Remembering the Iconic Betty White

Abby Thomas '23, Sports Editor

“Kindness and consideration of somebody besides yourself keeps you feeling young.” – Betty White

America’s snowy-haired sweetheart, and an iconic and hilarious actress, sadly passed away at the age of 99 on December 31, 2021. Betty White was a trailblazer in the entertainment industry and a strong advocate for animal rights. 

After she passed on New Year’s Eve, author and activist Glennon Doyle tweeted this out on Twitter: “Maybe Betty just didn’t want us to be mad at 2022. What a joyful loving force. Let’s all be more like Betty.” 

White graduated from Beverly Hills High School in 1939 and jumped right into the entertainment industry. Her first gig was in 1940 at a radio station. She ended up bouncing around as a guest on many radio stations in the ‘40s, before she got her first recurring job on Hollywood on Television. On this show, White worked as a “girl Friday,” someone who worked as an assistant for a business executive. Afterward, she became the host of the show until she co-founded Bandy Productions in 1952, allowing her to work on more of her own projects.

In October of 1953, Life with Elizabeth premiered with White in the leading role. She produced and co-created the show, which lasted until 1955, and this experience highlighted her array of talents and dedication to the industry. Two years later, in 1957, she starred in Date with the Angels. Slowly, White was becoming more well known. Taking a break from scripted shows, she went on to frequently star in various game shows, including Password, where she met her future husband Allen Ludden. The two would fly to cities all over the country to meet up and see one another, before realizing that they were simply in love. White and Ludden were happily married for 18 years, before his death in 1981.

In 1962, she starred in her first film in a minor role, Advise & Consent

Beginning in 1973, White joined The Mary Tyler Moore Show, a sitcom that brought her three Emmy nominations and two wins. When that ended in 1977, she starred in The Betty White Show for a year, with brief roles in other projects such as The Love Boat and Mama’s Family

In 1985, the role that would shape much of White’s career came to fruition. The Golden Girls first aired that year, with White playing Rose Nylund alongside Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan, and Estelle Getty. She received seven Emmy nominations and one win for her role on The Golden Girls. The show ended in 1992, with a spin-off series featuring White’s fan-favorite character, the beloved Rose, that only lasted one season. She continued her acting career, starring in TV series such as That ’70s Show, Boston Legal, and The Bold and the Beautiful. White was inducted in the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 1995.

White returned to film in 1998 with Hard Rain, starring Morgan Freeman, Christian Slater and Ed Asner. She went on to appear in The Story of Us (1999) with Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfieffer, and Bringing Down The House (2003) with Queen Latifah and Steve Martin. 

In 2009 White starred in the hit romantic comedy The Proposal with Sandra Bullock, Ryan Reynolds, Mary Steenburgen, Craig T. Nelson, and Oscar Nunez. She played the beloved Grandma Annie to Reynolds’ Andrew Paxton, stealing the spotlight with her witty remarks and iconic campfire chanting scene.

With the help of The Proposal, White shot back up to fame. In 2010 she was featured in a Super Bowl commercial, causing fans to launch a campaign to get White to host Saturday Night Live. In May of that year, she became SNL’s oldest host and even earned an Emmy for her appearance. In June, she joined Hot in Cleveland, which ran for five years. Throughout those five years, she starred in Betty White’s Off Their Rockers and Betty White’s Smartest Animals in America. She also starred in another romantic comedy in September of 2010 titled You Again, acting alongside Kristen Bell, Sigourney Weaver, and Jamie Lee Curtis. She had an emotional role in the 2011 drama The Lost Valentine in which she played a widower whose husband died in WWII. White also had a few smaller roles in animated films such as The Lorax (2012) and Toy Story 4 (2019).

In 2015, White received the TV Icon award at the People’s Choice Awards. Captain America actor Chris Evans eagerly put his arm out and escorted her from her seat up to the stage where she was handed a large bouquet of flowers. 

White was celebrated in the 2018 documentary, Betty White: First Lady of Television. In addition, at the 70th Emmy Awards that year, she was honored for having the longest career as an actor or actress in television ever. As she walked on stage she received a standing ovation, and in her speech went on to say “It’s incredible that I’m still in this business and you are still putting up with me.”

More recently, Betty White: A Celebration was released on Netflix on her 100th birthday, January 17, 2022, to remember her life. It featured her last interview before passing and additional interviews from notable performers Clint Eastwood, Carol Burnett, Morgan Freeman, Robert Redford, Tina Fey, Ryan Reynolds, and Lin-Manuel Miranda. 

Betty White: A Celebration was made to look back on her 100 years of life, when she unexpectedly passed away before her landmark birthday. Now, the documentary honors her 99 beautiful years of life and all that she accomplished. She is also remembered with the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award which she received in 2010.

Fans of White’s memorialized her on her birthday by creating the “#BettyWhiteChallenge.” The hashtag promoted people to donate $5 to their local animal shelters in White’s name to honor her lifelong love for animals. The #BettyWhiteChallenge raised $12.7 million for animal shelters and rescues!

Betty White’s infectious smile, iconic personality, and beautiful spirit will live on forever in our hearts. Her enthusiasm and hard work led her to great heights in her career and brought her profound fame. But she stayed true to who she was, never letting the pressure or the stardom get to her. White was always so full of light and did everything she could to spread joy to anyone with whom she came in contact. She is an inspiration to people all over the world, children and adults alike, and I hope that SLS students will channel their inner Betty White in their daily lives.