'The Golden Girls' on Disney Plus — release date, cast, funniest lines and why this classic comedy is so loved

Here are 'The Golden Girls' — (from left) Rue McClanahan, Bea Arthur, Betty White and Estelle Getty.
Here are 'The Golden Girls' — (from left) Rue McClanahan, Bea Arthur, Betty White and Estelle Getty. (Image credit: Alamy)

Classic American sitcom The Golden Girls is now on Disney+ with all 180 half-hour episodes of the seven seasons for us to enjoy all over again. The series, which starred Estelle Getty, Bea Arthur, Betty White and Rue McClanahan as four cheesecake-loving older women sharing a Miami home, ran from 1985 until 1992 and was an instant hit, eventually winning all four of its stars Emmys. 

The ups and downs of a group of middle-aged women kept viewers glued, as the four navigated life, love, romance, friendship, financial difficulties and bad dates, and often tackled social issues of the time including AIDS, gay marriage and teen pregnancy

So before you watch again, or even if it's for the first time, here’s our run-down of who’s who in The Golden Girls, the show’s celebrity fans and some of the series’ must-watch moments…

'The Golden Girls' release date on Disney Plus

All episodes of The Golden Girls launched on Disney Plus on July 2 2021, so you can currently enjoy every minute of their fun life in Florida.

Disney+ — which now has more than 100 million paid subscribers — remains available on every major streaming platform. So you can watch Disney+ on Apple TV, which is just about the best way to do so, or on Amazon Fire TV, or Android TV, or smart TVs, or on your phone or on the web.

'The Golden Girls' cast — Bea Arthur as Dorothy Zbornak

The Golden Girls star Bea Arthur.

The Golden Girls star Bea Arthur (left), who played Dorothy, with co-star Betty White, who played Rose. (Image credit: NBC)

In The Golden Girls, Dorothy was a recently divorced substitute teacher — and voice of reason in the show — ends up renting a room in the Miami home Blanche Devereaux. The series sees Dorothy have her fair share of romances, with a few of her suitors portrayed by well known actors, including Dick Van Dyke and Leslie Nielsen, who she ends up marrying in the final ever episode. Her ex-husband Stan also makes regular attempts to win her back. 

Bea Arthur, who played Dorothy, was born in New York, and joined the Marines before she became an actor. She began her career in the theatre before landing roles in TV, including the lead in 1970s sitcom Maude and a part in Star Wars Holiday Special. In 1985 she began playing Dorothy and stayed with the show for seven seasons. After The Golden Girls she had guest roles in shows such as Curb Your Enthusiasm and Malcolm in the Middle, and made a return to Broadway. 

'The Golden Girls' cast — Rue McClanahan as Blanche Devereaux

The Golden Girls

Rue McClanahan (centre), with The Golden Girls fellow actors Bea Arthur and Betty White. (Image credit: Alamy)

Wealthy Southern belle Blanche works at an art museum and grew up as the apple of her father’s eye. Throughout the series Blanche has plenty of ups and downs with her four siblings — spoilt youngest sister Virginia, eldest sister Charmaine, who ends up writing a sordid novel about Blanche’s sex life, big brother Tad, who has spent most of his life in a mental health hospital, and Clay, who’s gay, which Blanche struggles to accept. 

Born and raised in Oklahoma, Rue McClanahan had a similar path to success as Bea Arthur, starting off in theatre and Broadway productions before landing a role on the sitcom Maude (see how to watch above) playing Bea Arthur’s character Maude’s best friend, Vivian Cavender. But it was her role as man-eating Blanche in The Golden Girls that shot her to fame. A vegetarian and animal welfare advocate, she was also a supporter gay rights and same-sex marriage. 

'The Golden Girls' cast — Betty White as Rose Nylund

Naive country girl Rose moves from tiny St Olaf, Minnesota to Miami after her husband’s death and finds work at a grief counselling centre. In later seasons she becomes romantically involved with college professor Miles Webber, who eventually turns out to be on a witness protection programme.

