These Images Show The Life of The Remarkable Betty White
No doubt the passing of Betty White on December 31, 2021, was a shock to everyone and was not a good way to bring in the New Year. She was 99 years old at the time and everyone was looking forward to seeing her turn 100. Although it saddens us to know she is no longer with us, the good news is she left behind a huge catalog of work that we will always be able to remember her from. Check out this gallery to get to know Betty White a little better and also to take a look at some of her iconic photos.
Her Early life and origin
Betty White was born in Illinois in 1922 as the only child of Horace Logan White and Christine Tess. Her father was an executive at a lighting company while her mother was a homemaker. White’s ancestry is as diverse as it gets; her paternal grandfather was Danish while her maternal grandfather was Greek.
Both of White’s grandmothers were Canadians and she had other connections to England and Wales. Her family moved to Alhambra, California when she was still an infant but they soon moved again, this time to Los Angeles.
Her Sitcom suffered after she invited a black entertainer
Betty White had her own sitcom called Life With Elizabeth when her career was booming in the 1950s. Her TV show was also known as The Betty White Show but unfortunately, it was short-lived because of White’s decision to invite a black entertainer named Arthur Duncan.
Featuring Duncan on three episodes of the show led to a lot of backlash from Southern viewers and the show was ultimately cancelled after two years because of it. White herself didn’t seem to regret the decision as she asked viewers to live with it when she was asked about the controversy.
She had the Longest TV career record for an actress
White was only 17 years old when her career in entertainment began. She was a high school grad in 1939 and she got her first job as a TV station assistant. Her first major role came in Life with Elizabeth soon after.
She both produced and acted in the movie that brought her to the limelight and soon starred in The Mary Tyler Moore Show as well as the popular sitcom The Golden Girls. After these first couple of roles, she kept on acting for decades and lent her voice to the 2019 movie Toy Story 4.
She was a Volunteer Military Supplier during WWII
White’s fame came from her successful career as an actress and entertainer but her heroics during World War II isn’t as well known. Before she became an established actress, she struggled to land roles so she decided to help the military during the Second World War by volunteering for the American Women’s Voluntary Services.
In this role, White conveyed military supplies throughout the state of California. It wasn’t an uncommon practice for civilian volunteers and entertainers to perform for soldiers to boost their morale so we suspect White might have done this as well.
White created a clothing line for charity
In collaboration with Jerry Leigh Apparel, Betty White ventured into something new by creating a clothing line. She was 88 years old at the time she created her line of sweatshirts and T-shirts and her clothing line wasn’t a profit-making venture for her as she donated a portion of the proceeds from sales to her favorite charity, the Morris Animal Foundation.
Even though the products in her clothing line bear some semblance to her, Betty White didn’t actually design any of them herself. However, she did have a huge say because she wouldn't approve of a piece of clothing she wouldn't wear herself, and we all know how fashionable White was.
She got Emmy nominations in six decades
Betty White’s illustrious entertainment career spanned about eight decades, making her the actress with the longest TV career. As a result of that longevity and her savviness, she received a number of accolades and recognition throughout her career, with some being of the highest honor.
White has been nominated for an Emmy 21 times in six different decades and she has also been nominated for different roles as a lead actress, supporting actress, guest actress, host, and many more projects. She won 5 Emmys from her nominations and she was also inducted into the Comedy Hall of Fame in 1995.
She owns the first draft of John Steinbeck’s Nobel Prize Acceptance speech
John Steinbeck was an author known for many stories still being used in high school classes in the US. He is known for works like The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men. Steinbeck won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1962, and like other Nobel Prize winners, he was asked to give an acceptance speech.
The handwritten first draft of that speech was owned by none other than Betty White as the pair were friends for decades; a friendship whose depth extended to their spouses. White had the note in a frame hanging in her house, we wonder which one of her relatives will be lucky enough to own that.
Queen Elizabeth II was a fan of her work
Betty White and Queen Elizabeth II weren’t exactly friends but they did have a lovely moment together in the 1980s. Queen Elizabeth was a big fan of The Golden Girls at the height of the show’s popularity so she invited the show’s cast for a special performance that aired on BBC.
Their performance consisted of two conversations from the show but according to reports, the actresses had to censor some show content out for the queen. That didn’t hinder the Queen from enjoying the show, and White was excited as well to perform for her.
Her Rose Nylund character appeared in four TV series
Betty White began portraying Rose Nylund in the sitcom The Golden Girls in 1985. She played that same character in a total of four TV series and fans loved her portrayal of the character so much that she was mourned on social media for it.
