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Photo: Betty White
Betty White is known for pioneering two of the most famous characters in TV sitcom history. The sexually positive Sue Ann Nivens on ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show,’ and the kind-heartened Rose Nylund on ‘The Golden Girls.’ Finally, she had a comeback appearance as host of ‘Saturday Night Live’ almost a decade ago at the age of 88. Her illustrious career was only bolstered by her bright personality and all-around love-ability.
Unfortunately right on the cusp of the new year, White passed away in her home in Los Angeles at age 99. The death came less than three weeks before her 100th birthday and was confirmed by Jeff Witjas, her best friend and agent.
Awards and Accomplishments: Betty White
White’s accomplishments include 5 Primetime Emmys and a competitive Daytime Emmy for her contributions to Hollywood. In 2015 she also got a Daytime Emmy and years ago in 1952, a Los Angeles regional Emmy, this was awarded to her for her seven decades on television. In 2014 she was featured in the ‘Guinness World Records’ for being the longest spanning female entertainer on TV. For her role on ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show’ from 1973-1977, she won two of the above-mentioned Emmys.
Another Emmy was awarded for her role on ‘Golden Girls’ where she played the naive but loveable Rose. The show was about four older women who lived together in Miami and went on adventures. On the show, White was the only survivor as Estelle Getty died in 2008, Bea Arthur died in 2009 and Rue McClanahan died in 2010. Even when she took over the 2000s television scene, she did not feel as if she was making a comeback or resurgence, she was simply doing what she loved.
“I’ve been working steady for 63 years,” she said when asked about this time in her life. But everybody says, ‘Oh, it’s such a renaissance.’ Maybe I went away and didn’t know it.”
Betty White Revolutionized Television With Her Humor and Unique Presence
Nevertheless, her role on ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show’ was revolutionary for its time. It was one of the most popular sitcoms because of its witting writing, the charismatic presence of White’s character, and a star-studded supporting cast. Even with exceptional performances from actors like Ed Asner, Valerie Harper, and Ms. Moore, White’s Sue Anne always seemed to steal the spotlight.
Betty Marion White was born on January 17th, 1922 to Horace and Tess White, their only child. Her mother worked at home while her father worked as an electrical engineer. As a toddler, the entire family moved to Los Angeles where she continued to grow up in a cultural hub.
The Beginnings of White’s Long and Celebrated Career
Betty White’s acting career traces all the way back to the time of Beverly Hills high school. She graduated in 1939 after appearing in many student productions and writing her own classes graduation play, she also held a leading role. Her ambition did not stop there Dash in World War II she served in the American women’s voluntary services and drove a truck delivering supplies like soap toothpaste and candy to soldiers in the hills of Santa Monica in Hollywood.
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This led her to meet and Mary a pilot known by the name Dick Barker. While it was short-lived it was featured in her autobiography “here we go again“ which she released in 1995. Towards the end of the war, she joined the Bliss-Hayden little theater that was run by Harry Hayden and Lela Bliss. The purpose of the theater was to give young actors a chance to perform and get used to doing so in front of audiences.
She starred in a comedy about a girl who pretends to be her older sister known as “dear Ruth“ as her first performance there. Lane Allen an actor who had become an agent witnessed her performance and encouraged her to pursue an acting career. She began this career by joining a comedy radio show and then finally in 1949 broke into the television scene. She joined a local talk show called “Al Jarvis is Hollywood on Television” and when he left the show she became the host in the 1950s she produced and starred in her two sitcoms that drew praise and criticism for being inclusive to people of color, something that was uncommon at that time.
Game Shows, TV Shows, and Special Guest Star Appearances by Ms. White
Game shows were also her specialty with appearances on “To Tell the Truth,” “I’ve Got a Secret,” “The Match Game,” “What’s My Line” and most famously, “Password.” She married Alan but in the host of the former show and together they raise three children, David, Martha, and Sarah. Even after ‘The Golden Girls’ ended its run in 1992, Betty White was a constant presence on TV. She made guest appearances on shows like ‘That 70s Show’ and ‘Community’ as well as holding a reoccurring role on the daytime soap opera, ‘The Bold and the Beautiful.’
Everyone loved seeing White on their screens and in 1995 she made it into the Television Academy Hall of Fame. It was a well-deserved honor. In 2010 she was also given a lifetime achievement award by the screen actors Guild and eight years later was featured in her own documentary called ‘Betty White: First Lady of Television’ it was a PBS documentary and even she threw punches at the title which implies that she’s the first woman ever to appear on television. Her comedy did not go unnoticed and many were fans of her quick-witted and often off-kilter humor. We saw an example of this in her ‘Saturday Night Live’ hosting gig that left the show with its highest ratings in a year and a half.
Betty White’s Relatability and Bright Personality
In 2011 we were not surprised to see that she had published two books, ‘If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won’t),’ was a collection of essays and anecdotes about her life and illustrious career on television and ‘Betty & Friends: My Life at the Zoo,’ which was about her love of animals and the connections she made at the Los Angeles Zoo. Her ability to not just be an inspiring and amazing actress but to be an actress that was humanized and relatable was something that many people admired. For instance, her interest in animal welfare and her efforts to devote time and money to organizations that provided better treatment and homes for animals, pets and those in zoos were much appreciated by fans and enthusiast alike.
Now looking back on her career, one of her last in-person appearances that we can remember is the 2018 Emmy awards telecast. She was given a long-standing ovation for the accomplishments in her career and now despite her untimely passing her spirit lives on and continues to inspire every generation.
By Mireille Karadanaian
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Mireille Karadanaian is an entertainment journalist, whose passion for reviewing upcoming TV shows and movies has existed since a young age. She writes reviews and feature entertainment stories for The Hollywood Insider’s inclusive and authentic platform, contributing to the important stories being told in media today. Mireille loves discussing the impact today’s media is making on younger generations who emulate what they see on screen and the Internet, a double-edged sword. Her stories often include the importance of creating content that inspires inclusion, positivity, and productive messages to all audiences and generations. Mireille’s love of covering TV shows, movies, and exciting questions that are being asked in the media world is seen in her writing and her ability to not just report facts but also tell a story.