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SF Bay Area, California, USA
November 06
Slow Family Online
Northern California writer, soapcrafter, jammaker, hiker, retro enthusiast, slow parent & cheesehound. Author, Fed Up With Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World (2012). Social Media Director for the Children & Nature Network. See more writing at

APRIL 28, 2009 12:10AM

And Then There's Maude

Rate: 4 Flag

When it came to TV, you could say I was an odd kid. I skipped homespun fare like “The Waltons” and “Little House on the Prairie”. “The Brady Bunch” was only mildly entertaining. I couldn’t stand the incredibly popular “Happy Days”, which ushered in the ubiquitous, homogenized, highly commercial version of 50s nostalgia that remains with us to this day.

I was drawn to characters and situations that seemed urban or sophisticated, people who did interesting things. The newsroom gang on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” “The Partridge Family”s perpetually put-upon manager, Reuben Kincaid. Even the wink-wink hijinks on the mid-70s versions of “The Match Game”.

I actually cried when I learned “The Odd Couple” had been canceled. I was 14.

It would come as no surprise, then, that I adored Norman Lear’s collection of early sitcoms — “All in the Family” and the shows it begat. “Sanford and Son”, “Good Times”, “The Jeffersons”, and, of course, “Maude”.


Bea Arthur was Maude. There was no separating actress and character. With her deep voice, commanding presence, knowing camera takes, and long, flowing vests, she completely owned the character and the times. She was Women’s Lib incarnate, and roar she did — always with humor and always as a confidante. I believed her and Walter’s relationship. (I can hear him whining, “Mau-aude” and I can hear her deadpanning, “God’ll get you for that.”) I followed them when they made the difficult decision to terminate a mid-life pregnancy. No “deciding to keep the baby” and raising it alongside grandkids, like some kind of Palin, as would likely happen on TV today.

Let’s face it, a character like Maude is not likely to come along today.

Born Bernice Frankel in 1922, Bea Arthur (Arthur is a modified version of her first husband’s name) was a theater actress, winning a Tony for her role in “Mame”. When “Maude” debuted, Arthur was close to 50. (Take that, Desperate Housewives.) She continued her TV acting streak with “Golden Girls”, and we at home got to enjoy more of her funny, dry, basso-profondo talent.

Since learning of Arthur’s death Saturday, I have had the theme song to “Maude” in my head, to varying degrees and with utmost appreciation for its creators and the envelopes they pushed. In high school I wrote a paper on Lear and his groundbreaking television. My English teacher had wanted me to write about someone more mainstream — or maybe just more fusty — and I fought to write my paper. Perhaps it was these immortal words that inspired me:

Lady Godiva was a freedom rider,
she didn’t care of the whole world looked.
Joan of Arc, with the lord to guide her,
she was a sister who really cooked.
Isadora was a first bra burner
Aint’ ya glad she showed up?
And when the country was falling apart
Betsy Ross got it all sewed up
And then there’s Maude
And then there’s Maude
And then there’s Maude
And then there’s Maude
And then there’s Maude
And then there’s Maude
And then there’s that old compromisin’, enterprisin’ anything but traqulizin’ Right on Maude!!!

“And Then There’s Maude” was written by Marilyn and Alan Bergman and Dave Grusin, and sung by Donny Hathaway. (Yes, the same Donny Hathaway who sang “Where is the Love” with Roberta Flack.)

Photo Courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

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Oh yes, I was hoping someone would write something like this, I loved Maude. She was seldom complimentive, but more to the point, she wasn't polite, but sarcastic. Her comments were strong, and still she managed to come across as a loving devoted mother to Adriene Barbou, and her husband whom understood her to be a person, not his personal slave. But for many that were hooked towards "All In The Family" with Edith and Archie, it was a far cry towards womens liberation. People still pulled for family, even though Gloria might have added where Edith and Archie failed, as far as being "liberated". Maude never apologized, it was a final way of saying what she felt about abortion a radical idea, still even in light of people discussing things, but again in defiance to feeling differently. I loved this woman, she was definitely dry, but still always managed to stroll past her stubborness, in order to set things straight.
Very nice tribute.

:) Rated
Thanks, MOMSACOMIC and iamsurly. MOMSACOMIC, you make a very good point about Maude's loving relationships with her husband and daughter. I think that goes to the heart of what made this such a good show -- the characters may have been wound a little tightly, for better comedy, but there was warmth at their cores, and reality in their relationships.
Love that you posted the lyrics to the theme song.
I forgot about those amazing lyrics, until you posted them. I loved that show, too. It was more gutsy and authentic than most of the crappy sit-coms of today or even more recent years. I couldn't stand Friends, Everybody Loves Raymond, and all of that pablum.
Gutsy and authentic -- so true.

I love the theme song! My husband posted an mp3 of it to my blog.
New address for that mp3: