So, who is your favorite Golden Girl? How many of you love Sophia? Whether she is your favorite GG or not, you cannot deny loving Estelle for her portrayal of the witty, outspoken and sarcastic Sophia Petrillo! I cannot even begin to imagine what The Golden Girls would have been like without Sophia or worse still…what Sophia would have been like without Estelle!
But did you know that we almost did not get to have Estelle Getty as our beloved Sophia? That’s right! When Estelle Getty first auditioned for the part of Sophia Petrillo, she was turned down! Executives did not think she was right for the part because she was too young. She was after all YOUNGER than her TV daughter Dorothy!
Bea Arthur was born on May 13, 1922, Estelle was born on July 25, 1923, making Bea 14 months OLDER! Who would have guessed? Estelle did such an amazing job portraying an 80 something year old mother and grandmother that it’s hard to believe that she was not the oldest cast member! Estelle was actually one of the youngest! Betty White was the oldest crew member being born on January 17, 1922. Bea Arthur was born a few months later, then Estelle Getty and last but certainly not least Rue McClanahan was born on February 21, 1934!
But back to the point at hand here! The world almost never knew Estelle as the “Golden” mother of Dorothy! I am unclear as to just how many times Estelle did audition for the role of Sophia. I have read anywhere from 2 to 4. However, I do know this! For her final audition, Estelle hired a makeup artist from NBC. It took three hours to transform her from Estelle Getty to Sophia Petrillo. Donning the white wig, heavy makeup, prosthetic wrinkles, big glasses and a frumpy dress, the entire interview she never broke character, and, well, as you know the rest is history! Estelle was awarded the part and became one of the most beloved “mothers” in TV history!
I read on an amazing web site (goldengirlscentral.com) that it took makeup artists 45 minutes to turn Estelle into Sophia each time they taped! Although, she did on several occasions appear in the show without all of the makeup! Season 4, Part 1 of “Sophia’s Wedding”, during a flashback Estelle is featured without her 80 year old “get-up” when she and good friends Max and Esther Weinstock learned that their business was gambled away by Sophia’s husband Sal (Sid Melton). Another time we saw her without her garb was in the episode called “Mother’s Day”, when Sophia tries to convince her own mother to move into the apartment with her and husband. Another one that comes to my mind is the episode “A Piece of Cake” from season 2; again starring Lynnie Greene as a young Dorothy (she portrayed Dorothy in the “Mother’s Day” episode as well). In this episode, each of the girls reminisce about birthdays past. Dorothy recalls when Rose planned a birthday party for her at a children’s party place, complete with a clown and Sophia remembers the time Sal informed her that she was actually 50 years old instead of 48!
Whether she was sporting her Sophia “costume” or simply Estelle…she was beautiful and did a beautiful job of keeping us laughing! I guess makeup was part of the magic that was the Golden Girls!