Betty White, television pioneer and Emmy Award winner, has died


Emmys in hand and a decade-long career behind her, no one would have blamed Betty White one bit if she’d spent her golden years in well-deserved retirement.

But in her 80s, White’s acting career skyrocketed again. She had a scene stealer in a popular summer movie, roared into living rooms from coast to coast in a Super Bowl commercial, hosted “Saturday Night Live,” won another Emmy, and became a hilarious social media darling — all of it starring her as a To cement America’s favorite working comedian. White was never in the limelight for long and has seemed pretty much forever over the years.

Can’t wait for her 100thth White died overnight at her home in Brentwood, her agent and friend Jeff Witjas said on Sunday. She was 99 and the last surviving star of the television series The Golden Girls.

“Betty White has brought smiles to generations of Americans. She is a cultural icon that we will miss dearly,” President Biden tweeted.

“Betty was the best,” said Fran Drescher, President of SAG-AFTRA. “A talented woman, blessed with a long life. She has enjoyed the recognition of her peers in her life and it was well deserved.”

For decades, White was best known for the characters she played on two long-running television series – the sneaky “happy housewife” Sue Ann Nivens on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” in the 1970s and the Daffy Rose Nylund on “The Golden Girls.” in the 1980s and early 1990s. She received Emmy Awards for both roles.

Years later, she reappeared as a mad grandmother in 2009’s summer hit “The Proposal,” and once again became a TV fixture — bubbly, sometimes giddy, often gritty, and always hilarious.

“I’m not new to live television,” 88-year-old White America recalled on “Saturday Night Live” when she became the oldest person to host the late-night comedy show in May 2010. She recalled having starred in the sitcom Life With Elizabeth, which aired live from 1953-55.

“Of course we didn’t want to do it live back then,” she says. “We just didn’t know how to record things.” Then a perfectly timed beat and the punchline, “Well I don’t know what the excuse of this show is.”

Her role as the Emmy-winning host of “Saturday Night Live” was the result of a Facebook campaign that began after she appeared in an irreverent Snickers ad that debuted during the 2010 Super Bowl.

In the commercial, she gets spanked at a pick-up football game when a player snorts, “You play like Betty White out there!”

“Your girlfriend doesn’t say that,” she replies, playing on her sweet but salty image.

From 2010 to 2015, she starred as the moody but sassy housekeeper on a sitcom for TV Land, Hot in Cleveland, a role she accepted at the age of 88 ½. This was followed by the publication of her third memoir and hosting NBC’s Betty White’s Off Their Rockers, a hidden camera show starring older pranksters. When PBS announced it was putting together a documentary about White in 2018, she was trending on Twitter.

At an age when most actors have retired, White suddenly found himself television’s most popular guest star.

“It’s so ridiculous at my age that all this is happening,” White told The Times in 2010. “I love it.”

In television’s infancy, White was a rarity — a woman who had creative control in front of and behind the camera, according to the Paley Center for Media.

Three years after participating in a 1949 TV broadcast test, White formed a company, Bandy Productions, which produced her early 1950s syndicated sitcom Life With Elizabeth and the short-lived domestic comedy Date with the Angels, which followed on ABC , produced. ”

Frustrated with her early experiences with series television, White turned to a genre popular at the time, game shows, and was a regular guest on staples like “Match Game PM” and “Password,” hosted by Allen Ludden, whom she married in 1963.

She was also a frequent, quotable presence on talk shows ranging from Jack Paar’s late-night program in the 1950s to “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”. 2011 and again in 2015.

During her previous appearance on Kimmel, the presenter asked White who drove her to the studio. She said she drove to the set herself.

“I’ve been driving since I was 4. No no no. That was different,” she told Kimmel. “That’s when I lost my virginity.”

White, who received a Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award in early 2010, called the honor “the pinnacle” of her professional life — and peppered her speech with crude asides.

Although her career took off again, she never really walked away after “The Golden Girls” left the air in 1992 after seven years.

She appeared regularly on television shows and had recurring roles in a number of them, including – in her 80s – Boston Legal and the soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful.

White won another Emmy in 1996 for appearing as a slightly insane version of herself on The John Larroquette Show.

“Betty White has, I think, put in more hours on television than anyone else,” her longtime friend Mary Tyler Moore said in a 2001 interview.

With her bright blue eyes, dimpled cheeks, and big smile framed by a heart-shaped face, White was often cast as a good-natured sparring partner in many domestic comedies – a type she later starred against on The Mary Tyler Moore Show played sneakily. on CBS.

In 1973, she was cast in a one-shot cameo as Sue Ann, the sex-obsessed cooking show host, on the show’s fourth season. She stayed until 1977, the rest of the show.

