'One Day at a Time' Star Bonnie Franklin Dead at 69

The star died of complications from pancreatic cancer.

ByABC News
March 1, 2013, 2:02 PM

March 1, 2013— -- Bonnie Franklin, best known for her role as a single mom on the '70s-'80s sitcom "One Day at a Time," died at her Los Angeles home Friday morning of complications from pancreatic cancer. She was 69 years old, and died surrounded by family and friends, confirmed her agent, Robert Malcolm.

The cancer was diagnosed last August, and the actress revealed shortly after that she was undergoing treatment.

On "One Day at a Time," which was developed by Norman Lear and aired from 1975 to 1984 on CBS, Franklin was groundbreaking as Ann Romano, the single mother of two daughters, who were played by Valerie Bertinelli and Mackenzie Phillips. The show was an anthem for a generation grappling with difficult issues never portrayed before on a sitcom. When the show was in its prime, millions tuned in to watch what was regarded as TV's first realistic portrayal of a divorced mother struggling to raise her teenage daughters.

"The truth of the matter was ... we were reflecting what was out there. It just hadn't been on television before," Franklin told "Good Morning America" in 2012 when the cast reunited. "You can do all these heavyweight subjects that are important, but you have got to do it with humor."

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On TV, the dynamic between Franklin's character, Ann, rang true for many. Behind the scenes, the women said, their relations were just as natural as they appeared on TV, although, at first, Franklin admitted, she was skeptical about the castings.

"When they told me Mac [Mackenzie Phillips] was playing my daughter, I said, 'That was never going to work. ... She is too tall. ...' We met, and she had this big mouth as I do, and I thought, 'OK, it's going to be fine,' and then it just was. It was easy," Franklin said. "It absolutely happened right away."

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Franklin was nominated for an Emmy and two Golden Globes for her role on the show. She also directed two episodes.

Franklin recently appeared on the CBS soap opera "The Young and the Restless." In 2011, she reunited with her "One Day at a Time" co-star Bertinelli in an episode of "Hot in Cleveland."

Franklin was born Jan. 6, 1944, in Santa Monica, Calif. Her mother and father were Jewish immigrants, from Romania and Russia, respectively. She kicked off her 60-year career at age 9, tap dancing with Donald O'Connor on the "Colgate Comedy Hour." She continued as a young teenager on such TV shows as "Gidget," "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." and "The Munsters," among others.

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After her graduation from UCLA, she starred in several theater productions in New York, even earning a Tony nomination in 1970 for her show-stopping performance in the original production of the Broadway musical "Applause," making Franklin one of the youngest performers to ever receive that honor.

The actress was married to playwright Ronald Sossi from 1967 to 1970. She married film producer Marvin Minoff in 1980 after they'd worked on the TV movie "Portrait of a Rebel: Margaret Sanger," about the public health advocate, together. Their marriage lasted until Minoff's death in 2009. Franklin had no children.

A private memorial service will be held Monday. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations be made in the actress's memory to CCAP, 11684 Ventura Boulevard, 437, Studio City, CA 91604.

Franklin's former co-star, Bertinelli, wrote on her website Friday, "My heart is breaking. Bonnie has always been one of the most important women in my life and was a second mother to me. The years on "One Day at a Time" were some of the happiest of my life, and along with Pat and Mackenzie, we were a family in every way. She taught me how to navigate this business and life itself with grace and humor, and to always be true to yourself. I will miss her terribly."