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Betty Marion White (born January 17, 1922) is an Americanmarker actress, comedian and former television host with a career spanning over sixty-five years. Her television roles include Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Rose Nylund on The Golden Girls.

White has won six Emmy Awards and received 18 Emmy nominations over the course of her career, and was the first woman to ever receive an Emmy for game show hosting. She has also made regular appearances on the game shows Password and Match Game and played recurring roles on Mama's Family and Boston Legal. She is also recognized for her affiliation with animal charities such as "Actors and Others for Animals" and the Morris Animal Foundation.

Life and career

Early life

White was born in Oak Park, Illinoismarker, daughter of Horace L. White, a traveling salesman and electrical engineer, and his wife Tess Cachikis. She was raised in Los Angelesmarker, Californiamarker. White attended Horace Mann Middle School in Beverly Hills, Californiamarker, and Beverly Hills High Schoolmarker, where she graduated in 1939.


Before embarking on her television career, White found work modeling. She debuted on television in 1949, when she began appearing with Al Jarvis on his daily, live television variety show, Hollywood on Television on KLAC-TVmarker in Los Angeles. White began hosting the show in 1952 after Jarvis' departure.

In 1952, the same year she began hosting Hollywood on Television, White co-founded Bandy Productions with writer George Tibbles and Don Fedderson, a producer. The trio worked to create new shows using existing characters from sketches Hollywood on Television. White, Fedderson and Tibbles created the television comedy Life With Elizabeth, based on a Hollywood on Television sketch. White portrayed the title character on the sitcom from 1952 to 1955, which effectively boosted her career. The show, which she also co-produced, garnered White her first Emmy Award. Life With Elizabeth was nationally syndicated by the mid-1950s, allowing White to become one of the only women in television with full creative control in front of and behind the camera at the time.

In 1954, she briefly hosted and produced her own daily talk show entitled The Betty White Show on NBC (not to be confused with her 1970s sitcom of the same name). Following Life with Elizabeth, she appeared as Vicki Angel on the sitcom Date with the Angels from 1957 to 1958. The show later became another variety series before going off the air. White also performed in commercials seen on live television in Los Angeles, including a spirited rendition of the "Dr. Ross Dog Food" advertisement at KTLAmarker during the 1950s.

She made her film debut as Kansas Senator Elizabeth Ames Adams in the 1962 drama, Advise and Consent.

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, White appeared on a number of late night talkshows and daytime game shows, including Password. White made many appearances on the hit game show Password as a guest celebrity from 1961 through 1975. She married the show's host, Allen Ludden in 1963. She subsequently appeared on the show's three updated versions Password Plus , Super Password, and Million Dollar Password, having been on versions of the game with five different hosts (Ludden, Cullen, Kennedy, Convy, and Philbin).White made frequent game show appearances on What's My Line? (starting in 1955), To Tell the Truth (in 1961 and in 1990), I've Got a Secret (in 1972-73), Match Game (1973-1982) and Pyramid (starting in 1982). Both Password and Pyramid were created by White's friend, Bob Stewart. In 1983, she became the first woman to win a Daytime Emmy Award in the category of Outstanding Game Show Host, for the NBC entry Just Men!. Due to the amount of work she has done on them, she has been deemed the "First Lady of Game Shows".

In 1973, White appeared in a guest spot on The Mary Tyler Moore Show as The Happy Homemaker. As a result of her guest appearance, White landed her signature role as the sardonic, man-hungry Sue Ann Nivens, The Happy Homemaker, on The Mary Tyler Moore Show as a full time cast member. The running gag was that Sue Ann's hard-edged private personality was the complete opposite of how she presented herself on her show. "We need somebody sickeningly sweet, like Betty White," Moore herself suggested at a production meeting, with the result of casting White. White won two back-to-back Emmy Awards for her role in the hugely popular series.

Following that show's end in 1977, she was given her own sitcom on CBS, The Betty White Show, during the 1977-78 season, in which she co-starred with John Hillerman and (former Mary Tyler Moore co-star) Georgia Engel. It was canceled after one season. White began guest starring in a number of television movies and television miniseries, including With This Ring, The Place to Be, Before and After and The Gossip Columnist.

1980s – 2000s

White at the 1988 Emmy Awards
From 1983 through 1985, she had a recurring role playing Ellen Harper Jackson on the series Mama's Family for three years, along with future Golden Girls co-star Rue McClanahan. When Mama's Family was picked up in syndication after being canceled by NBC in 1985, White left the show (with the exception of one final appearance in the show's syndicated version in 1986).