“She created one of the greatest television characters in sitcom history,” Moore said during a celebration of White’s 90th birthday that aired on NBC in January.

When Moore died in early 2017, White said she considered her time with her and the others on the sitcom “the best time of my life.”

Ed Asner, who starred on the show, told The Times in 1999 that White found success as a comedian because “she has a wacky sense of humor” and went to great lengths to elicit humor from “the simplest of statements.”

For White, portraying the calculating Sue Ann was “like a rebirth,” she once told TV Guide.

When NBC aired The Golden Girls in 1985, White portrayed the clueless but sweet Rose, one of four older single women living together in Miami on a show that went on to become a long-running hit.

She was originally cast as the man-hungry Blanche Devereaux, while Rue was cast as McClanahan as Rose. But Jay Sandrich, the veteran director of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” who helmed the pilot, worried viewers would think “she’s Sue Ann in a different guise,” White told The Times in 2009.

After the two actors swapped roles, Sandrich White advised not to play Rose as a fool, but as a naïve and trusting antagonist to Blanche and the other two characters, Dorothy (Bea Arthur) and Dorothy’s mother, Sophia (Estelle Getty), whose easier it was Stroke was hilariously loosened her tongue.

The key to the exchange was timing, “a rhythm you have to feel somewhere inside, and oddly enough, if you add an extra word or syllable, you kill the laughter,” White said on National Public Radio in 1995.

White’s mischievous willingness to swim against the current has been central to her long career, said Melissa Camacho, professor of television and media studies at San Francisco State University.

“You look at Betty White and you don’t see an age. She carries herself with such a youthful spark,” Camacho said in the 2010 Calgary Herald. “And she’s not afraid to come in and play.”

Betty Marion White was born on January 17, 1922 in Oak Park, Illinois, the only child of Horace White, a traveling salesman and electrical engineer, and his wife Tess. Her fun-loving parents cultivated her wit from an early age, White said.

As a child, she moved to Beverly Hills with her family and became interested in acting at Beverly Hills High School, where she graduated in 1939.

She made her professional debut on stage at the Bliss Hayden Little Theater in Beverly Hills and soon moved to radio and television.

In 1949, White co-hosted a live local variety program with early TV personality Al Jarvis that ran more than five hours a day, six days a week. The show “Hollywood on Television” included songs, skits and live commercials; She once did 58 commercials in a single day.

It was “like going to television college,” White told the Times in 2010.

She has also starred in several television shows over the years called The Betty White Show – the first being a variety show from the 1950s and the last being a sitcom from 1977-78.

On “Password” she met Ludden with glasses and a round neckline, then a newly widowed father of three. They were married for 18 years before Ludden died of cancer in 1981 at the age of 63. She never married again.

Nearly 20 years later, her eyes watered as she spoke to a reporter about Ludden at the comfortable Brentwood home she had owned since 1968.

“I’ll never get over him,” she said. “He was fun, he was funny.”

Her two brief previous marriages ended in divorce. One was for a World War II soldier who brought her home to a chicken farm in Ohio — “a nightmare,” she later said — and the other for Lane Allen, a casting director at Universal Studios. She had no children.

Her two passions, she often said, are show business and animal welfare.

She was deeply involved in animal welfare and was President of the Morris Animal Foundation, which funds research and education on animal and wildlife health. She was also a longtime trustee of the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Assn.

She agreed to write her latest memoir, If You Ask Me (And Of Course You Won’t), in part because the seven-figure publishing deal allowed her to write a second book for GP Putnam’s Sons about her love of zoos . She had already written two books about animals.

White has appeared in about 10 films, including as a grandmother in the Walt Disney Pictures comedy You Again, starring Kristen Bell, and The Proposal, starring Sandra Bullock. In the latter, the Times critics called her performance “delightfully bizarre.” In 2019, she provided the voice of Bitey White, a toy tiger named after her, in Toy Story 4.

White preferred television because, as she once said, “You come in, you do it, you see it, then move on.”

From the 1950s through the ’70s, White hosted the Rose Parade in Pasadena, primarily for NBC. She also hosted the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City in the 1980s. In 2011, she won a Grammy Award for her audio recording of If You Ask Me (And Of Course You Won’t).

Overall, she won five Primetime Emmy Awards and three Daytime Emmys.

“To spend a lifetime in the business you love, with the people you love and get away with it, that’s just wonderful,” she said on her 90th birthday. “I’m the happiest old bride on two legs.”

Luther is a former Times contributor. Betty White, television pioneer and Emmy Award winner, has died

Caroline Bleakley

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