The Golden Girl Grudge Match: Bea Arthur Betty White Feud
If you were born after 1970, you probably remember that "The Golden Girls" ran between the mid '80s to the early '90s, but were you aware of the Bea Arthur/Betty White feud that sent Hollywood tongues a’ wagging? While the other two stars, Estelle Getty and Rue McClanahan, were amazing, most agree that Bea and Betty stole the show.
The Beginning A widowed, man-hungry Blanche Devereaux, (McClanahan) advertised her home for rent. Dorothy Zbornak (Arthur), a divorcee, and Rose Nylund (White), also widowed, soon joined her. Rose (aka annoyingly cute) told long-winded stories of the Scandinavian town of St. Olaf (or those “Damn St. Olaf stories,” as Dorothy called them). Dorothy, a retired teacher, possessed a droll sense of humor. “Back in St. Olaf” never failed to elicit much eye rolling from Dorothy and “here-we-go-agains” from the other housemates. After Dorothy’s mother, Sophia Petrillo’s (Estelle Getty) retirement home burnt down, she completed the cast with her razor-sharp wit.
Truth or Fiction There is really no way to substantiate the Bea Arthur/Betty White feud, but quite a few stage coordinators consistently said they never socialized together. It was also mentioned several times on various talk shows that the women did not talk to each other while on set. It was said they kept mainly to themselves.
Interviews In The Archive of American Television, Betty White shows disgruntlement. She was quoted to say, “Filming a soap like that isn't hard work; don't listen to what Bea Arthur says. It's not that hard.” To be fair, there may have not been merit to the Bea Arthur/Betty White feud at all; although, many folks that were supposedly “in the know” claimed that the only thing they truly had in common were animal rights issues.
Rumors Aplenty The catfights may have stemmed from merely a difference in training. Betty worked primarily in television, while Bea was a highly trained, stage actor. Betty brilliantly interacted “off the cuff” with a live audience, often mugging it up. Although Bea was equally talented, she could not easily deviate. She was a “strictly business” professional. Furthermore, in the Bea Arthur archives, she openly admits that she was hesitant about working with the “too sweet” Betty White, who joked with audiences when someone flubbed their lines. This apparently frustrated Bea to no end and lent even more credence to the Bea Arthur/Betty White feud.
Films Tell the Tale On one of "The Golden Girl’s" blooper DVDs, they are all in the kitchen. After Bea’s line, the director yells, “CUT.” Rather snidely, Betty says, “Bea screwed up.” If Bea’s eyes were lasers, Betty would have been faceless. However, an unfazed Betty gave Bea a look that plainly said, “Yes, I said it. You screwed it up; not me.” Reportedly, the other two women looked worried that Bea would unleash her famous temper, but an unperturbed Betty just laughed, much to everyone’s relief.
Say it Ain’t So Perhaps the most famous Bea Arthur/Betty White feud rumor of all time came from "A&U" magazine. Allegedly, Bea defecated on Betty’s private dressing room floor immediately following a particularly nasty catfight. Yes, you read that right; she "shat" upon the carpet. If this is indeed fact, then there is no wonder that there was a modicum of truth feeding the Bea Arthur/Betty White feud rumor mill.
You Decide Maybe there was discord; maybe not. You can never really tell when it comes to Hollywood stars and their fragile, yet ginormous egos. In a Q&A show produced by Carol Burnett, when pressed about the Bea Arthur/Betty White feud, Betty nipped it in the bud, saying, "They always seem to have us fighting; nothing could be further from the truth." Regardless, there is no denying that these uber-talented women had enormous chemistry together. Sadly, Betty is the last remaining “Golden Girl.” Thank you for being our friends.