Getty at the 41st Primetime Emmy Awards in 1989
July 25, 1923
New York City, U.S.
|Died||July 22, 2008
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Resting place||Hollywood Forever Cemetery|
|Television||The Golden Girls
The Golden Palace
(m. 1947; d. 2004)
Estelle Getty (née Scher; also known as Estelle Gettleman; July 25, 1923 - July 22, 2008) was an American actress and comedian, who appeared in film, television, and theatre. She was best known for her role as Sophia Petrillo on The Golden Girls from 1985 to 1992, which won her an Emmy and a Golden Globe, on The Golden Palace from 1992 to 1993, and on Empty Nest from 1993 to 1995. In her later years, after retiring from acting, she battled Lewy body dementia.
Estelle Getty was born Estelle Scher on July 25, 1923 to Sarah and Charles Scher. Her parents were Polish Jewish immigrants who owned a glass store in New York City. She had a sister, Roslyn, and a brother, David. Getty got her start in the Yiddish theater and also as a comedian in the Catskills borscht belt resorts.
Getty is best known for her role as Sophia Petrillo on the popular 1980s sitcom The Golden Girls. Her character was the Sicilian mother of Dorothy Zbornak, played by Beatrice Arthur, although Getty was, in fact, one year younger than Arthur. In 1988, the role earned Getty the Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress.
During her time on The Golden Girls, Getty, along with Steve Delsohn, co-wrote an autobiography entitled If I Knew Then, What I Know Now... So What? (Contemporary Books, 1988). She further capitalized on her success by releasing an exercise video for senior citizens in 1993.
In 1992, following her seven-season role on The Golden Girls, Getty, with Betty White and Rue McClanahan returned as their characters Sophia Petrillo, Rose Nylund and Blanche Devereaux respectively, in the spin-off series, The Golden Palace. The new show saw the three remaining cast members from the original series invest in a Miami hotel. The series was cancelled after just one season. Getty reprised her role of Sophia once again for a guest appearance in Nurses, and for the final time when she joined Empty Nest, another spin-off series from The Golden Girls. She appeared in the series for the final two seasons.
Getty made numerous guest appearances on a diverse variety of popular television series, including Fantasy Island, Cagney & Lacey, Blossom, Touched by an Angel, Mad About You and The Nanny. Her numerous film roles include Tootsie, Mask and Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot, alongside Sylvester Stallone, which earned her a Razzie Award for Worst Supporting Actress.
She was married to Arthur Gettleman (whose name she adapted into her stage name) from December 21, 1947 until his death in 2004. The couple had two sons: Carl Gettleman, who lives in California, and Barry Gettleman, who lives in Florida.
In 1991, as later reported in Star magazine, Getty helped to nurse her 29-year-old nephew Steven Scher, who was near death and suffering from the final stages of AIDS. Because Scher's parents lived in England and his friends were no longer able to care for him in Greensboro, North Carolina, Getty had him flown to California and admitted to hospice care. He died in January 1992.
In 2000, Getty stopped making public appearances after revealing she had Parkinson's disease and osteoporosis. In 2002, media reports claimed she was living with Alzheimer's disease. Doctors later discovered she actually had Lewy body dementia. Both the Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diagnoses were incorrect.Golden Girls cast members who attempted to talk to her on the phone or in person found that she couldn't remember them, or anything about the show. Bea Arthur said that even during production of the series, Getty had so much trouble remembering her lines that they should have known something was wrong from the beginning.
In 2003, Lifetime television hosted a Golden Girls reunion, The Golden Girls: Their Greatest Moments. In 2008, the show was awarded the Pop Culture award at the Sixth Annual TV Land Awards. Getty did not participate in either project due to declining health.
|1982||Tootsie||Middle Aged Woman|
|1984||No Man's Land||Eurol Miller||TV movie|
|1984||Victims for Victims: The Theresa Saldana Story||TV movie|
|1985||Copacabana||Bella Stern||TV movie|
|1987||Mannequin||Mrs. Claire Timkin|
|1992||Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot||Mrs. Tutti Bomowski||Razzie Award for Worst Supporting Actress|
|1997||A Match Made in Heaven||Betty Weston||TV movie|
|1999||The Sissy Duckling||Mrs. Hennypecker (voice)||TV movie|
|1999||Stuart Little||Grandma Estelle|
|2000||The Million Dollar Kid||Sister Rosanne|
|1981||Nurse||Sadie Mandler||Episode: "Equal Opportunity"|
|1982||Baker's Dozen||Mrs. Locasale||Episode: "Dear John"|
|1984||Fantasy Island||Money Lady||Episode: "The Match Maker"|
|1984||Cagney & Lacey||Mrs. Rosenmeyer||Episode: "Baby Broker"|
|1984||Hotel||Roberta Abrams||Episode: "Intimate Strangers"|
|1985||Newhart||Miriam the Librarian||Episode: "What Makes Dick Run"|
|1985-92||The Golden Girls||Sophia Petrillo||180 episodes
American Comedy Award for Funniest Supporting Female in a Television Series (1991-92)
Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Television Series Musical or Comedy
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
Nominated--Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Television Series Musical or Comedy
Nominated--Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress - Series, Miniseries or Television Film
Nominated--Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series (1986-87, 1989-92)
|1987||Roomies||Mama||Episode: "Mid-Term Fever"|
|1990||City||Helen Rutledge||Episode: "Seems Like Old Times"|
|1990||The Earth Day Special||Sophia Petrillo||TV special|
|1991||The Fanelli Boys||Dr. Newman||Episode: "Doctor, Doctor""|
|1991||Blossom||Sophia Petrillo||Episode: "I Ain't Got No Body"|
|1992-93||The Golden Palace||Sophia Petrillo||24 episodes|
|1993||Nurses||Sophia Petrillo||Episode: "Temporary Setbacks"|
|1993-95||Empty Nest||Sophia Petrillo||52 episodes|
|1996||Touched by an Angel||Dottie||Episode: "The Sky Is Falling"|
|1996||Brotherly Love||Myrna Burwell||Episode: "Motherly Love"|
|1997||Mad About You||Paul's Aunt Ida||Episode: "The Birth: Part 1"|
|1997||Duckman||Aunt Jane (voice)||Episode: "Westward, No!"|
|1998||The Nanny||Herself||Episode: "Making Whoopi"|
|2000||Ladies Man||Sophia Gates||Episode: "Romance"|
|2001||Intimate Portrait||Herself||Episode: "Estelle Getty"|
|2001||It's Like, You Know...||Herself||Episode: "Lust for Life"|