"She was not that fond of me": What we know about Betty White and Bea Arthur's infamous feud.


They’re the feisty foursome who weren’t afraid to dish out the real talk over a slice of cheesecake.

The Golden Girls politically-forward premise, progressive use of comedy and ahead-of-its-time feminism has canonised the series on the pop culture sphere for many years to come.

The outspoken cast set an example across the world, demonstrating how women in post-married life could change, rebel and blossom.

It first aired in the US in 1985 and ran for a full seven years before it left screens with 11 Emmy awards and four Golden Globes.

But while it was the writing and strong characters that made The Golden Girls so iconic, it was the off-screen dynamic between Betty White and Bea Arthur that dominated headlines years after the show left our screens in 1992, and following Bea Arthur’s death in 2009.

Betty White, Bea Arthur and Rue McClanhan, 2005. Image Getty.

As the rhetoric surrounding women working closely together so often does; a"feud" was born.

But those close to the women hinted their often tense off-screen relationship is actually what made the chemistry between characters Rose and Dorothy such a delight to watch.

They were the classic "frenemies", with some theorising their differences simply arose from contradicting acting methodologies.

According to Jim Colucci, author of Golden Girls Forever: An Unauthorized Biography, Arthur drew upon her stage play background during taping, where she always remained in character.

White, on the other hand, would often address the live audience between takes. Arthur, who died in 2009 at age 86, reportedly wasn’t a fan of White breaking character.

"Sometimes Betty would go out and smile and chat with the audience and literally go and make friends with the audience. Which is a nice thing – a lot of them have come from all over the country and are fans," her adopted son Matthew Saks told The Hollywood Reporter.

"I think my mum didn't dig that. It's more about being focused or conserving your energy. It's just not the right time to talk to fans between takes. Betty was able to do it and it didn't seem to affect her. But it rubbed my mum the wrong way."


He also discussed how having a nemesis, in many ways, made Arthur thrive.

In an interview with Closer magazine, Saks said his mother had a tendency to inadvertently seek out someone in her life to "roll her eyes about", suggesting that this was what made her portrayal of the sassy, quick-witted and somewhat intimidating Dorothy stronger, and her bond with Rose so sibling-like.

"My mum unknowingly carried the attitude that it was fun to have somebody to be angry at," Saks told Closer.

Bea Arthur, 1972. Image: Getty.

He recently echoed the same sentiment in an interview with Fox News.


“You know, I’m always being asked the question if my mum hated Betty White,” the 57-year-old told the publication. “It’s not the way it is. I think my mum had some problems with her, but she liked her.

“I think it was George Bernard Shaw who said it’s fun to hate your neighbours,” he went on. “And I think what he meant was that everyone needs someone to say, ‘Oh, here she goes!’ We all need to have somebody that we can let get under our skin.”

This is something White herself was aware of.

She spoke on the matter in 2011 during a HLN interview with Joy Behar.

"She was not that fond of me," White said of Arthur. "She found me a pain in the neck sometimes. It was my positive attitude – and that made Bea mad sometimes. Sometimes if I was happy, she'd be furious!"

Betty White, 2015. Image Getty.

But however hostile Arthur could be, there was always a friendship between the pair.

Saks also told media they used to ride to work together, and Rue McClanahan, who played Blanche Devereaux, once said Arthur wouldn’t go to lunch with her unless White was in attendance.

As the series continued, White wasn't the only member of The Golden Girls cast with whom Arthur didn't exactly see eye-to-eye with when it came to her work.

Saks clarified Arthur wanted out of The Golden Girls before its series finale because she was ready to pursue new projects and ideas.

“I think she got tired of it,” Saks admitted about the hit series.

“She just thought it was time to leave the show. She wanted to leave a year before, but the others asked her to stay for a final year and she did. And then, of course, they did ‘The Golden Palace’ without mum on it. She came and did one episode, though. [But] I don’t think she really wanted to do that. But she did.

"Her logic was also that these shows ran their course. Something suffers, whether it’s the production, the writing. It loses its magic.”

The Golden Girls is available for streaming in Australia through Stan.