Bonnie Franklin, Star of Sitcom "One Day at a Time," Dies at 69
By Robert Simonson
Bonnie Franklin, who starred as a single mother navigating the dating and working worlds of the 1970s and early '80s in the popular sitcom "One Day at a Time," died March 1 at her home in Los Angeles. She was 69. Her family had announced her diagnosis of pancreatic cancer last fall.
Along with Mary Tyler Moore of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and Linda Lavin of "Alice," Bonnie Franklin was a central figure in post-feminism, television entertainment of the 1970s, when networks and producers moved away from the contented, trouble-free, stay-at-home moms of the 1960s sitcom.
Ms. Franklin's character, Ann Romano, relocated to Indianapolis with her two teenage daughters (played by Mackenzie Phillips and Valerie Bertinelli) after divorcing their father. Created by Norman Lear, the force behind "All in the Family" and "Maude" and other socially conscious comedies, "One Day at a Time" addressed weighty topics such sexual harassment and rape. Ms. Franklin, a pert, petite figure crowned by a bright orange pageboy, faced off these crises with spunk and spirit.
The show ran from 1975 to 1984 and was popular during nearly its entire run. Ms. Franklin was nominated for an Emmy Award and two Golden Globes.
Bonnie Gail Franklin was born in Santa Monica, CA, on Jan. 6, 1944, and graduated from Beverly Hills High School. She was tap-dancing on "The Colgate Comedy Hour" before she was ten, later acting in shows like "Gidget" and "The Munsters." Following attendance at Smith College and UCLA, she acted in George M at Paper Mill Playhouse and made her Off-Broadway debut in a hit 1969 production of Dames at Sea, stepping into the role of Ruby, which was created by Bernadette Peters.
This was quickly followed by her Broadway debut in Applause, Strouse and Adams' musical adaptation of "All About Eve." Her performance as a chorus girl (named Bonnie), in which she sang and dances through the show's ten-minute title tune, won her a Tony Award nomination. Walter Kerr, the New York Times drama critic, called the performance, simply, "larceny."
"When Bonnie Franklin, five foot three, eyes of green, hair like a ripe persimmon, struts here wide-open smile and whippy hig-huggers across the Palace stage as a chorus gypsy in Applause, you nearly lost sight of the fact that the unquestioned star of the new hit musical is Lauren Bacall," reported the New York Times in a subsequent profile.
Following her success in "One Day at a Time," Ms. Franklin returned to the theatre, appearing in both musicals and plays at the Bucks County Playhouse, Westside Arts Theatre, Pittsburgh Public Theater and the Rubicon Theatre. Her final role as an actress was playing a nun on "The Young and the Restless."
A marriage to playwright Ronald Sossi ended in divorce in 1970. Her second marriage, in 1980, was to producer Marvin Minoff, who died in 2009. She had no children.
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