Graduating cum laude from the University of Tulsa, Rue McClanahan studied acting with Uta Hagen and at the Perry-Mansfield school. After her professional debut with a Pennsylvania stock company in 1957, McClanahan headed to New York, where between acting gigs she worked as a waitress, took shorthand and sold blouses. Grabbing any opportunity available, she made her TV bow on a 1960 episode of the TV series Malibu Run, then appeared in a handful of exploitation films with come-hither titles like Five Minutes to Love (she played "Poochie, the girl from the shack," a credit she has since dropped from her resumé). She managed to find more prestigious work on the New York stage, starring in such well-received productions as MacBird, Jimmy Shine, Sticks and Bones and California Suite. She also played regular roles on the TV soap operas Another World and Where the Heart Is. A 1972 guest shot on Norman Lear's controversial series All in the Family led to her being cast as Vivian Harmon on Lear's popular sitcom Maude, a role she played until the series' cancellation in 1978. McClanahan's next project was her own starring series, 1978's Apple Pie, which unfortunately bit the dust after three shows. She went on to play the vitriolic Aunt Fran on the network version of Mama's Family (1983-85), then was co-starred with her Maude colleague Bea Arthur in The Golden Girls (1985-92). Her well-rounded portrayal of overly amorous museum worker Blanche Devereaux won her an 1986 Emmy award; she reprised the character in the Golden Girls spin-off Golden Palace (1992-93). The star of several made-for-TV movies, McClanahan co-produced and appeared in a brace of "dramedies," Mother of the Bride (1991) and Baby of the Bride (1992).