You can’t blame anyone that saw the show for loving the character; she was arguably the most genuine friend and the sweetest of the girls. Rose Nylund was so successful that White landed roles on three other sitcoms because of it.
The origin of White’s animal welfare activism
Betty White was an animal lover just like her mother and her father. Her love for wildlife began on family trips to the Sierra Nevadas. The young White initially aspired to be a forest ranger and wanted to have a career as a ranger but unfortunately, women weren’t permitted to work as rangers back then.
This led her to pursue her interest in writing instead and she soon found that she was interested in acting as well so she began pursuing her acting career. The TV Icon’s devotion to animals earned her the praise of animal advocates and she discussed her lifelong love for animals in her 2011 book, Betty and Friends.
She worked on an experimental TV show
Betty White found a passion for performing after writing the graduation play at Horace Mann School. She also found inspiration in her idols Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald. A couple of months after White graduated from high school, she sang songs from The Merry Widow on an experimental TV show along with a friend.
This was because TV itself wasn’t a finished project yet and was still being developed. Her efforts paid off though as she soon landed her first professional acting job at the Bliss Hayden Little Theatre.
She was turned down by studios for not being photogenic
The road to stardom can be a rocky one, Betty White soon found out the hard way after the war ended and she began looking for work. Her search led her to several movie studios but she was turned down by lots of them because they thought she didn’t look photogenic.
However, she just kept plugging away and refused to give up and she soon got her first job as a TV assistant and her career kicked off from then on. I think I speak for everyone when I say, thank god she finally got her big break so that we could all witness the greatness that was Betty White.
White read commercials and played bit parts on radio
After Betty White was told she wasn’t photogenic enough, she turned to radio jobs and she soon got gigs where she had to read commercials and play bit parts. Other times, the aspiring actress would have to do crowd noises and she earned about five dollars per show.
Her own radio show, The Betty White Show was offered to her soon after and she also began appearing as co-host on Al Jarvis’ daily live television show Hollywood on Television. White also featured on shows like The Great Gildersleeve, This is Your FBI, and more.
She co-founded Bandy Productions in 1952
Betty White co-founded Bandy Productions in 1952 with George Tibbles who was a writer, and Don Fedderson who was a producer. Coincidentally, White began hosting Hollywood on Television in the same year. The three co-founders of Bandy Productions set about using existing characters to create new shows with the aid of sketches shown on White’s Hollywood Television show.
Together, they established the TV comedy, Life With Elizabeth. Their show starred White as the title character and the 1951 live production on KCOP-TV earned White a Los Angeles Emmy Award in 1951.
White was one of the few women to have full creative control on TV
As an upcoming act, White had it tough breaking into the entertainment scene at first but once she did, she quickly became a household name. Her show, Life With Elizabeth was nationally syndicated from 1952 to 1955. This made White one of the rare women on TV to have complete creative control both behind and in front of the camera.
Life with Elizabeth was an unusual sitcom because she was still living with her parents at the time but she soon found inspiration in her circumstances by incorporating real-life situations into her show, something that would set the standard for sitcoms moving forward.
She performed in TV commercials as well
In addition to her career in comedy and acting, Betty White also got to appear in a lot of TV commercials at various points starting from the 1950s. She started by performing in TV ads shown on Los Angeles live television. One of the ads she appeared in was a rendition of KTLA’s Dr. Ross Dog Food in the 1950s.
White was also featured in "The Virginia Lennart Story" episode of The Millionaire show. She appeared as the owner of a diner in a small town who received an anonymous gift of $1,000,000. However, some of her most famous and well-liked commercials were her Tide commercials where she always helped people in need.
White appeared on Date with the Angels
After her show, Life with Elizabeth ended abruptly, Betty White began to appear as Vicki Angel on ABC’s Date with the Angels show. However, controversy surrounded the show’s fantasy elements, particularly the daydreaming tendencies of Vicki, so the show didn’t get good ratings or critical acclaim.
Even bad situations can bring about something great as White met her lifelong friend Lucille Ball while working on the show and they soon developed a lasting bond working in the TV business even though it was dominated by men.
She turned down an offer from NBC
Betty White was offered an anchor job by NBC on their breakfast TV show, Today. She however turned down the offer because she didn’t want to move to New York permanently as the job would have required her to.
Barbara Walters accepted the job and the show went on without White who soon landed other roles as a commentator and hostess. Her nineteen-year career as a hostess began on NBC’s annual Rose Parade broadcast and she featured on a couple of late-night talk shows.
White rejected SNL thrice before hosting it in 2010
Betty White didn’t host SNL until 2010 even though she was offered the chance to host it three times. She turned down the opportunity every time but when she decided to host it, her decision was influenced by a Facebook campaign called Betty White to Host SNL, please?
