Just shy of turning 100, the iconic American television actor Betty White, passed away on 31st December.
White, who created two of the most memorable characters in sitcom history, Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Rose Nylund on The Golden Girls, changing the face of American television, in the span of her eight decade-long career. She became a phenomenon in popular culture, through the years.
Born as Betty Marion White on January 17, 1922, in Oak Park, Illinois, her family moved to Los Angeles during the Great Depression, where she attended Beverly Hills High School. She started her entertainment career with radio in the late 1930s, and went on to co-host a live TV talkshow called Hollywood on Television, in 1949 . Soon after, changing the course of history of females in the industry, White co-founded a production company and became a co-creator, producer, and star of the 1950s sitcom Life With Elizabeth. Unsurprisingly, she was nominated for her first Emmy Award for best TV actress in 1951.
One of White’s most-loved characters on television went on to be Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show in the 1970s. It even won her two Emmy Awards. This gave her the pathway to another iconic character, Rose Nylund in The Golden Girls, which revolved around the lives of four older women sharing a house in Miami. This again, won her an Emmy for outstanding lead actress in a comedy series, in 1986.
Apart from sitcoms, game shows were her specialty. She appeared on To Tell the Truth, I’ve Got a Secret, What’s My Line?, and The Match Game. Her most notable game show appearance however, was Password, whose host, Allen Ludden, she married in 1963.
After The Golden Girls ended its seven-year run in 1992, White still remained a known face in television. She had a recurring role in The Bold and the Beautiful from 2006 to 2009 and went on to make several on-screen appearances well in her late 90’s, too.
Fans of White even started a Facebook campaign after seeing her in a commercial and asked her to be made a host on the famous Saturday Night Live. And indeed, she went on to be the same. White became the oldest ever person to host Saturday Night Live, joking about the fact that at her age she contacted old friends not with Facebook but with an ouija board. The episode became a phenomenal hit and she ended up winning her eighth Emmy for this in 2015.
Apart from acting, White also published two books in 2011. One was If You Ask Me (And Of Course You Won’t), a collection of essays and anecdotes about her life and career. The other one, Betty & Friends: My Life at the Zoo, was about her immense love for animals.
She made her last public appearance in September 2018 at the Primetime Emmy Awards. “It’s incredible that I’m still in this business and you are still putting up with me,” she joked at the time.
Still not fading away from the spotlight in her late 90s, White did voice-overs till 2019. The actor was planning to celebrate her 100th birthday with a one-night-only film to be shown in select movie theatres.
Betty White, “The First Lady of Television”, will forever live on, in our hearts.
Update: As per a TMZ report, the actor’s official cause of death, as listed by the Los Angeles county, was a cerebrovascular accident, the medical term for stroke.