Born in Illinois, Betty White grew up in California, and originally wanted to become a forest ranger. But at the time women weren’t allowed to be rangers, so she decided on a career in the performing arts. After being turned down by film studios for not being "photogenic", she forged a career in radio before becoming a well-known face on TV entertainment shows and game shows. In her fun-loving 1954 series Life With Elizabeth, she plays the newlywed wife of Alvin (Del Moore). his series is currently available on Amazon Prime. She then landed roles on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Mama’s Family and then The Golden Girls.

Betty White as Rose holding court in The Golden Girls.

Betty White as Rose holding court in The Golden Girls. (Image credit: Disney+)

'The Golden Girls' cast — Estelle Getty as Sophia Petrillo

Known for her wisecracks, put-downs and brazen remarks, Dorothy’s mum Sophia was a favourite with the show’s fans. Sophia initially moved into the Miami house after her Shady Pines retirement home was damaged in a fire. Born in Sicily she believes strongly in ancient Sicilian traditions, including the power of the "Sicilian curse", which she often threatens to cast on Dorothy. There are also regular hints that she and her family have mafia connections.

Like her co-star Bea Arthur, Estelle was a New Yorker, who starred in various theatre plays before landing a role in Broadway show Torch Song Trilogy, playing Mrs Beckoff. It was this role that brought her to the attention of the creators of The Golden Girls who cast her as Dorothy’s fast-talking no-nonsense mother Sophia. Younger than her on-screen daughter, Estelle relied on wigs and heavy make-up to age her. While filming the Golden Girls she also appeared in Fantasy Island, Cagney and Lacey, Tootsie and Mask.

The best ever moments from 'The Golden Girls', plus all the famous guest stars...

Bea Arthur said that one of her favorite scenes was with Estelle Getty where they dressed as Sonny and Cher and sang I Got You Babe. Meanwhile Rue McClanahan’s favourite episode was a series seven episode in which Dorothy uncharacteristically becomes popular at The Rusty Anchor, Blanche’s favorite place for meeting men, while Blanche seductively sings I Want to Be Loved by You on top of a grand piano!

As well as Leslie Nielsen and Dick Van Dyke, other guest stars throughout the series included Burt Reynolds, Sonny Bono, Bob Hope, Mickey Rooney, Quentin Tarantino and even a young George Clooney

The Golden Girls

Bob Hope was a guest on The Golden Girls. (Image credit: Alamy)

Famous fans of 'The Golden Girls'…

The Queen Mother was a huge fan of The Golden Girls and requested that the cast and crew put on a live version as part of the Royal Variety Performance at the London Palladium in 1988 (see the youtube clip below). Princess Diana also reportedly spent an afternoon with Freddie Mercury, drinking champagne in front of reruns of The Golden Girls, while Rue McClanahan wrote in her memoir that Sir Laurence Olivier was also fan of the series. You can even buy statuettes now of The Golden Girls, see here.

Was there a spin-off of 'The Golden Girls'?

Yes, The Golden Girls spawned two spin-offs. Golden Palace lasted one season and followed Sophia, Blanche and Rose as they renovated an abandoned hotel with the help of Cheech Marin and Don Cheadle. Meanwhile, Empty Nest ran from 1988 to 1995 and followed the lives of a family who lived in the same neighborhood as the girls, with all four main cast members guest-starring.

Where was 'The Golden Girls' filmed?

The show was shot at Hollywood’s Ren Mar Studios. But even though the Girls’ official address was 6151 Richmond Street in Miami, Florida, the original exterior shots of Blanche’s house were of a home located at 245 North Saltair Avenue in Los Angeles, California. The house is still there, but is now surrounded by high walls and foliage to discourage curious fans.

That memorable theme tune to 'The Golden Girls'…

Initially, the show’s producers wanted to use the Bette Midler song Friends, but it was too expensive to acquire the rights. Instead they went with Andrew Gold’s Thank You for Being a Friend, recorded by a singer named Cynthia Fee.

Are any of 'The Golden Girls' still alive?

Sadly all four main stars of The Golden Girls have passed away. Betty White, was the last surviving Golden Girl but died on New Year's Eve 2021 at the age of 99. It was just 18 days before her 100th birthday. Sadly, Estelle Getty died in 2008 at 84 from Lewy body dementia. Bea Arthur died of cancer aged 86 in 2009, and Rue McClanahan was 76 when she died in 2010 from a stroke.