In 1985, she scored a memorable role as the naive St. Olaf, Minnesota-native Rose Nylund on The Golden Girls. The series chronicled the lives of four widowed or divorced women in their "golden years" who shared a home in Miamimarker. The Golden Girls, which also starred Beatrice Arthur, Estelle Getty, and Rue McClanahan, was immensely successful and ran from 1985 through 1992. White won one Emmy Award, for Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series, for the first season of The Golden Girls and was nominated every year of the show's run. When Beatrice Arthur left in 1992, White, McClanahan, and Getty reprised their roles Rose, Blanche, and Sophia in the spin-off The Golden Palace. The series was short-lived, lasting only one season. In addition, White reprised her Rose Nylund character in guest appearances on the NBC shows Empty Nest and Nurses, both of which were set in Miami.

White at the 1989 Emmy Awards
White was originally offered the role of Blanche in The Golden Girls, and Rue McClanahan was offered the role of Rose (the two characters being similar to roles they had played in Mary Tyler Moore and Maude respectively). Jay Sandrich, who was director of the pilot, suggested since they had played similar roles in the past, they should switch roles, Rue McClanahan later said in a documentary on the series. White was originally scared to play the role of Rose, feeling that she would not be able to play the role until the show's creator took her aside and told her not to play Rose as stupid but to play her as someone "terminally naive, a person who always believed the first explanation of something." As of September 2009, White is, alongside McClanahan, one of the two surviving cast members following the deaths of Estelle Getty in July 2008 and Bea Arthur in April 2009.

After The Golden Palace was canceled, White guest-starred on a number of television programs including Ally McBeal, The Ellen Show, My Wife and Kids, That 70s Show, Everwood, Joey, and Malcolm in the Middle. She received Emmy Award nominations for her appearances on Suddenly Susan, Yes, Dear and The Practice. She won an Emmy in 1996 for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series, appearing as herself on a memorable episode of The John Larroquette Show. In that episode, titled "Here We Go Again", a spoof on Sunset Boulevard, a diva-like White convinces Larroquette to help write her memoirs. In one bit, Golden Girls co-stars McClanahan and Getty appear as themselves. Larroquette is forced to dress in drag as Beatrice Arthur, when all four appear in public as the "original" cast members. White comically envisions her Rose as the central character with the other cast members as mere supporting players.

The actress has lent her voice to several animated shows including The Simpsons, King of the Hill, The Wild Thornberrys, Family Guy and Father of the Pride. In 1999, she had a supporting role in the comedic horror film Lake Placid, as a seemingly sweet widow with a shockingly foul mouth later revealed to have raised the giant crocodile (which accidentally ate her husband).

In December 2006, White joined the soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful in the role of Ann Douglas, the long-lost mother of the show's matriarch Stephanie Forrester, who is played by Susan Flannery. In February 2007, White returned as Ann, who had an intent to move to Los Angelesmarker to be near her daughters. The characters of Ann and Pamela Douglas (Alley Mills) disappeared after their March 27, 2007, appearance and were not mentioned again until October 19, 2007, when Ann appeared briefly. White would go on to appear in three more episodes following that, one on December 10, 2007; August 28, 2008; and October 28, 2008. She returned to the show on November 18, 2009 and in the November 19, 2009 episode her character revealed that she was dying of advanced pancreatic cancer. To date she has made 22 appearances as Ann Douglas. In the November 23, 2009 episode Ann passes away due to complications from her illness with both of her daughters next to her on the beach at Paradise Cove.

In the broadcast of the 2007 TV Land Awards, White starred in a parody of Ugly Betty, aptly titled Ugly Betty White, in which she played America Ferrera's title character, with Charo playing Betty's sister Hilda and Erik Estrada playing her father Ignacio. Because of her performance as Ugly Betty White, the producers of Ugly Betty signed White to play herself as the victim of Wilhelmina Slater's temper as they both vie for a cab in the episode "Bananas for Betty", which aired December 6, 2007.

White had a recurring role in ABC's Boston Legal from 2005 to 2008 as the calculating, blackmailing gossip-monger Catherine Piper, a role she originally portrayed as a guest star on The Practice in 2004.

White appeared as a roaster on the Comedy Central Roast of William Shatner in 2006. On May 19, 2008, White appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, taking part in the host's Mary Tyler Moore Show reunion special alongside every single surviving cast member of the series.

She was honored at the Sixth Annual TV Land Awards with the Pop Culture Award on June 8, 2008. She accepted it along with co-stars Bea Arthur and Rue McClanahan.

White returned to Password in its latest incarnation, Million Dollar Password with host Regis Philbin, on June 12, 2008 (episode #3), participating in the Million Dollar challenge at the end of the show. Her quick correct responses helped the contestant win $100,000. Betty returned to the show again on December 28, 2008 (episode #9), helping the contestants win $25,000 each. White has made a number of appearances in skits on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, playing the part of an Exxon representative, a girl scout, an accountant with a briefcase full of cocaine, a nurse who just got her medical license from El Salvador, a newspaper delivery girl, and a prison guard. She also appeared as herself with a shoe box full of receipts, explaining that she was doing her taxes. She also appeared as herself to promote Together: A Story of Shared Vision by her and Tom Sullivan. On July 18, 2008, she also appeared on the Tonight Show With Jay Leno in a skit entitled "Can You Make Betty White Flinch".