The campaign had nearly a million fans petitioning for White to host SNL. White didn’t want to go to New York to do the show but she was convinced to by her close friend and longtime agent Jeff Witjas.
She passed on a role because of animal cruelty
White’s reputation as an animal activist and lover preceded her. She probably would have been a zookeeper if her career in entertainment didn’t pan out the way it did. With so much passion for animals, it isn’t surprising to learn that she rejected a role in As Good as it Gets because a scene in the movie contained animal cruelty.
A scene like that was certainly against the values of a lady that tried to visit the local zoo everywhere she traveled to. White was also a known supporter of the Farm Animal Reform Movement and Friends of Animals group. It's not every day you see a celebrity pass up money to stick to their own morals, shows what kind of a person White really was.
White was the oldest person to receive an Emmy nomination
Betty White remained active on the entertainment scene till she passed away at 99. She became the oldest person to earn an Emmy nomination in 2014 when she was nominated for Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality-Competition Program.
She was 92 at the time and it was the senior citizen-centric prank show called Betty White’s Off Their Rockers that earned her the nomination. In addition to being the oldest Emmy nominee, White is also the record holder for the longest span between Emmy nominations.
She had a crush on Robert Redford
Betty White’s career in entertainment spanned over eight decades and she appeared in more than 110 films and TV shows. Yet she never got to work with Robert Redford, star of hit movie Out of Africa, whom she coincidentally had a crush on.
During an interview, she was asked what she hadn’t done in the entertainment business that she always wanted to do and White gave a cheeky response, naming Robert Redford, her colleague who is about 14 years younger than she was.
She auditioned for a different role on The Golden Girls
Betty White originally auditioned for the role of Blanche on The Golden Girls but the producers of the popular show selected her specifically for the Rose role. She was chosen to play a lusty party girl role because she played a similar role when she portrayed Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
Similarly, her co-star Rue McClanahan was chosen to play the country girl Rose Nylund because she had portrayed Vivian Harmon on Maude. In the end, the two were asked to switch roles by the director to avoid typecasting.
Her third husband wore her engagement ring around his neck
Password was one of the shows that featured Bubbly Betty as a celebrity guest in the 1960s. White was well known on the game show circuit yet her appearance on the Allen Ludden-hosted Password became the foundation of her relationship with Ludden.
When Ludden first asked to marry White, she rejected his proposal and engagement ring but he refused to give up so he wore the ring around his neck until she changed her mind and said yes. He became her third husband and the couple remained with each other until Ludden’s death in 1981.
She loved parades
Betty White got to host NBC’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade from 1962 to 1971 alongside Lorne Greene of Bonanza. She was also the color commentator for NBC’s annual Tournament of Roses Parade for two decades.
Unfortunately, she was pulled from CBS’s The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and all the promotion that came with White was pulled from CBS’s parade as her fame grew. The decision was especially difficult for White as she had to sit at home feeling down on New Year’s Day. She had to watch in despair as someone else did her parade.
White was married three times
A peek into Betty White’s love life is proof that marriages can be especially challenging for entertainers. White was married three times; her first husband was Dick Barker, to whom she got married and divorced in the same year, 1945.
Perhaps she couldn’t adjust to living in his environment as she reportedly spent four months on his chicken farm in Ohio before returning to Los Angeles. She met Lane Allen after and they got married in 1947 but then got divorced two years later. According to reports, Allen wanted White to quit her career in entertainment. And the third time was to Allen Ludden, who she remained married to until his death in 1981.
She loved vodka martinis
Those that knew Betty White well knew about her love for vodka. She particularly loved Vodka martinis and she admitted to David Letterman that drinking it was a sort of hobby for her. The screen doyennes loved to have her martinis on the rocks with a whole lot of lemons in it.
As her go-to drink, she loved to joke that drinking vodka kept her young and she was thrilled by the image of sitting in a rocking chair at home while doing nothing but watching shows and drinking a martini.
The 1958 Plymouth Lineup was introduced by Betty White
Among the many endorsements that Betty White had at the peak of her career was one with Plymouth. She even starred in a commercial for the 1958 lineup and she got to unveil the 1958 Plymouth to the world. The car soon became an important piece of Hollywood history and it was featured in a movie called Christine nearly 30 years after.
Plymouth leveraged White’s enormous popularity back then to promote their vehicle to viewers. She even famously stated that the car was just like hers and she would go out for drives so she could be seen in it.
