Betty White: Stories Of The Funniest Old Lady In Hollywood
Betty White in 1954 (Photo by: NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images)
A Golden Girl and a game show MVP, Betty White has lived the longest showbiz life ever. No, really, her 80-plus years on TV is a record. She broke barriers as the first female producer of a TV show (Life With Elizabeth, 1955), and was on one of the great sitcoms of the '70s in The Mary Tyler Moore Show. There's a reason why fellow entertainers fawn over Betty White as if she's so cool -- because she really is cool.
Everybody loves a colorful senior citizen with the spirit of a lively youngling who can stir up a roar of laughter in an entire room. Betty White has mastered the art of comedy over her eight decades on the small screen. White embarked upon a long journey in entertainment that began in the 1930s and today, she is funnier than ever and continues to land hilarious roles in film and television. White not only launched a career for herself, but she also helped pave the way for women who were not taken very seriously in Hollywood.
Betty White Has Been On Television Since The 1930s
Betty White was born on January 17, 1922 in Oak Park Illinois, but moved to Los Angeles with her family when she was two years old. Immediately after graduating high school, she pursued her newfound dream of becoming an actress. White landed her first gig when she sang songs on the experimental television show Merry Widow with a friend in 1939. When World War 2 broke out, she took a break and volunteered for American Women’s Voluntary Services to aid the involved soldiers. When the war was finished, she took Hollywood by force by taking on any part or job she could get in the entertainment world. She first joined the radio world hosting her own program and eventually took over hosting the TV program Al Jarvis’ Make-Believe Ballroom. The next few decades saw White very involved in hosting and acting including her parts in Hollywood On Television, Life With Elizabeth, The Betty White Show, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and as a host for both The Tournament Of The Roses parade and The Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. White finally became a superstar in the 1980’s when she played the part of Rose Nylund on the popular hit series The Golden Girls, which aired from 1985 to 1992. From that moment on, White’s essence of the hysterically loud-mouthed older woman with a knack for comedy and sarcasm was so adored by viewers everywhere. Here are some fun facts about the comedic genius you may not know…
Betty White Is A Passionate Animal Lover
Betty White has always been obsessed with animals. As a teenager, her original dream was to become a forest ranger, but women were not allowed to be rangers during those days. However, in 2010 the USDA Forest Service helped her finally achieve that goal when they dubbed her an honorary forest ranger. She has advocated for animal organizations such as The Los Angeles Zoo Commission, The Morris Animal Foundation, African Wildlife Foundation, and many others. White is known to turn down roles if any animal abuse is involved in the script. This is why she turned down the part of Helen Hunt’s mother in As Good As It Gets.
White’s Role Was Switched On Golden Girls
On Golden Girls, the show for which she is probably best known, White was originally cast as the sexy Blanche Devereaux, and Rue McClanahan was to play the scatterbrained Rose Nyborg. Blanche was somewhat similar to Sue Ann Nivens, White's character on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, while Rose had some similarities to Rue McClanahan's Vivian, from the sitcom Maude. Producers decided that the show needed its own identity, which would be undermined if White and McClanahan were to play familiar-seeming roles. Thus, the switch: White would play the ditzy Rose, and McClanahan would be the vampy Blanche. The casting of Golden Girls (including Bea Arthur and Estelle Getty) is pretty much perfect, so it's interesting to wonder how the show would have fared if this personnel change hadn't occurred.
White Earned Many Awards
White rightfully is recognized for all her outstanding work and has achieved six Emmy Awards and 19 Emmy nominations during her career that has spanned over 70 years. She was inducted into the Academy of TV Arts & Science in 1995, holds the record for longest span between Emmy Nominations (1951-2011) and was awarded Longest TV Career or Entertainer (Female). In 1951, she was nominated for the Best Actress Emmy, and she was voted as the most trusted celebrity in a 2011 poll of 2,000 Americans.
Betty White Is 'Girl Power' Personified
In 1952, Betty White launched her own television series, developed with George Tibbles, called Life With Elizabeth. It was a forgotten but crucial moment of female empowerment in TV history. Not only did she play the main title character on the screen, she also produced the show making her one of the first women to ever have control both in front of and behind the camera.
Queen Of Game Shows
White has often been called “The First Lady Of Game Shows” for her numerous appearances on the popular show format throughout the ‘60s and ‘70s. She celebrity-guested on Pyramid, I’ve Got A Secret, Match Game, What’s My Line, and plenty of others. She took another title as the first woman to earn a Daytime Emmy Award when she won Outstanding Game Show Host in 1983 for the game show Just Men!
The Loves Of Betty White
Betty White has been married three times. First, she married pilot Dick Barker in 1945 -- purely for sex, she said, and clearly she was not too satisfied in the bedroom as they divorced only six months later. Then came Lane Allen, to whom she was married from 1947 until 1949. She finally found true love when she married TV host Allen Ludden, and they stayed happily together until he passed in 1981. Heartbroken, White never remarried and has stated, “Once you’ve had the best, who needs the rest?” She told Oprah on her special Oprah: Where Are They Now, her only life regret was not marrying Ludden a year earlier, as she spent that year rejecting his proposals. She did admit to having a crush on Robert Reford, with whom she never had the chance to work. She once stated, “My answer to anything under the sun, like ‘What have you not done in the business that you’ve always wanted to do?’ is ‘Robert Redford.’”
White’s Snack Attacks
Apparently, White’s secret to a healthy, long life has nothing to do with nourishing foods as she is a junk-food junkie. James Leeves, White’s co-star on Hot In Cleveland, spilled the beans on her when he said, “She eats Red Vines, hot dogs, French fries, and Diet Coke. If that’s key, maybe she’s preserved because of the preservatives.” Los Angeles’s famous Pink’s Hotdogs has a dog named after her called “The Betty White Naked Dog” that featured a standard hotdog Betty White style: no toppings.
Never Too Old For 'Saturday Night Live'
After all she had accomplished, Betty White faced what she called her greatest fear in 2010 when she hosted NBC’s Saturday Night Live. This made her the oldest person to ever host the sketch show at 88-years-old. She cracked up audiences worldwide by making fun of her elderly self. She thanked Facebook in her introduction and joked she “didn't know what Facebook was, and now that I do know what it is, I have to say, it sounds like a huge waste of time.” She went on to say, “I would never say that people on it are losers… but that's only because I'm polite. But Betty, Facebook is a great way to connect with old friends. Well, at my age, if I want to connect with old friends… I need a Ouji board.” White’s performance was so adored that she won the Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actress In A Comedy Series.
Betty White Has Still Got It
Betty White has never slowed down and up until the pandemic she was hosting her own show Betty White’s Off Their Rockets since 2012. For the series, she dives into her naturally mischievous nature and gathers grandparents to pull pranks on the younger generation. The world is blessed to have had so many years of entertainment from this wonderfully hilarious woman.
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