NEW YORK — 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 that she was diagnosed with 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 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, including premarital sex, birth control, suicide and sexual harassment.
Bertinelli reiterated Friday that Franklin was a “second mother to me” and one of the most important women in her life.
“My heart is breaking,” Bertinelli said in a statement.