Actress Bonnie Franklin Dies of Pancreatic Cancer

Friday, 01 Mar 2013 02:28 PM

 

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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 of pancreatic cancer.

She died Friday at her home in Los Angeles due to complications from the disease, 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 — herself a former sitcom star and single mother raising future actress Meredith Baxter — 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 — issues that had previously been overlooked by TV comedies whose households were usually headed by a husband and wife or, rarely, a widowed parent.

Meanwhile, the series weathered its own crises as Phillips was twice written out of the series to deal with her drug abuse and other personal problems.

Writing in her 2009 memoir "High On Arrival," Phillips remembered Franklin as hardworking and professional, even a perfectionist.

"Bonnie felt a responsibility to the character and always gave a million notes on the scripts," Phillips wrote. "Above all, she didn't want it to be sitcom fluff — she wanted it to deal honestly with the struggles and truths of raising two teenagers as a single mother."

A private memorial will be held next week, her family said.

Pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest malignancies because it is often not discovered until it has reached advanced stages. It has claimed the lives of several celebrities in recent years, including actor Patrick Swayze, Apple computer founder Steve Jobs, and astronaut Sally Ride.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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