The world has lost a beloved animal rights activist, actress and versatile “golden girl,” Betty White. A few days before her centennial (100 on January 17), Betty died at her Los Angeles home at the age of 99 on Friday, December 31.
Betty holds the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest career of any entertainer, having been in entertainment for over ninety years.
A remarkable and well-deserved achievement.
Her agent and longtime friend Jeff Witjas told People the following earlier on Friday:
Even though Betty was about to turn 100, I thought she would live forever,” he said in an earlier statement. “I will miss her terribly, as will the animal world she loved so much. I don’t think Betty was ever afraid to die because she always wanted to be with her beloved husband, Allen Ludden. She believed that she would be with him again.
Betty graced the cover of People this week, reflecting on her life secrets and reaching (almost) 100 years old.
I am so lucky to be so healthy and feel so good at this age. It’s incredible.
First life and first successes
Born in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park in 1922, Betty Marion White was the only child of Horace White and Tess. From an early age she had a fondness for theater and performance, and before televisions were introduced into homes, Betty and a friend performed the soundtrack to The Merry Widow in front of a television camera. The live images were then transmitted to the screen on the first floor of the building.
In the late 1940s, following her volunteer duties with American Women’s Voluntary Services during World War II, Betty became the host of the Hollywood on TV, a five-and-a-half-hour, six-day-a-week variety show. Being a hostess in the early days of production, where men usually ruled, earned her a Primetime Emmy nomination.
Following the success of Hollywood on TVBetty started her own production company, Banty, produced the weekly series, Life with Elizabeth. The comedy ran for two seasons (1953-1955) through syndication and earned Betty an Emmy nomination.
She also hosted The Betty White Show, which had African-American actor and dancer Arthur Duncan in a lead role, a first for television as racism in the 1950s was very clear. When confronted by Duncan from Tennessee stations who threatened to boycott the NBC show if he was not fired.
Instead, Betty replied, “I am sorry. To live with.“Duncan also got more screen time.
In 1963, she was the host of Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. The honor lasted ten years.
Betty enjoyed even greater screen success in the 1970s and 80s. Alongside Mary Tyler Moore in The Mary Tyler Show, she starred as the sexy, man-crazed Sue Ann Nivens. With this character, Betty described the character as ‘sweet icky‘ but only she could play Sue Ann so well. The portrayal earned him two Emmys, as well as another nomination.
Another character Betty loved was uptight Ellen Harper Jackson, the daughter of Vicki Lawrence’s character Velma “Mama” Harper in the 1980s sitcom, Mom’s family. Although the show ran for six seasons, White left Mama’s Family in a season two episode, when she was in the biggest role of her life.
Betty White as Rose Nyland
In 1985, Betty scored her best known and most coveted role as Rose Nyland. NBC comedy, The golden girlswhich also featured Bea Arthur, newcomer Estelle Getty and her Mama Family co-star Rue McClanahan.
The sitcom centered on four women over 50 living together as roommates in sunny Miami, Florida, and although each woman had a different background, the group became best friends and bonded over relationships, family, money, growth, life experiences and everything in between.
And let’s not forget the cheesecake.
Rose was naive. She was often a scattered brain but had a heart full of gold and was well-meaning. Although her personality seemed to annoy the other three, she matched Blanche’s lust, Dorothy’s dry intelligence, and Sophia’s old-but-brutal charm. The four held irreplaceable magic that could only be unleashed when faced with a dilemma, which was constant in The golden girls seven-year race.
In his heyday, controversial stories at the time such as LGBTQ, Alzheimer’s disease, disability and AIDS were all tackled because of this brave writing pioneer, paved the way for future TV shows. television and won The golden girls critically acclaimed on several counts.
When the series ended in 1992 due to the departure of Bea Arthur, Betty continued as Rose in the short-lived spin-off, The Golden Palace. Much like its predecessor, the narrative touched on several difficult topics. However, the series failed to hold up in the ratings and was canceled after one season.
On a lighter note, The Golden Palace launched the career of Don Cheadle, just as that of Arthur Duncan was launched almost forty years ago.
Betty continued to play. She has been featured in guest roles. This included shows such as Bones, Ugly Bettyand The practice. She lent her signature voice to The simpsons and Family guy. She was also featured as a stuffed tiger named ‘Bitey White’ in the fourth installment of toy story.
In 2010, Betty was again found on screen with the comedy TVLand, Hot in Cleveland like Elka Ostrovsky. Betty also hosted and produced the reality show, Betty White is off their rockers where the elders played pranks on the young. The series aired for two seasons from 2012 to 2014.
In 1963, Betty married “the love of her life” Allan Ludden, who was the host of the popular game show, Password. The two met while Betty was a contestant and even starred together on an episode of The odd couple. She never remarried after her husband died in 1981 from cancer. In an interview for Larry King in 2014, Betty quoted “When you’ve had the best, who needs the rest?”
The couple never had children, but she was stepmother to Ludden’s three children from a previous marriage. She also extended her exponential love to animal welfare. For over forty years, Betty has dedicated her time to working at the Greater Los Angeles Zoo, as well as the Morris Animal Foundation.
She was also a voice for the LGBTQ community. She shared that people should get married if they love each other. Same-sex couples have also been featured on The golden girls.
The big anniversary show will continue
Unfortunately, Betty White will not be able to attend her 100th birthday on January 17, but her documentary film, Betty White: 100 years young will still be present in select theaters to highlight the actress’ career accolades and achievements.
Stars including her Hot in Cleveland co-stars, Ryan Reynolds, Morgan Freeman and the late Alex Trebek will pay tribute and comment on White’s legacy.
Thank you for being our friend Betty and for the laughs you brought.