Today is the 99th birthday of the actress and American treasure Betty White. Her longevity, her humor, her activism, and her remaining active are all examples of how to live life. The world is a better place because she is in it.
NAME: Betty White
BIRTH DATE: January 17, 1922
PLACE OF BIRTH: Oak Park, Illinois
HIGH SCHOOL: Beverly Hills High School, Beverly Hills, CA
EMMY 1975 for The Mary Tyler Moore Show
EMMY 1976 for The Mary Tyler Moore Show
DAYTIME EMMY 1983 for Just Men (outstanding hostess)
EMMY 1986 for The Golden Girls
EMMY 1996 for The John Larroquette Show
EMMY 2010 for Saturday Night Live (outstanding guest actress)
HOLLYWOOD WAK OF FAME 6747 Hollywood Blvd (television)
GRACIE ALLEN AWARD 2011 Best Actress in a Comedy Series Hot in Cleveland
GRAMMY AWARD 2011 Best Spoken Word Recording If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won’t)
SCREEN ACTORS GUILD 2011 Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series Hot in Cleveland
SCREEN ACTORS GUILD 2012 Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series Hot in Cleveland
TEEN CHOICE AWARD 2010 Best Dance (with Sandra Bullock) The Proposal
BEST KNOWN FOR: Betty White is an American comedic actress who has starred on such programs as ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show,’ ‘The Golden Girls’ and ‘Hot in Cleveland’ over eight decades in show business.
Comedic actress Betty Marion White Ludden was born on January 17, 1922, in Oak Park, Illinois. She grew up as the only child of Horace and Tess White, an electrical engineer and a homemaker. When she was 2, she moved to Los Angeles with her family.
White got her start working as an assistant at a local television station. In the early 1950s, she launched her first television series, Life with Elizabeth, which she developed with George Tibbles. “He wrote and I produced,” White explained to The Hollywood Reporter. “I was one of the first women producers in Hollywood.” The show’s premise came from a sketch she had done previously on local television.
Continuing to work in television, White made guest appearances on such shows as The United States Steel Hour and Petticoat Junction. She was also a favorite of talk-show host Jack Paar, who often had her on the Tonight Show, and she made regular appearances on game shows such as Password. She met her third husband, Allen Ludden, on that show in 1961.
White’s career received an enormous boost from her next television series, The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Playing Sue Ann Nivens, White showed audiences that behind her sweet smile lay a sharp wit. Her character served as a co-worker to the show’s star, Mary Tyler Moore, in a Minneapolis television newsroom. When she wasn’t pursuing her male colleagues, Sue Ann could be counted on to make funny, yet poignant, quips at Moore’s expense. White won two Emmy Awards for her work on the series.
In sharp contrast to her Sue Ann character, White played the sweet and naive Rose Nylund on the popular 1980s sitcom The Golden Girls, along with co-stars Rue McClanahan, Bea Arthur, and Estelle Getty. The show looked at the lives of four, elderly, female friends, and its success proved that there was an audience for programs featuring older characters. The series landed among the top-ranked shows during its seven seasons on the air, and it won numerous awards, including another Emmy Award for White.
After The Golden Girls went off the air in 1992, White appeared in the short-lived spin-off, Golden Palace. She had better luck as a guest star, appearing on numerous television series. She even played herself on The John Larroquette Show in 1996, which earned her another Emmy Award-win. More recently, White enjoyed recurring roles on David E. Kelley’s Boston Legal and on the soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful. She also had a supporting role in 2009’s romantic comedy The Proposal, starring Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds.
While she worked steadily over the years, White’s career caught fire again in 2010. She appeared in a humorous candy bar ad during that year’s Super Bowl, which quickly became an audience favorite. Thanks largely to a Facebook campaign, that May White became the oldest person to host Saturday Night Live. She was initially reluctant to do the show, explaining to Newsweek that it “was the scariest thing I’ve ever done. It was really funny stuff, but it was a challenge.”
Also in 2010, White returned to series television with a role on the sitcom Hot in Cleveland, alongside stars Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves, and Wendie Malick. She first only signed on for the pilot, but she later joined the cast. “It’s just a terrific show. The chemistry between the girls is so great,” she told Newsweek.
White has continued to enjoy her latest wave of success. In addition to her work in Hot in Cleveland, she also hosted Betty White’s Off Their Rockers. This hidden camera show, which aired from 2012 into 2017, featured a mature set of merry pranksters who play jokes on younger generations. White picked an Emmy Award nomination for her work on the show in 2012.
That same year, White celebrated her 90th birthday with all-star television special. Ellen Degeneres, Mary Tyler Moore, Carl Reiner, Tina Fey and Ed Asner were among the many celebrities who helped honor White on the program.
In August 2018, PBS aired Betty White: First Lady of Television. The retrospective looked back at her 80-year career in show business, highlighted by her early variety series work, her standout roles on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Golden Girls, and her resurgence as a sharp-tongued senior in her later years.
Not ready to be relegated to the nostalgia bin just yet, the actress joined an all-star roster of talent for 2019’s Toy Story 4, voicing a tiger teething toy named Bitey White, before being tapped to headline a Lifetime holiday movie the following year.
Now in her nineties, White told The Hollywood Reporter that “I have to keep acting so that I can afford to keep doing my charity work!” Animals are her great passion. She has worked with the Los Angeles Zoo and the Morris Animal Foundation for more than four decades. “I’m actually the luckiest old broad alive. Half my life is working in a profession I love and the other half is working with animals.”
In addition to being an actress and an activist, White is also an author. She wrote several books during the 1980s and 1990s, including 1987’s Betty White In Person and 1995’s Here We Go Again: My Life in Television, which was re-released in 2010. In 2010, she signed a two-book deal with G. P. Putnam’s Sons. White’s latest set of observations on her life and career, If You Ask Me (And Of Course You Won’t) was published in the spring of 2011. Her next work My Life at the Zoo: Betty and Her Friends came out that fall.
Thrice married, White said that her third husband, Allen Ludden, was the love of her life. The couple was married from 1963 until Ludden’s death in 1981. She was previously married to WWII pilot Dick Barker and theatrical agent Lane Allen.
Hot in Cleveland Elka Ostrovsky (2010-)
The Bold and the Beautiful Ann Douglas (2006-09)
Boston Legal Catherine Piper (2005-08)
The Practice Catherine Piper (2004)
That ’70s Show Bea Sigurdson (2002-03)
Ladies Man Mitzi Stiles (1999-2001)
Bob Sylvia Schmidt (1993)
The Golden Palace Rose Nylund (1992-93)
Empty Nest Rose Nylund (1989-92)
Another World Brenda Barlowe (1988)
The Golden Girls Rose Nylund (1985-92)
Mama’s Family Ellen Jackson (1983-86)
The Betty White Show Joyce Whitman (1977-78)
Match Game Panelist (1973-82)
The Mary Tyler Moore Show Sue Ann Nivens (1973-77)
Password Panelist (1961-75)
Date with the Angels Vicki Angel (1957-58)
Life with Elizabeth Elizabeth (1952-55)
Author of books:
Betty White in Person (1987)
Here We Go Again: My Life in Television (1995, memoir)
If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won’t) (2011)