Rarely is the entertainment industry kind to aging actresses. Once their appeal is buried in the past, Hollywood legends are often cast aside to make room for the next generation of stars. Estelle Getty however, was the exception to the rule.
While she had a successful career in acting, it was not until late in her career that she experienced the fruits of her labor. Notorious for her role on the television show, The Golden Girls, Getty played the character of &#8220Sophia,” a sweet yet feisty and quick-witted old woman. A rare example of a late bloomer on the Hollywood scene, Getty's career only got better as she got older. Though the types of roles available to her were very limited, she made the most of every opportunity.
Getty, whose maiden name was Estelle Scher, was born on July 25, 1923, in New York City. She had a deep desire to be an actress while growing up in the city. She attended the Herbert Berghof Studio, one of the best performing arts schools in the city. Getty would learn valuable lesions that would benefit her throughout her career.
Creating a reputation for herself, Getty spent decades performing in various off-Broadway shows. She also became very popular in the Yiddish theater, and made a name for herself as a comedian on the &#8220Borscht Belt” circuit.
Getty married her long-time sweetheart, Arthur Gettleman on December 21, 1947. They moved to 74th Avenue and 220th Street in Oakland Gardens. Getty adopted her stage name from her husband's last name. The couple has two children together, Barry and Carl.
Getty yearned to act again. She made her return in 1971, in the off-Broadway play, &#8220The Divorce of Judy and Jane.” Getty gave a performance to remember which led to the late upswing in her career. In 1982, Getty out-did herself again as she played Mrs. Beckoff, Harvey Fierstein's mother in the Pulitzer Prize-winning play, &#8220Torch Song Trilogy.” Following that performance, vastly different opportunities began coming her way.
Making her film debut in 1982, Getty played a middle-aged woman in the movie &#8220Tootsie.” In 1985 however, Getty would take advantage of an opportunity that would forever change her life. Auditioning for the role of &#8220Sophia Petrillo” on an upcoming television show, The Golden Girls, Getty was sure she found her niche. However, she was rejected after the first audition simply because she was too young for the role.
With Getty's persistent attitude however, she hired a makeup artist to add 20 years to her facial features, wore an oversized thrift shop dress, and remained in character throughout a subsequent audition. After the fourth casting call, Getty landed the role. Her career had reached its pinnacle and Getty thrived on the show. She played the part of Sophia on Golden Girls from 1985 to 1992.
While her career had a &#8220Hollywood” ending, her life proved to be more difficult. In 2000, Getty announced she was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. Later that year she was also diagnosed with osteoporosis, forcing her to stop making public appearances.
In 2002, the media reported Getty was also afflicted by Alzheimer's disease. That rumor was quickly cleared up however; the truth was much grimmer. In 2004, it was found that Getty was in fact suffering from a disease, but it was not Parkinson's or Alzheimer's, it was Lewy body dementia. Getty, whose husband passed away that same year, now resides in Los Angeles with her family.

More from Around New York