Betty White, a TV Golden Girl from start, dead at 99

Betty White, who created two of the most memorable characters in sitcom history, nymphomaniac Sue Ann Nivens in “The Mary Tyler Moore Sh...


Betty White, who created two of the most memorable characters in sitcom history, nymphomaniac Sue Ann Nivens in “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and sweet but dark Rose Nylund in “The Golden Girls” – and who has capped her long career with a comeback that included a triumphant appearance as host of “Saturday Night Live” at the age of 88 – died Friday at her Los Angeles home. She was 99 years old.

His death, less than three weeks before his 100th birthday, has been confirmed by Jeff Witjas, his longtime friend and agent.

Ms. White won five Primetime Emmys and a competitive Daytime Emmy – as well as her career-long Daytime Emmy in 2015 and a Los Angeles Regional Emmy in 1952 – during a television career that spanned seven decades and that l 2014 edition of “Guinness World Records” certified as the longest ever recorded for a female artist.

But her breakthrough came relatively late in her life, with her work on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” from 1973 to 1977, for which she won two of her Emmy Awards.

As Sue Ann, host of a household tips show on the TV station where Ms. Moore’s character worked, the embarrassed Ms. White was annoying and optimistic, but also manipulative and bawdy – the sexpot next door , who would have you believe she slept with entire army brigades during WWII.

Once, when someone asked her how she was feeling, Sue Ann responded happily, “I haven’t slept all night. I feel wonderful. “

She won another Emmy in 1986 for a whole different type of character: the naive and brainless Rose in “The Golden Girls,” which revolved around the lives of four older women sharing a house in Miami. While Sue Ann knew all there was to know about putting a man to bed, Rose arrived at the same place innocently and being just a little off center.

Ms. White was the last surviving member of the show’s four stars. Estelle Getty died in 2008, Bea Arthur in 2009 and McClanahan Street in 2010.

Ms. White won her last Emmy in 2010 as an Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for hosting the Mother’s Day episode of “SNL.” She followed that appearance with a regular role on another sitcom, “Hot in Cleveland,” then with a book deal and her own reality show. She was taller than she had been in decades. But she didn’t see her resurgence as a comeback.

“I’ve been working steadily for 63 years,” she said in an interview with ABC News “Nightline” in 2010. “But everyone’s saying, ‘Oh, this is such a rebirth.’ Maybe I left without knowing it.

Ms White was over 50 and already a television veteran when she first appeared on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” but her work there took her career to a new level.

Comedy about a young bachelor TV news producer in Minneapolis, “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” was one of the most popular sitcoms of its time or any other, thanks to clever writing, Ms. Moore’s charismatic presence and high caliber support. to throw. Even in the company of thieving actors like Ms. Moore, Ed Asner and Valerie Harper, Ms. White’s Sue Ann stood out.

The character, introduced in the show’s fourth season, was meant to be sickening, calculating, and predatory, his deviousness always paired with a charming smile. The producers wanted a “Betty White guy” to play the part, but they didn’t immediately ask Ms White because she and Ms Moore were close friends and the producers worried the friendship would be damaged if she did. did not. get the role, or didn’t want it.

“They met about 12 people and didn’t find anyone quite sickening,” Ms. White told Modern Maturity magazine in 1998, “so they called me.”

Betty Marion White was born January 17, 1922 in Oak Park, Illinois, the only daughter of Horace and Tess (Cachikis) White. Her father was an electrical engineer, her mother a housewife. When Betty was very young, the family moved to Los Angeles, where she grew up.

At Beverly Hills High School, from which she graduated in 1939, she appeared in several student productions and even wrote the graduation play for her class, in which she played the lead role. During World War II, she served in the American Women’s Voluntary Services and drove a “PX truck” delivering soap, toothpaste and candy to the soldiers who occupied the gun sites the government had established in the hills of Canada. Santa Monica and Hollywood.

She also met and married a P-38 pilot, Dick Barker. This marriage lasted less than a year; when Mrs. White wrote an autobiography, “Here We Go Again”, in 1995, she mentioned the wedding but did not mention her name.

Towards the end of the war, she became involved in the Bliss-Hayden Little Theater, run by two Hollywood actors, Lela Bliss and Harry Hayden, and designed to give young people the chance to perform in front of an audience. Her first performance there was in “Dear Ruth,” a comedy about a girl who claims to be her older sister. He was seen by Lane Allen, an actor turned agent, who encouraged Ms White to pursue an acting career. She and Mr. Allen later married, but this union also ended in divorce.

