Bonnie Franklin, Actress and Ally, Dies at 69

The actress, who played a feminist character in One Day at a Time, was one in real life, and also an LGBT rights supporter.

BY Trudy Ring

March 01 2013 5:33 PM ET

Actress and LGBT ally Bonnie Franklin, who played a feminist single mother in the 1975-1984 sitcom One Day at a Time, died Friday after a bout with pancreatic cancer. She was 69.

The show, starring Franklin as Ann Romano, mother to Julie (Mackenzie Phillips) and Barbara (Valerie Bertinelli), often dealt with social issues, such as teenage pregnancy and drunk driving, with a strong, independent, and relatable woman at its center.

Although “it’s just a television show, and I don’t think that I am changing the way the world is structured … sometimes we strike chords that do make people think a bit,” Franklin told The Washington Post in 1980.

In one of the show’s later seasons, Ann’s fiancé was killed by a drunk driver, and she took his teenage son, Alex, into her home. He was played by gay actor Glenn Scarpelli, who in 2006 told Out magazine that he was not out at the time, but “I have now, of course, come out to Bonnie and I remain very close to her. She adores Jude [Belanger, his partner]. She’s been fantastic. I say to her often, ‘I wish I had come out to you because I would have had someone on my side!’”

Franklin was an actress, dancer, and singer since she was a child, accumulating TV, film, and theater credits. She was nominated for a 1970 Tony Award for playing a chorus member who sings the title song in Applause, the Broadway musical adaptation of All About Eve, starring Lauren Bacall (see video of the number below). She received Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for One Day at a Time, which was created by actress Whitney Blake (Meredith Baxter’s mother) and her husband, Alan Manings, and developed by Norman Lear.

Franklin’s other credits include playing birth control pioneer Margaret Sanger in the 1980 TV movie Portrait of a Rebel: The Remarkable Mrs. Sanger. She was also a reproductive rights advocate in real life, speaking at an abortion rights march in Washington, D.C., in 2004. One of her last roles was a guest appearance on Bertinelli’s show Hot in Cleveland.

Read the full obit in The New York Times.


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