Former colleagues of Golden Girls star Estelle Getty have paid tribute to their late colleague after her death at the age of 84.

The diminutive actress died at 05:30 local time (13:30 BST) on Tuesday at her home in Los Angeles, her son Carl Gettleman has confirmed.

And Bea Arthur, who starred as her daughter Dorothy Zbornak in the hit US comedy, said she had been part of "one of the greatest comic duos" with Getty.

"I will miss her," she added.

"She'll always be with us in her crowning achievement, Sophia Petrillo," commented Rue McClanahan, who played Blanche in the Emmy-winning series.

Born Estelle Scher to Polish immigrants in New York City, Getty - who based her stage name on that of her husband Arthur Gettleman - had struggled for years for her big break in entertainment.

She also failed her first two auditions for the role of 80-year-old Sophia on The Golden Girls, as the producers did not believe she looked old enough.

According to the Associated Press news agency, she arrived for her third audition in dowdy clothes and told the makeup artist: "To you this is just a job. To me it's my entire career down the toilet unless you make me look 80."

She secured the role and went on to be nominated for seven Emmys, as sell as starring in two spinoff series.

"She was loved throughout the world in six continents, and if they loved sitcoms in Antarctica she would have been loved on seven continents," her son said.

"She was one of the most talented comedic actresses who ever lived."

23/07/2008 12:21:44