Betty White is an American actress, animal rights activist, author, comedian, radio host, singer, and television personality.
Let’s see some interesting facts about her!
1. Betty Marion White Ludden was born January 17, 1922 in Oak Park, Illinois.
2. She has stated that her legal name is Betty and not a shortened version of Elizabeth.
3. She is the only child of Christine Tess, a homemaker, and Horace Logan White, a lighting company executive.
4. Her paternal grandfather was Danish and her maternal grandfather was Greek, with her other roots being English and Welsh (both of her grandmothers were Canadian).
5. White’s family moved to Alhambra, California and later to Los Angeles, during the Great Depression.
6. To make extra money, her father would build radios and sell them wherever he could.
7. Since it was the height of the Depression, and hardly anyone had a sizable income, he would trade the radios in exchange for dogs.
8. She attended Horace Mann School Beverly Hills and Beverly Hills High School and aspired to become a forest ranger.
9. However, women weren’t allowed to become rangers during this time.
10. Instead, White pursued an interest in writing. She wrote and played the lead in a graduation play at Horace Mann School and discovered her interest in performing. This is where she decided to become an actress.
11. White made rounds to movie studios looking for work, but was always turned down because she was “unphotogenic”. So then she started to look for radio jobs where being photogenic did not matter.
12. Her first radio jobs included reading commercials and playing bit parts, and sometimes even doing crowd noises. She made about five dollars a show. She would do just about anything, like singing on a show for no money, or making an appearance on the local game show.
13. White began her television career in 1939, three months after high school graduation, when she and a classmate sang songs from The Merry Widow on an experimental Los Angeles channel.
14. White found work modeling, and her first professional acting job was at the Bliss Hayden Little Theatre. White’s career was disrupted immediately, as World War II broke out, causing her to join the American Women’s Voluntary Services.
15. In the 1940s, she worked in radio, appearing on shows such as Blondie, The Great Gildersleeve, and This is Your FBI.
16. She then got her own radio show, called The Betty White Show.
17. In 1949, she began appearing as co-host with Al Jarvis on his daily live television variety show Hollywood on Television, originally called Al Jarvis’ Make-Believe Ballroom on KFWB radio and on KLAC-TV in Los Angeles.
18. White began hosting the show by herself in 1952 after Jarvis’ departure, spanning five and a half hours of live ad-lib television six days per week over a contiguous four-year span altogether.
19. In all of her various variety series over the years, White would sing at least a couple of songs during each broadcast.
20. In 1951, she was nominated for her first Emmy Award as “Best Actress” on television, competing with such legendary stars as Judith Anderson, Helen Hayes, and Imogene Coca (the award went to Gertrude Berg). This was the very first award and category in the new Emmy history designated for women on television.
21. In 1952, the same year that 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 shown on Hollywood on Television.
22. White, Fedderson, and Tibbles created the television comedy Life with Elizabeth, with White portraying the title role. The show was originally a live production on KLAC-TV in 1951, and won White a Regional Los Angeles Emmy in 1952.
23. Life with Elizabeth was nationally syndicated from 1952 to 1955, allowing White to become one of the few women in television with full creative control in front of and behind the camera. The show was unusual for a sitcom in the 1950s because it was co-produced and owned by a twenty-eight-year-old woman who still lived with her parents.
24. In 1954, she briefly hosted and produced her own daily talk show, The Betty White Show, on NBC (not to be confused with her 1970s sitcom of the same name).
25. White performed in commercials seen on live television in Los Angeles, including a rendition of the “Dr. Ross Dog Food” advertisement at KTLA during the 1950s.
26. She made her feature film debut as Kansas Senator Elizabeth Ames Adams in the 1962 drama, Advise & Consent. Although her performance was well received, it would be her only big-screen appearance for decades.
27. Through the 1950s and 1960s, White began a nineteen-year run as hostess and commentator on the annual Tournament of Roses Parade broadcast on NBC (often co-hosting with Lorne Greene), and appeared on a number of late night talk shows and daytime game shows.
28. In 1973, White made several guest appearances in the fourth season of the CBS sitcom The Mary Tyler Moore Show. As a result of this appearance, she landed the regular role of the sardonic, man-hungry Sue Ann Nivens, “The Happy Homemaker”, on the show.
29. White would receive her second and third Emmys from her part on The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
30. In 1975, NBC replaced her as hostess and commentator on the Tournament of Roses Parade broadcast feeling she was too identified with rival network CBS due to her new found success on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. White admitted to People magazine it was difficult “watching someone else do my parade”, although she soon would start a ten-year run as hostess of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade for CBS.
31. Following the end of The Mary Tyler Moore Show in 1977, White got her own sitcom on CBS, her second series entitled The Betty White Show (the first having been broadcast a quarter century earlier), 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.
