“One Day at a Time” actress Bonnie Franklin sadly passed away yesterday in her Los Angeles home at the age of 69. Franklin, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in September, passed away due to complications related to the illness.
Franklin was a television and stage performer long before One Day at a Time made her a big star. One Day at a Time premiered on CBS in December of 1975 and became a ground-breaking series dealing with the struggles of a young, divorced single mother seeking independence and success outside of her suffocating marriage. The series debuted a short five years after Mary Tyler Moore was laughed at by the network for wanting to play the character of Mary Richards as a divorced woman in her own comedy series. Instead, the network portrayed Mary Richards as having ended her engagement instead.
Franklin’s character on One Day at a Time was Ann Romano; a single mother raising two teenage girls (Mackenzie Phillips and Valerie Bertinelli). The series ran on CBS until 1984, surviving nine seasons on the air, seven of which were Top 20 hits. The series openly dealt with issues such as premarital sex, birth control, suicide and sexual harassment – issues which had until this point been taboo to discuss on television.
In a memoir written by co-star Mackenzie Phillips in 2009, she recalled Franklin as a hardworking, caring woman with a penance for perfectionism. “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.”
Fellow co-star Valerie Bertinelli mentioned Franklin in her 2008 memoir as well, saying that “within a few days I recognized her immense talent and felt privileged to work with her. … She was like a hip, younger complement to my real mom.”
The camaraderie between these women, built through their time working together on One Day at a Time, was something that Franklin felt immensely grateful for. In a 2005 One Day at a Time reuinion special, she told Bertinelli and Phillips “You are living, in a sense, Ann Romano’s life – you are single parents raising teenage kids. That is shocking and terrifying to me.” She was immensely proud and close to her co-stars.
In a statement released by her family, Franklin was said to be a “devoted mother, grandmother, daughter, sister, aunt and friend.” Franklin’s husband of 29 years, TV producer Marvin Minoff, passed away in 2009. A private memorial will be held next week.