She filmed a tribute to fans before she died
Betty White died only a few weeks shy of her 100th birthday. Fortunately for fans, she did one last interview shortly before she died. The interview included a video message that was dedicated to the fans that followed her throughout her years in entertainment.
As part of the celebrations for her 100th birthday, White was involved in a documentary special called Betty White: 100 Years Young-A Birthday Celebration. The documentary was meant to be aired in theaters across the US.
White was deemed the First Lady of Game Shows
Betty White became the first woman to win a Daytime Emmy Award in the Outstanding Game Show Host category in 1983. She won the award for NBC’s Just Men. The considerable effort she put into making the show is the reason she was regarded as the "First Lady of Game Shows."
She soon found a recurring role playing Ellen Harper Jackson on Mama’s Family along with Rue McClanahan. Her Ellen Harper character came from a couple of her sketches from the 1970s.
She and Bea Arthur weren’t BFFs
Despite her warm and loving personality, Betty White wasn’t able to get along with everyone. It isn’t unusual for people to be rubbed off by certain aspects of an individual’s personality as this was the case with Betty White and Bea Arthur.
The co-stars had a strained relationship on and off the set of The Golden Girls because Arthur wasn’t fond of White and found her annoying sometimes. White thought Bea got put off by her positive outlook and personality. They both had respect for each other though, and their time on the show left a mark on both actresses.
White made 22 appearances on The Bold and the Beautiful
The era of The Golden Girls came to an end in 1992 but that wasn’t the end for Betty White’s Rose Nylund character. She got to reprise the character on NBC shows Nurses and Empty Nest, both of which she made guest appearances on.
She joined the set of the soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful in 2006, portraying Ann Douglas and she made a total of 22 appearances on the show. White’s Ann Douglas character was the lost mother of the matriarch.
She earned several awards for her work with animals
Betty White’s charitable work with animals didn’t go unnoticed and it is for this reason that she was given different awards for her work with animals. In 1987, she was awarded a Humane Award by the American Veterinary Medical Association.
The city of Los Angeles, where she lived so many years of her life, also honored her for her work with animals by awarding her a bronze commemorative plaque in 2006. The award was given to her close to the Los Angeles Zoo’s Gorilla Exhibit.
Her lifelong dream of becoming a forest ranger was fulfilled in 2010
Betty White’s passion for animals made her aspire to become a forest ranger but she didn’t get to fulfill this dream in her younger years because it was unusual for women to do such work back then.
However, her lifelong dream was fulfilled in 2010 when she was made an honorary forest ranger by the USDA Forest Service. When White was honored, about a third of the employees of the Forest Service were women as times changed and the Forest Service began employing women as rangers.
She also wanted to be an opera singer
Although she is remembered as Hollywood’s golden girl and an entertainer with perhaps the longest career ever, Betty White had other aspirations when she was younger. While discussing her role in The Lorax, White revealed to the Canadian Press that she wanted to be an opera singer when she was younger and she even took singing lessons.
This explains how the actress sang in several movies she was featured in, including The Lorax which she sang a few bars on. We are sure Betty doesn't want to be remembered for her singing but nonetheless, fans went crazy whenever she did so.
She played poker regularly
Along with a group of friends, Betty White played a poker game regularly. They played dealer’s choice and White had her own favorite game which is called Screw Thy Neighbor. This variant of the game grants the chance to either pass a card to another player or retain it.
White and her friends had a brass cup on which Pico Poker Club was engraved. The purpose of the cup was for it to be taken home by the individual that emerged victorious at the end of the night. However, the winner would have to bring back the cup or be compelled to pay $2,000.
She was close to David Letterman
Betty White became a fan of David Letterman early in his career. He first appeared on TV in a show that White co-hosted with her third husband Ludden, so the hosts were credited for bringing him to the limelight.
However, Letterman’s career was also aided by an appearance on Mary Tyler Moore’s variety show and he remained friends with Betty White since. Even after White turned 89, she still celebrated David Letterman with some glasses of vodka on The Late Show.
White didn’t have children
Betty White was married three times but she didn’t have any biological children in any of those marriages. According to reports, White had no regrets about not having children because she thought children would have been her full focus and she wouldn’t have gotten to focus on her career as she wanted.
She however saw her stepchildren as a blessing and she had as many as 26 dogs at one point in her life while also remaining active in animal welfare and charity events. She graced the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association’s 45th Annual Beastly Ball in June 2015.
She loved at-home activities
When White was 99 years old, the COVID-19 pandemic was ravaging across the globe so she couldn’t interact with friends and loved ones like she wanted to because of safety concerns and her age. White instead kept herself going with different at-home activities like crossword puzzles which she excelled at.
