Bonnie Franklin, ‘One Day at a Time’ Star, Dead at 69

Bonnie Franklin, star of "One Day At a Time," has died from pancreatic cancer at 69.

Bonnie Franklin, known to those of us of a certain age as the star of “One Day At a Time,” has died from pancreatic cancer at 69.

AP (“Bonnie Franklin, ‘One Day At a Time’ star, dies“):

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 due to 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 — 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.

It’s truly remarkable how much our culture has changed over the past four decades. Our attitudes on everything from race to gender to sexuality and profanity have shifted radically.

UPDATE: By request, the theme song:

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Rafer Janders says:

    It’s truly remarkable how much our culture has changed over the past four decades. Our attitudes on everything from race to gender to sexuality and profanity have shifted radically.

    In some ways forward, in some ways back. No one would even blink at having a divorced character on TV anymore. And yet would any network let a sitcom female lead get an abortion as Bea Arthur did on “Maude” in the 1970s? Does any network show address issues of race, class and gender as honestly and forthrightly as “All In the Family” once did?

  2. al-Ameda says:

    R I P Bonnie.
    One Day at a Time was a really bad sitcom – even by sitcom standards it over- acted, overwrought, and lame. That said, no surprise it was popular.

  3. rudderpedals says:

    You can’t fault her for the material, she did very well in spite of the lousy material and co actresses other than Flo who was fun. It wasn’t Mary Hartmann Mary Hartmann but it wasn’t awful in the way of the Love Boat or Cheers. She was kinda hot, too. RIP

  4. James Joyner says:

    @rudderpedals: It’s been decades since I’ve seen an episode but the only “Flo” I can recall was the waitress on “Alice” played by Polly Holliday.

  5. rudderpedals says:

    @James Joyner: I completely forgot about Alice. Of course you’re right. You stopped me before I put the gruff cook into Ms Franklin’s show to keep Flo company.

  6. James Joyner says:

    @rudderpedals: Clearly, somebody is getting old.

  7. John Peabody says:

    You say things have changed enormously in the past four decades. This has been a permanent part of the human condition for many generations. A man at age 55 would say the same in 1973 (“things have changed since 1933!”), in 1953 (“…since 1913!”), and 1923 (“…since 1883!”). Things change.

  8. James Joyner says:

    @John Peabody: To some extent, sure. But the pace of change has been accelerating rapidly. Life in 1000 AD wasn’t all that different from life in 500 AD. The role of women in society really didn’t change much between 1850 and 1950. Outside of a few tolerance enclaves, homosexuals were as despised in 1970 as they were in 1770.

    It’s truly amazing how much our views on gender roles have changed in my memory. And our evolution on homosexual issues has been simply amazing. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was considered a huge step forward by gay rights activists 20 years ago. And anti-gay marriage amendments were a sure-fire vote getter, even in places like California, 5 years ago.

  9. rudderpedals says:

    @James Joyner: Yes, that’s me. I watched both of those shows all the time so I have no excuse. You may remember when the record ads started, first the classic albums and then a whole mess of others. So I asked my wife if she heard about the One Day at a Time star’s death and she said no and started singing the two bars of a gospel song with One Day at a Time, Sweet Jesus. This should have struck me as odd in that neither of us are spiritual but I watched the million ads for the record and knew exactly what she was talking about.

  10. Barry says:

    James: “UPDATE: By request, the theme song:”