Betty White was a well-known American actress whose attitude and charisma landed her adoration for decades. Playing a crucial role in the rise of television and modern media, White went on to become one of the most popular women behind, and in front of, the camera. With one of the longest careers in television, White received countless awards and honors for her work in entertainment, as well as being a household name across the country. She was not only a talented entertainer and creator but an advocate for inclusivity and equal treatment. Though her passing at the end of 2021 was the end of an era, White will always be remembered as a powerhouse in the entertainment industry.
Going back to the beginning, Mrs. Betty White Ludden was born on January 17th of 1922 in the city of Oak Park, Illinois. Shortly after she was born, her family moved to California, where she would spend her childhood. As a child, White’s family struggled through the Great Depression and she understood at a young age what difficult times felt like and wanted to help. As she got older, she found an interest in the outdoors and wildlife. She mentioned in interviews that she even wanted to be a forest ranger before her career in entertainment, but at that time, women weren’t allowed to do so.
White ended up finding a love for writing in school, which ultimately sparked the beginning of her creative career. When she was in elementary school, White wrote for and starred in a play for her school’s graduation, demonstrating her amazing young talent.
As time went on, White decided that she wanted to try to become an actress. But at this time, film was still the most popular medium of entertainment, and finding a start in it was no easy feat. White told interviewers that she was often denied modeling opportunities or roles in films because she wasn’t “photogenic enough.” Of course, she didn’t let this get in her way. But it wasn’t until after White graduated high school and served time in World War II that she would make her debut within the world of radio and television.
The Beginning of Betty White’s Career
Betty White is most widely known for her role in the popular sitcom The Golden Girls, as well as her prominence in games and variety shows throughout her early career. But before she gained traction through television, White began her entertainment career in radio. She slowly made her way up the ladder from reading short commercials to reading for shows to getting proposed her own show.
At this same time, White made her television debut by co-hosting a talk show that was quite popular at the time known as Hollywood on Television. Soon after, White took strides to push her career forward by co-founding a production company, where she would work to create well-known classics like Life with Elizabeth. This was a major stepping stone for women in the entertainment industry who never had much of a chance to be behind the camera before.
As time went on, White demonstrated that she was much more than just a girl in front of a camera. As a writer and producer, she not only created unique characters that people loved, but she fought for the inclusivity of both women and people of color throughout her career. When White was given her first talk show, The Betty White Show, she hired an African American man named Arthur Duncan to be a performer. At the time, this decision received a great deal of backlash and hatred, to which White simply replied, “Live with it.” Due to the controversy, her show was ultimately canceled. But that didn’t stop her from becoming one of the most well-known women in the entertainment world.
The Golden Years
After Life with Elizabeth ended, White dipped her toes in a few other series, but would find great luck when she began appearing in games and variety shows. Perhaps the most popular of the game shows she appeared in was Password, a game where contestants give each other clues to guess a mystery word or “password.” The show was hosted by Allen Ludden, who White went on to marry in the early 1960s. For the next decade, White was featured on a variety of shows like Late Night with Jonny Carson, and starred in her own self-titled sitcom, The Betty White Show.
In 1985, White landed her infamous role as Rose and The Golden Girls made their television debut.From here, White’s popularity soared even higher. The series depicted a group of older, single women sharing a house and living out their “golden” years together. White went on to play her character Rose for 7 seasons, winning awards all along the way. The series was adored by fans across the country and is still a critically acclaimed sitcom talked about today.
After the popular series came to a finish in the early 1990s, White went on to appear in a soap opera, multiple different television series, and even a film. By 2010, White experienced what many people call a “resurgence” in her popularity. Because of this, she would go on to host Saturday Night Live and appear in multiple other sitcoms and movies.
The End of an Era Betty White’s career is one of longevity and success. From radio to television to filming and production, White had one of the longest, most influential careers in entertainment history. Not only did she win countless awards for her roles in series like The Golden Girls, but she took massive strides for minorities in the entertainment industry like women and people of color. She not only landed a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but a Guinness World Record for the longest female career in entertainment. For over eight decades, White shared her passions and devotion with the world around her, ultimately landing her a spot in hearts across America.
Photo: “Betty White David Shankbone 2010 NYC”