She also read newspapers and saw some TV while sipping vodka martinis and snacking on French fries. White managed to get a lot of exercise done by climbing up and down her bedroom stairs. I think it's safe to say this is the kind of retirement we'd all love to have.
White starred in a commercial that aired during the Super Bowl
In 2010, Betty White was featured in a Snickers candy bar commercial that was shown during the Super Bowl. In the advert, she was shown playing football with a couple of teenagers and she was about to receive a pass when she was tackled to the ground.
A conversation then ensued between them, and White got to express some of that humor that made her an icon. The reactions to her appearance in the advert led to a huge outcry on the internet by fans that petitioned for her to host Saturday Night Live.
She embraced her age as she got older
Betty White’s enigmatic presence on television and the entertainment scene persisted even when she got older. She continued to appear on talk shows and TV shows where she portrayed a demure old lady character with lots of jokes and punchlines.
She addressed her career in her advanced age during an interview with a newspaper in 2012 during which she said she thought people were fascinated with the fact that she was still working at 90. She further said she was grateful to still get invited to such events but she was as surprised as everyone else that she could.
White thought her talk show career affected her acting career
Her vast work in the entertainment industry included stretches in which she doubled as a talk show host and an actress. Balancing it all up can be tough sometimes which is why Ms. White believed that her career as a talk show host affected her acting career and she wasn’t regarded as a serious actress because of it.
She had reason to believe this was the case because she wasn’t considered for the complicated role of Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. This is also why she may have focused on comedy instead of trying to break her stereotype of being the funny one.
She loved the medium of TV
During an interview with the Toronto Star in 1986, Betty White declared her love for the medium that television provides. White said despite what some individuals felt about TV, she still loved it because it provides immediacy and the opportunity it gives to reach thousands of people at once.
She thought TV was an entity that has its own vitality, unlike stage performances that don’t permit entertainers to have one-on-one interactions with the audience and films that completely remove performers from the audience.
Betty White loved Hot Dogs as much as Vodka
Betty White loved Pink’s hot dogs as much as she loved animals. She loved to have her favorite meal at the hot dog stand in Los Angeles. Her favorite restaurant, Pink’s Hot Dogs, honored the Hollywood icon by naming a special kind of hot dog after her.
It is called The Betty White Naked Hot Dog and what makes it special is how proceeds from the sales of the hot dogs were donated to the Los Angeles Zoo for about a week. If you are ever around the area, stop by and order her famous hot dog, you won't be let down.
White was a beautiful model in her younger years
There's a reason Betty White was Hollywood's golden girl for so many decades; she was super talented and also quite gorgeous. She was voted the best-looking female by her classmates in the 1930s. Her good looks also allowed her to find work as a model before she started her acting career.
She worked at the Bliss Hayden Little theater in LA which was her first gig. Even when White got older, her beauty remained and she looked remarkable for someone her age and she still made appearances in commercials.
She became a member of The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences at 95
Even though she spent nearly all her life in entertainment, Betty White wasn't a member of the prestigious Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences until 2017. She was 95 at the time she got the invitation to become a member, making her the oldest new member of the association.
The organization facilitates The Academy Awards and The Oscars and the members get to vote on the best movies of the year while also deciding who should get which award.
White cuddled President Obama’s dog
President Obama hosted Betty White at the White House in 2012. As a lifelong animal lover and enthusiast, it isn’t surprising that White spent most of her visit cuddled up with the President’s dog Bo on her lap.
Even though she spent a big chunk of her visit with Bo, she still got to chat with the former US President; when he asked what she would do if she wasn’t in entertainment, she told him she’d be a zookeeper if she wasn’t in entertainment.
Mayor of Hollywood and Walk of Fame
Betty White was named the fourth honorary mayor of Hollywood in 1955 for her accomplishments in the entertainment industry. She had been a pioneer of television since her career kicked off and she broke new ground as a woman in show business.
White was voted mayor by fans who cast ballots; she got higher votes than other prominent people in entertainment. This helped raise about $14,000 and she also honored the 20th anniversary of Social Security with a proclamation that she issued. She also received her Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1995 for her decades-long career. She was truly a Hollywood legend and one of the city's brightest lights.
White was America’s most trusted celebrity
Betty White was American television’s golden girl and she was loved across the country. Through her decades in entertainment, she was loved for more reasons than one. She was voted the most trusted American celebrity in 2011 by 2,000 Americans who participated in a poll conducted by Reuters and Ipsos.
White got a commendation from fans for being someone whose endorsement of a brand was likely to improve business. Considering the number of brands that have worked with her and the success of the products she promoted, that assessment was spot on.