In Memoriam – Bonnie Franklin

Vale Bonnie Franklin

January 6, 1944 – March 1, 2013
January 6, 1944 – March 1, 2013

I have often mentioned the special bond that ties generations of child actors to each other, and on Friday I was reminded of this by the passing of our dear Bonnie Franklin, much too early at age 69 of the same disease that claimed Donna Reed’s life, pancreatic cancer. When the news broke, my immediate thought was of my TV-Sis, Shelley Fabares. “Oh no, not again,” I thought.

Shelley and Bonnie grew quite close during the nine-year run of “One Day at a Time.” They were often together outside of the day-to-day grind of television production. These two had a unique closeness, and it’s good to remember that they worked with two young actresses, Valerie Bertinelli and Mackenzie Phillips.

None of us are young pups anymore, but I sometimes wonder why Shelley has had so much more to deal with when it comes to close-to-the-heart tragedy. Bonnie, Donna, her own mother’s battle with Alzheimer’s, Annette…and more.

In the world of young, Los Angeles-based actors, Bonnie Franklin’s story was similar to many. She sang, she danced, and with her red hair and freckles and optimistic attitude she fulfilled a role in the Hollywood of the 50’s…dancing professionally with Donald O’Connor in the Colgate Comedy Hour when she was nine, then going on to many guest star appearances. She graduated Beverly Hills High School and went East to Smith College, then back to SoCal to attend and graduate from UCLA. Her core talent emerged with a bang in the 70’s when she stepped out of the chorus in Broadway’s “Applause” and earned a Tony nomination.

Norman Lear tapped her to play a difficult part in “One Day at a Time.” Why? Because of her sense of joy. This trait was immediately apparent to all who met Bonnie, myself included.

I’m thinking about Valerie and Mackenzie this morning, too. How lucky they were to have worked with someone as special as Bonnie Franklin. What a loss they have suffered. Still, when you think about it, how neat it will be years from now to be able to watch re-runs and remember the times in-between the acting work when you recall the private moments spent with a wonderful lady.

Bonnie Franklin; a Wonderful Life.

Bonnie Gail Franklin (January 6, 1944 – March 1, 2013) was an American actress, best known for her leading role in the television series One Day at a Time (1975–1984). She was nominated for Emmy, Tony and Golden Globe Awards.