White recently guest starred as the "Witch lady" on an episode of My Name is Earl, and starred on Chelsea Handler's late night show Chelsea Lately. Some of her other most recent television credits in the 2000s include Stealing Christmas, Annie's Point and The Retrievers. Her film credits in the late 1990s and early 2000s included Hard Rain, Dennis the Menace Strikes Again and Bringing Down the House, in which she co-starred with Steve Martin and Queen Latifah.

White appeared in the 2009 motion picture, The Proposal with Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds. White provided the English-language voice of Yoshie in the anime film Ponyo, which was released in Japanmarker in 2008 and in the United Statesmarker and Canadamarker on August 14, 2009. She has signed on to co-star with Kirsten Bell in the upcoming film, You Again.


White is a pet enthusiast and animal health advocate who works with a number of animal organizations, including the Los Angeles Zoomarker Commission, the Morris Animal Foundation, and Actors & Others for Animals. Her interest in animal rights and welfare began in the early 1970s, while she was both producing and hosting the syndicated series, The Pet Set, which spotlighted celebrities and their pets.

As of 2009, White is the president emeritus of the Morris Animal Foundation, where she has served as a trustee of the organization since 1971. She has been a member of the board of directors of the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association since 1974. Additionally, White also served the zoo association as a Zoo Commissioner for eight years.

According to the Los Angeles Zoomarker & Botanical Garden's "ZooScape" Member Newsletter, Betty White hosted "History on Film" from 2000-2002. White donated nearly $100,000 to the Zoo in the month of April 2008 alone.

Personal life

In 1945, White married Dick Barker, an U.S. Air Force pilot. The marriage was short lived.In 1947, she married Lane Allen, a Hollywood agent. This marriage also ended in divorce two years later.

On June 14, 1963, White married television host and personality Allen Ludden, whom she had met on Password. He proposed to White at least twice before she accepted. The couple appeared together in an episode of The Odd Couple featuring Felix's and Oscar's appearance on Password. Ludden also appeared as a guest panelist on Match Game, with White sitting in the audience (she was prompted to rip apart one of Ludden's wrong answers on camera during an episode of Match Game '74); the two appeared together on the panel in 1975.

Already diagnosed with stomach cancer in early 1980, Ludden suffered a debilitating stroke by the fall of that year, which forced him to retire. Ludden's cancer eventually returned and he died on June 9, 1981, in Los Angelesmarker. They had no children together. White has not remarried since Ludden's death.

Awards, honors and nominations

White has won six Emmy Awards, three American Comedy Awards (including a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1990), and two Viewers For Quality Television Awards. She was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1995 and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Famemarker at 6747 Hollywood Boulevardmarker alongside the star of late husband Allen Ludden.

White was the recipient of the Pacific Pioneers in Broadcasting Golden Ike Award and the Genii Award from the American Women in Radio and Television in 1976. The American Comedy Awards awarded her the award for Funniest Female in 1987 as well as the Lifetime Achievement Award in 1990. She was formally inducted into the Television Academy's Hall of Fame in 1995. In 2009, White received the Career Achievement Award from the Television Critics Association.

The American Veterinary Medical Association awarded White with its Humane Award in 1987 for her charitable work with animals. The City of Los Angeles further honored her for her philanthropic work with animals in 2006 with a bronze plaque near the Gorilla Exhibit at the Los Angeles Zoomarker. The City of Los Angeles named her "Ambassador to the Animals" at the dedication ceremony.

In September 2009, the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) announced plans to honor White with the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award at the 16th Screen Actors Guild Awards on January 23, 2010. The awards ceremony will take place at the Shrine Auditoriummarker in Los Angeles.

Emmy Awards

Emmy Award Nominations
  • 1951 - Best Actress
  • 1977 - Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series - The Mary Tyler Moore Show
  • 1984 - Outstanding Game Show Host - Just Men!
  • 1987 - Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series - The Golden Girls
  • 1988 - Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series - The Golden Girls
  • 1989 - Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series - The Golden Girls
  • 1990 - Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series - The Golden Girls
  • 1991 - Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series - The Golden Girls
  • 1992 - Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series - The Golden Girls
  • 1997 - Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series - Suddenly Susan
  • 2003 - Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series - Yes, Dear
  • 2004 - Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series - The Practice
  • 2009 - Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series - My Name Is Earl





  2. "Guadalajara Girl: Yes, it's Ugly Betty White." 2007-04-07

Further reading

  • Tucker, David C. The Women Who Made Television Funny: Ten Stars of 1950s Sitcoms. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2007.

External links

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