Created on: March 06, 2013
“One Day at a Time” made television stars of its central cast, whether it was Bonnie Franklin as the divorced mom or her two lively daughters, played by Valerie Bertinelli and Mackenzie Phillips. They left a legacy with their CBS sitcom, which ran from 1975 to 1984, and upon hearing of the death of Bonnie Franklin on March 1, 2013, there is a sadness for anyone who saw the show.
Franklin was 69 when she died at her California home of pancreatic cancer, a diagnosis that had been announced by her family in September 2012, according to the “Washington Post.” Franklin was born in California and began tap-dancing her way into show business at the tender age of 9.
Franklin’s early years
Bonnie Gail Franklin was born in 1944 in Santa Monica, California, to immigrant parents (her mother from Romania, her father from Russia). Her family moved to Beverly Hills when she was a teen, and she graduated from Beverly Hills High. She attended Smith College and then returned to California, where she went to UCLA.
In 1956, she landed a part in “The Wrong Man,” directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Henry Fonda. Later she went on to appear in television shows as varied as “Gidget,” “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” and “The Munsters.”
However, it was in the theater that she made her really big first impression. Franklin played a background gypsy dancer in “Applause,” the Broadway musical that starred Lauren Bacall. Adapted from the 1950s film, “All About Eve,” the musical ran for two years on Broadway and claimed a Tony for Best Musical. Bonnie Franklin was nominated for a Tony as well.
Franklin won attention in the musical for singing the lead song, and Theater Critic Walter Kerr described her thus: “Shaggily red-headed, with a smile like the one they sometimes paint on lollipops, slapping her chaps and tossing her neckerchief to the apparently high winds, she needs only to be turned loose to take over.”
“One Day at a Time”
Despite her theater career (to which she would return after her success on television), it was her role as divorced, working mother Ann Romano in the Norman Lear production that brought her to the attention of the nation.
According to the “Washington Post,” the television show “resonated with audiences at a time when divorce rates were climbing and the stigma of divorce was diminishing. The show was a comedy, but it also touched on the emotion and economic toll of divorce in an era when women were beginning to have greater career opportunities.” Without even trying, Franklin was able to embody what the average American woman would face: a job, two active teenage daughters and no pat answers for the troubles of life that would come her way.
Still, her perky spirit was infectious. Bonnie Franklin was able to somehow convey that despite the challenges, she (and other women, by default) could make it through the rough patches and come out on the other side.
Learn more about this author, Christine Zibas.
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