Bea Arthur, the Emmy Award-winning actress best known for her work in the sitcoms Maude and Golden Girls, died Saturday. She was 86.
According to The Associated Press, a family spokesman said that Arthur had cancer and died at her home in Los Angeles.
Arthur was already an accomplished stage actress when she was cast, at age 50, as Maude Findlay, the outspoken liberal and feminist cousin of Edith Bunker on CBS' All in the Family, in 1971. The character proved a natural fit for Arthur's commanding height (she was 5' 9"), deep voice and sharp wit, and led to a spin-off the next year.
Despite its comic premise, Maude tackled a number of serious and controversial issues in its six-year run, including alcoholism, racism and most famously abortion, in a 1972 episode in which Maude decides to undergo the procedure.
In 1985, Arthur took on the similarly droll character of Dorothy Zbornak on the NBC sitcom Golden Girls, about four older women sharing a home in Miami, Fla. The series ran until 1992.
In 2002, Arthur returned to the stage in her one-woman show Bea Arthur on Broadway: Just Between Friends, and made occasional television appearances, including on HBO's Curb Your Enthusiam playing Larry David's mother.
Arthur was born Bernice Frankel on May 13, 1922, in New York City. She is survived by her sons and two granddaughters.