32. White appeared several times onThe Carol Burnett Show and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson appearing in many sketches, and began guest-starring in a number of television movies and television miniseries, including With This Ring, The Best Place to Be, Before and After, and The Gossip Columnist.
33. 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”.
33. From 1983 through 1985, she had a recurring role playing Ellen Harper Jackson on the series Mama’s Family, along with future Golden Girls co-star Rue McClanahan. White had originated this character in a series of sketches on The Carol Burnett Show in the 1970s.
34. In 1985, White scored her second signature role and the biggest hit of her career as the St. Olaf, Minnesota-native Rose Nylund on The Golden Girls.
35. The show ended in 1992 after Arthur announced her decision to depart the series. White, McClanahan, and Getty reprised their roles Rose, Blanche, and Sophia in the spin-off The Golden Palace.
36. 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 set in Miami.
37. After The Golden Palace ended, White guest-starred on a number of television programs including Suddenly Susan, The Practice, and Yes, Dear where she received Emmy nominations for her individual appearances.
38. She won an Emmy in 1996 for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series, appearing as herself on an episode of The John Larroquette Show.
39. In December 2006, White joined the soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful in the role of Ann Douglas (where she would make 22 appearances), the long-lost mother of the show’s matriarch, Stephanie Forrester, played by Susan Flannery.
40. She also began a recurring role in ABC’s Boston Legal from 2005 to 2008 as the calculating, blackmailing gossip-monger Catherine Piper, a role she originally played as a guest star on The Practice in 2004.
41. White appeared several times on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson appearing in many sketches and returned to Password in its latest incarnation, Million Dollar Password, on June 12, 2008, (episode #3), participating in the Million Dollar challenge at the end of the show. On May 19, 2008, she appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, taking part in the host’s Mary Tyler Moore Show reunion special alongside every surviving cast member of the series.
42. Beginning in 2007, White was featured in television commercials for PetMeds, highlighting her interest in animal rights and welfare.
43. A grassroots campaign on Facebook called “Betty White to Host SNL (Please)” began in January 2010. The group was approaching 500,000 members when NBC confirmed on March 11, 2010 that White would in fact host Saturday Night Live on May 8. The appearance made her, at age 88, the oldest person to host the show, beating Miskel Spillman, the winner of SNL’s “Anybody Can Host” contest, who was 80 when she hosted in 1977.
44. In her opening monologue, White thanked Facebook and joked that she “didn’t know what Facebook was, and now that I do know what it is, I have to say, it sounds like a huge waste of time.”
45. In 2011, she was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for her role as Elka, but lost to Julie Bowen for Modern Family.
46. A Betty White calendar for 2011 was published in late 2010. The calendar features photos from White’s career and with various animals.
47. She also launched her own clothing line on July 22, 2010, which features shirts with her face on them. All proceeds go to various animal charities she supports.
48. From 2012 to 2014, White hosted and executive produced Betty White’s Off Their Rockers, in which senior citizens play practical jokes on the younger generation. For this show, she received three Emmy nominations.
49. A special Betty White’s 90th Birthday Party aired on NBC a day before her birthday on January 16, 2012. The show featured appearances of many stars with whom White has worked over the years.
50. Betty White’s Off Their Rockers aired following the celebratory event, and returned in April 2012 as a recurring show which resulted in an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality-Competition Program.
51. White’s success continued in 2012 with her first Grammy Award for a spoken word recording for her best seller If You Ask Me. She also won the UCLA Jack Benny Award for Comedy, recognizing her significant contribution to comedy in television, and was roasted at the New York Friars’ Club.
52. In January 2013, NBC once again celebrated Betty White’s birthday with a TV special featuring celebrity friends, including former president Bill Clinton; the special aired on February 5.
53. In 1945, White married Dick Barker, a U.S. Army Air Corps pilot. The marriage was short-lived.
54. In 1947, she married Lane Allen, a Hollywood agent. This marriage ended in divorce in 1949.
55. On June 14, 1963, White married television host and personality Allen Ludden, whom she had met on his game show Password as a celebrity guest in 1961, and her legal name was changed to Betty White Ludden.
56. 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 appeared as a guest panelist on Match Game, with White sitting in the audience. (She was prompted to criticize one of Ludden’s wrong answers on camera during an episode of Match Game ’74.) The two appeared together on the Match Game panel in 1974, 1975 and 1980.
57. Allen Ludden died from stomach cancer on June 9, 1981, in Los Angeles. They had no children together, though she is stepmother to his three children from his first marriage, when his wife had died.
58. White has not remarried since Ludden’s death.
59. In an interview with Larry King, when asked whether she would remarry, she replied by saying “Once you’ve had the best, who needs the rest?”