an older actress to portray the leader of a unique group of seniors in Florida, leading to her iconic role in Golden Girls.
Getty, a mother of two, was married to Arthur Gettleman from 1947 until his passing in 2004. Interestingly, she was only one year older than Bea Arthur when she portrayed her TV mother.
Her spot-on insults and endearing yet tough personality endeared her to fans, earning her a Daytime Emmy Award and a Golden Globe.
While starring in Golden Girls, Getty also found success in movies like “Mannequin” (1987) and “Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot” alongside Sylvester Stallone in 1992.
After Bea Arthur pursued other opportunities in 1992, Golden Girls came to an end after a successful seven-year run. However, Getty continued her role in “Golden Palace,” which aired for one season in 1992. Later, she joined the series “Empty Nest” from 1988 to 1995, where her former co-stars, White, McClanahan, and Arthur, reprised their roles from “The Golden Girls.”
During her time on the beloved comedy show “Golden Girls,” Getty’s fellow cast members noticed that she struggled with remembering lines and experienced panic attacks on the set. One of her co-stars, McClanahan, who passed away in 2010, shared this information.
Getty was diagnosed with Lewy body dementia, a progressive brain disease sometimes mistaken for Alzheimer’s, which had a profound impact on her health and brilliant performances.
Her health deteriorated rapidly in 2000, preventing her from participating in a Golden Girls reunion show in 2003.
Estelle Getty peacefully passed away at the age of 84 in 2008.
Bea Arthur, at 86, Rue McLanahan, at 76 when she passed away in 2010, and the beloved Betty White, who passed away in 2021 at the age of 99, have all left a lasting legacy in the hearts of their fans.
McClanahan revealed that she remained in contact with Estelle for as long as she could remember and recognize her. She always cherished Estelle’s company and delighted in listening to her humorous stories about New York.