Who was Estelle Getty?
Estelle Getty was an American actress and comedian, best known for her character Sophia Petrillo in the sitcom ‘The Golden Girls’. She grew up in New York and aspired to become an actress as a child. She worked as a waitress in Catskills borscht bell resorts and theatre artist in Yiddish theatre. Getty gave a shot to stand-up comedy as well but did not find the expected response and engagement from the audience. She made guest appearances in numerous television shows such as ‘Fantasy Island’, ‘Cagney & Lacey’, ‘Blossom’, ‘Touched by an Angel’, ‘Mad about You’ and ‘The Nanny’. She played the role of a teacher in her debut film ‘Team-Mates’. She acted in a number of commercially successful films, such as ‘Tootsie’, ‘Mask’ and ‘Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot’. She was nominated seven times in the Emmy Awards for her performance in ‘The Golden Girls’ and won once. She was married to Arthur Gettleman and had two sons from her marriage. Her autobiography ‘If I Knew Then, What I Know Now... So What?’ covered revelations and details about her life. She died three days before her eighty fifth birth anniversary due to Dementia with Lewy bodies.
Childhood & Early Life
Estelle Getty was born on July 25, 1923 in New York City. Her mother, Sarah Scher and her father, Charles Scher, were Polish-Jewish immigrants. Charles was employed in a glass business.
She had a sister, Roslyn and a brother, David. She attended Seward Park High School in New York City.
Estelle aspired to be an actress since her childhood and began her acting career in Yiddish theatre. She was a waitress and a comedian at Catskills borscht bell resorts. She played the role of Harvey Fierstein's mother in ‘Torch Song Trilogy’ which was her most popular stage role.
Continue Reading Below
You May Like
Estelle Getty performed for many years in Yiddish Theatres and appeared as a teacher in the film ‘Team-mates’ in 1978. She entered television in 1980s.
She played the role of Mrs. Beckoff in the ‘Torch song Trilogy’ in 1982 which was a collection of three plays. She made guest appearances in one episode each of the television shows such as ‘Nurse’ (1981), ‘Baker’s Dozen’ (1982), ‘Fantasy Island’ (1984), ‘Cagney & Lacey’ (1984), ‘Hotel’ (1984) and ‘Newhart’ (1985).
During this period, she also appeared in numerous films and television movies, such as ‘Tootsie’ in 1982, ‘Deadly Force’ in 1983, ‘No Man’s Land’ in 1984 and ‘Victims for Victims: The Theresa Saldana Story’ (1984).
In 1985, she received the most popular role of her career— Sophia Petrillo in the sitcom ‘The Golden Girls’. The show ran for seven years till 1992.
Alongside, she appeared in television movie ‘Copacabana’ in 1985 and films ‘Mannequin’ (1987) and ‘Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot’ in 1992.
She continued in television with her character Sophia Petrillo in the shows ‘The Golden Palace’ in 1992-93 and ‘Empty Nest’ in 1993-95. She made several guest appearances in the shows ‘Touched by An Angel’, ‘Brotherly Love’, ‘Mad About You’ and ‘Duckman’ in 1996-97. She also starred in a television movie ‘A Match Made in Heaven’ in 1997.
She played herself in one episode of ‘The Nanny’ in 1998 and appeared in ‘The Sassy Duckling’, a television movie, and popular film ‘Stuart Little’ in 1999. Her last appearance in a film was in ‘The Million Dollar Kid’ in 2000.
Estelle Getty appeared in one episode of the show ‘Ladies Man’ in 2000. Getty played herself in ‘Intimate Portrait: Estelle Getty’ and ‘It's Like, You Know...’ in 2001.
Estelle Getty began her acting career with Yiddish theatre and her role in ‘Torch Stop Trilogy’ was her most popular stage performance. The performance earned her a nomination in Drama Desk Award in 1982 and an award in the Helen Hayes Awards in 1985.
Continue Reading Below
Her most popular role was in the sitcom ‘The Golden Girls’ as Sophia Petrillo in 1985-1992. It earned her seven nominations and a win in the Emmy Awards and three nominations and a win in the Golden Globe Awards as well.
Awards & Achievements
Estelle Getty was nominated in the category Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play in the Drama Desk Award in 1982 for ‘Torch Stop Trilogy’. She won Helen Hayes Award Outstanding Supporting Performer in a Touring Production for the same in 1985.
She was nominated under the category Actress in a Leading Role – Musical or Comedy Series in the Golden Globe Awards in 1985, 1986 and 1991 for ‘The Golden Girl’. She had won the same in the year 1985.
Estelle Getty was nominated consecutively from 1986 to 1992 under the category Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series in the Emmy Awards for ‘The Golden Girl’. She won the award in the year 1988.
Personal Life & Legacy
Estelle Getty was married to Arthur Gettleman from December 21, 1947 until his death in the year 2004. The couple had two sons, Car Gettleman and Barry Gettleman who live in California and Florida respectively.
She suffered from osteoporosis and suspected to suffer from Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer's disease. However, the suspicion was held incorrect by the doctors and it was discovered that she suffered from Lewy body dementia.
Estelle Getty passed away on July 22, 2008, three days prior to her 85th birthday, in Los Angeles, California. The primary cause of death was found to be Dementia with Lewy bodies.
Estelle Getty was an AIDS and gay rights activist. She provided assistance to nurse her 29 year old nephew, Steven Scher, who was suffering from the final stages of AIDS. Her nephew passed away in the year 1992.
Due to her physical condition, she did not remember anything about her show and the cast of ‘The Golden Girls’ in her later years. She faced trouble in remembering the lines during the production of the series as well.
She co-wrote her autobiography ‘If I Knew Then, What I Know Now... So What?’, in 1988.