Bonnie Franklin, star of the long-running CBS sitcom One Day at a Time, died March 1 at her home in Los Angeles. The cause was complications of pancreatic cancer, which she had been diagnosed with back in September.
Bonnie Gail Franklin was born on Jan. 6, 1944 in Santa Monica, Calif., the daughter of Claire (née Hersch) and Samuel Benjamin Franklin, an investment banker. Her parents were both immigrants, her father hailing from Russia and her mother from Romania. Her family moved to Beverly Hills when she was 13 years old, and she graduated from Beverly Hills High School in 1961. She once said that because of her red hair and freckles, people had a hard time believing that she was Jewish.
She won a Theatre World Award in 1970 for the Broadway show Applause, the musical version of All About Eve, starring Lauren Bacall, for which she was also nominated for a Tony. But it was One Day at a Time that made Franklin a household name. The sitcom debuted in 1975 and ran for nine seasons, remaining in the Nielsen top 20 for eight of them. Franklin played Ann Romano, a young, strong headed divorced mother raising two teenage daughters (Valerie Bertinelli and Mackenzie Phillips) in Indianapolis. Pat Harrington played Schneider, their wacky but loveable super. Franklin was nominated for an Emmy and two Golden Globe Awards for the show.
One Day at a Time was notable for its portrayal of feminism at a time when
Women’s Lib was a topical and often emotionally charged movement. The show was developed by Norman Lear, whose hallmark was addressing contemporary, often controversial issues within the framework of situation comedy, as he most notably did with All in the Family.
“I know it’s just a television show, and I don’t think that I am changing the way the world is structured,” Franklin told The Washington Post in 1980, but she allowed that “sometimes we strike chords that do make people think a bit.”
After One Day at a Time went off the air in 1984, Franklin appeared only sporadically on television but worked behind the camera directing an episode of Charles in Charge and a dozen episodes of The Munsters Today. In 2011 she played the mother of Valerie Bertinelli’s character’s boyfriend on Hot in Cleveland, and last year appeared as a nun on the daytime drama The Young and the Restless. Franklin joined her One Day at a Time co-stars for a reunion last year when they were honored at the TV Land Awards.
According to the National Cancer Institute, there were 43,920 new cases of pancreatic cancer this year with 37,390 deaths. It is one of the deadliest forms of cancer, often because it is not found until in its late stages. 75 percent of patients die less than a year after diagnosis, and 94 percent die within five years, according to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PCAN), an organization in Manhattan Beach, Calif., that champions research and patient and family support. Astronaut Sally Ride and actors Patrick Swayze and Michael Landon all died of the disease.