The Golden Girls was still in its prime when star Bea Arthur decided to retire her character—which ended the series. At the time, fans were shocked that Arthur walked, but people close to the actress weren’t surprised at all.
In the 2016 book titled Golden Girls Forever: An Unauthorized Look Behind The Lanai, author Jim Colucci shared that Bea Arthur thought her character—Dorothy—was played out long before the series finale. She thought each season declined in quality because the writers had done all they could with her. Arthur also believed the same was true with the other main characters, Rose, Blanche, and Sophia.
Furthermore, Arthur wasn’t happy about all the jokes made at her expense. As Golden Girls fans know, biting sarcasm and witty insults gave the series its charm, but Bea Arthur wasn’t charmed by the quips about Dorothy. So that factored into her decision as well.
“Unfortunately, the things that were said about Dorothy were that she was big and ugly,” Colucci wrote. “And that wears on an actress after a while.”
The ‘Golden Girls’ Star Refused a Lead in ‘Golden Palace’
For these reasons, Bea Arthur didn’t return as a main character in Golden Palace. The Golden Girls spinoff showed Sophia, Blanche, and Rose buying a hotel together thinking it was already profitable. But once the deal closed, the ladies learned that the whole operation was a mess, and they’d have to find some way to fix it.
In Golden Girls, Arthur’s character rides off into the sunset and relocates to Atlanta with her new husband, Lucas Hollingsworth, Blanche’s uncle. So, she was too busy being a newlywed to scheme with her best friends. She did make a guest appearance in a two-part episode, however.
Not joining the cast of Golden Palace turned out to be the right choice for Bea Arthur. The series ended up being a flop, and CBS canceled it after one season. That was the last time she ever brought Dorothy Zbornak to the screen.
There were rumors that Bea Arthur’s health also played a role in Dorothy’s demise. Arthur was only four days shy of her 70th birthday when the series finale aired on May 9, 1992. And filming the series could be exhausting. Arthur continued to work until 2005, but she only took small parts in films or guest roles on television. She passed away from lung cancer in 2009.
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