Bonnie Franklin of TV's "One Day at a Time" dies at 69
Bonnie Franklin, the pert, redheaded actress whom millions came to identify with for her role as divorced mom Ann Romano on the long-running sitcom "One Day at a Time," has died.
She died Friday at her home in Los Angeles of complications from pancreatic cancer, family members said. She was 69. Her family had announced she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in September.
Franklin was a veteran stage and television performer before "One Day at a Time" made her a star.
Developed by Norman Lear and co-created by Whitney Blake, the series was groundbreaking for its focus on a young divorced mother seeking independence from a suffocating marriage. It premiered on CBS in December 1975, just five years after the network had balked at having Mary Tyler Moore play a divorced woman on her own comedy series, insisting that newly single Mary Richards be portrayed as having ended her engagement instead.
On her own in Indianapolis, Ann Romano was raising two teenage girls -- played by Mackenzie Phillips, already famous for the film "American Graffiti," and a previously unknown Valerie Bertinelli. "One Day at a Time" ran on CBS until 1984, by which time both daughters had grown and married, while Romano had remarried and become a grandmother. During the first seven of its nine seasons on the air, the show was a Top 20 hit.
Like other Lear productions such as "All in the Family" and "Good Times," "One Day at a Time" dealt with contemporary issues once absent from TV comedies such as premarital sex, birth control, suicide and sexual harassment.
Despite sometimes tackling serious subjects in her work, Franklin was always a cheery and positive person, Lear said Friday. "I was wrong -- I thought life forces never die. Bonnie was such a life force," Lear said in a statement. "Bubbly, always up, the smile never left her face."
Born Bonnie Gail Franklin in Santa Monica, Calif., she entered show business at an early age. She was a child tap dancer and actress, and a protege of Donald O'Connor, with whom she performed in the 1950s on NBC's "Colgate Comedy Hour." A decade later, she was appearing on such episodic programs as "Mr. Novak," "Gidget" and "The Man from U.N.C.L.E."
On stage, Franklin was in the original Broadway production of "Applause," for which she received a 1970 Tony Award nomination, and other plays including "Dames at Sea" and "A Thousand Clowns."
Franklin was married for 29 years. Her husband, TV producer Marvin Minoff, died in 2009. They had no children.
A private memorial will be held next week, her family said.