By any standard, Betty White is one of the most popular and beloved American actresses of this or any time.
From the moment she appeared on television in 1950, critics and audiences fell in love with her. From her hilarious portrayal of the snide “Happy Homemaker” Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and her charming performance as Rose Nylund, the charmingly daft spirit she played on the Touchstone Television series The Golden Girls, to her scene-stealing role as Grandma Annie in Touchstone Pictures’ The Proposal, Betty is proof that if you’re kind, dedicated to your craft, and hysterically funny, getting acting work will never be a problem. Deciding how much you can fit into your incredibly busy schedule, however, may be.
The six-time Emmy Award®-winning actress was born Betty Marion White on January 17, 1922, in Oak Park, Illinois, and raised in Southern California. After hosting a local television show, she formed her own production company in the early 1950s with producer Don Fedderson and writer George Tibbles. The partnership led to her debut comedy series, Life with Elizabeth, for which she won her first Emmy® in 1952. Betty then became a mainstay on variety and game shows and was a much-in-demand regular with Jack Paar, Merv Griffin, and Johnny Carson. Betty then appeared on The Mary Tyler Moore Show in its fourth season, and her legendary star turn as the man-hungry Sue Ann Nivens brought her two Emmys for Best Supporting Actress, for the years 1974-75 and 1975-76.
Equally, if not more beloved, was her spirited performance as Rose Nylund on the critically acclaimed and breakout hit The Golden Girls (1985-1992), for which she was nominated seven times for an Emmy, winning one in 1985. Who can forget her rambling soliloquies about her curious hometown of St. Olaf, Minnesota, which perpetually left her roommates flummoxed but had viewers at home laughing to the point of tears?
“Let’s face it,” Betty said about her character, “Rose is a little bit naive. To her, life is a romantic musical and she’s waiting around to see how it turns out.”
Betty never was good at waiting to see how life turns out. After The Golden Girls, she appeared in a spin-off series, The Golden Palace, won an Emmy for her work on The John Larroquette Show, earned an Emmy nomination for Suddenly Susan, and continued to appear on television shows such as Ally McBeal, That ‘70s Show, Boston Legal, and the daytime soap The Bold and the Beautiful. For Disney, she performed A Conversation with Betty White, taped at the Disney-MGM Studios for Disney Channel, starred in the series Empty Nest as Rose Nylund, and appeared in Maybe This Time. She supplied the voice of Round in Disney’s Whispers: An Elephant Tale. She also played Mrs. Kline in the Touchstone Pictures film Bringing Down the House, opposite Disney Legend Steve Martin.
She is the author or co-author of five books, and in 2006 was honored by the City of Los Angeles as the “Ambassador to the Animals” for her lifelong work for animal welfare. Betty was honored by the Television Critics Association with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009. “You can’t get rid of me,” she joked at the ceremony. “I just won’t go away!”