Ms. White started her radio career saying a word about the popular comedy “The Great Gildersleeve”. The word was “Parkay,” the name of the Margarine sponsoring the show. This led to songs in 1940s radio staples like “Blondie” and “This Is Your FBI”

She burst onto television in 1949 on a local talk show called “Al Jarvis’s Hollywood on Television”. When Mr. Jarvis left the show, she took over as host.

She had a few TV shows in the 1950s, including two sitcoms and a variety show (which she produced herself and garnered both praise and criticism for featuring a tap dancer. black, Arthur Duncan, as a regular, a very unusual gesture for the time). But none of these shows stayed on the air for long, and by the early 1960s she was best known as a busy independent guest. Game shows were her specialty: she appeared in “To Tell the Truth”, “I’ve Got a Secret”, “The Match Game”, “What’s My Line?” And, most notably, “Password”, whose host, Allen Ludden, she married in 1963.

Mrs. White and Mr. Ludden remained married until his death in 1981. They did not have children together, but she helped him raise his three children from a previous marriage, David, Martha and Sarah. . (Information on his survivors was not immediately available.)

After “The Golden Girls” ended its seven-year run in 1992, Ms. White remained a familiar and welcome presence on television. She reprized the role of Rose Nylund in a short-lived spin-off, “The Golden Palace”, and has made appearances on “Ally McBeal”, “That ’70s Show”, “Boston Legal”, “Community” and many other series. From 2006 to 2009, she had a recurring role in the television series “The Bold and the Beautiful”. Ms. White, who was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 1995, continued to perform on television until she was 90 years old.

She has also appeared occasionally on the big screen, most recently in “The Proposal” (2009) and “You Again” (2010). She received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Screen Actors Guild in 2010.

In 2018, she was the subject of a PBS documentary, “Betty White: First Lady of Television”. The title, she joked, could have meant she was the first woman in history. to television.

But the most surprising and high profile role she played in her later years was the host of “Saturday Night Live” in May 2010, a reservation which was made in large part thanks to an animated campaign on social networks. Ms. White’s appearance – in which she happily participated in skits infused with the show’s irreverent and often quirky humor – gave “SNL” its highest marks in a year and a half.

That same year, she also returned to prime-time television as one of the stars of the TV Land sitcom “Hot in Cleveland”. His performance on this show as a fiery Guardian earned him another Emmy nomination. (She lost to Julie Bowen of “Modern Family.”) “Hot in Cleveland” ran for five seasons.

In 2012, “Betty White’s Off Their Rockers,” a hidden camera show in which older people play pranks on younger ones, debuted on NBC. In addition to being the host, Ms. White was an executive producer.

In 2011, she published two books. The first, “If you ask me (and of course you won’t),” was a collection of essays and anecdotes about his life and career. The second, “Betty & Friends: My Life at the Zoo”, spoke of her love of animals and her long association with the Los Angeles Zoo.

Mrs. White had a long interest in animal welfare. In the early 1970s, she produced and starred in a syndicated talk show, “The Pet Set,” in which celebrities talked about their pets. She has also dedicated time and money to organizations like the American Humane Association and the Fund for Animals. In 2006, she was honored by the Los Angeles Zoo, which named her “Ambassador to Animals” and unveiled a plaque in her honor.

“Remembering Rose and Sue Ann and the others would be wonderful,” Ms. White told the Chicago Sun-Times in 1990. “But I also want to be remembered as a lady who helped animals. “

Until 2019, Ms. White was still doing voice acting, most notably as a toy tiger named Bitey White in the animated film “Toy Story 4”. She had planned to celebrate her 100th birthday with a one-night-only film that will be screened in select theaters. And she had just given an interview to People magazine in which she spoke of her life when she was 100 years old.

One of her last in-person appearances was on telecast of the 2018 Emmy Awards.

“It’s amazing that you can stay in a career for this long and people still support you,” she told the assembled TV luminaries, who gave her a long standing ovation. “I wish they would do that at home.”

Isabella Grullón Paz contributed reports.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Betty White, a TV Golden Girl from start, dead at 99
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