The Life And Death Of A TV Icon

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There’s no denying that Betty White was a natural treasure. For decades, this venerable TV actress has been making audiences laugh, whether she was playing the dim-witted Rose Nyland on The Golden Girls, the devilish Sue Ann Nevins on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, or the hard-living Elka Ostrovsky on Hot in Cleveland. On December 31st, 2021, the national treasure passed away. Here’s all about her wild and amazing life.

Betty White Started Her Acting Career Over 80 Years Ago

Born in Oak Park, Illinois in 1922, Betty White kicked off her acting career in the late 1930s, soon after graduating from high school. She worked as a model and theater actress for a number of years before pivoting into radio and television. In the ’50s, White created and starred in the TV comedy Life with Elizabeth and hosted and produced her own daily variety show, The Betty White Show. She became a well-known TV staple and began appearing frequently as a panelist on popular game shows like Password, What’s My Line, and The Match Game.

In 1973, White was cast as the man-hungry Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. She played the part for four years and won two Emmy Awards for her performance. She also continued to be a popular game show staple, and in 1983, she became the first woman to win a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Game Show Host.

Two years later, in 1985, she was cast as Rose Nyland in The Golden Girls, a part that earned her seven Emmy nominations and one win for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy series. It’s also the role she’s best known for, as the show—which ran from 1985 to 1992 on NBC—has become a cult classic thanks to syndication and streaming. While most people would describe the character of Rose as dim, White says she didn’t play her that way.

Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan and Betty White at the 6th annual TV Land Awards in 2008.
(Joe Seer / Shutterstock.com)

“Now, Rose isn’t slow-witted; she just marches to a different drum, that’s all,” the actress explained in an interview with Today back in 1987. “Rose believes anything anybody tells her and she takes each word at its surface meaning; she never looks for the overall meaning. And sometimes she backs into unfortunate situations.”

White also said she believed the show was such a big success because the cast members were like family to each other. “We are having so much fun, there should be a law against it,” she told Today. “We work well together because everybody’s very professional, but off-camera, we adore each other. And it’s a privilege to go to work. “If the four of us did not get along or support each other, I don’t know how you can be funny. I really don’t.”

Betty White Turned 99-Years-Old In 2021

In January 2021, Betty White celebrated her 99th birthday. Taking the milestone in stride, the iconic actress credited her optimism with helping to keep her happy and spry for close to a century. “Enjoy life,” she told Parade. “Accentuate the positive, not the negative. It sounds so trite, but a lot of people will pick out something to complain about, rather than say, ‘Hey, that was great!’ It’s not hard to find great stuff if you look.”

To celebrate her birthday, Ryan Reynolds revisited a hilarious sketch from their time working together on The Proposal, where they pretended to have a heated feud. Check it out for a few laughs:

Her Most Recent Career Projects

Betty White’s most recent acting credit was for voicing Bitey White, an adorable toy tiger, in the 2019 animated film Toy Story 4. Before that, she guest-starred on two TV shows in 2017: Young & Hungry and Bones.

Her most recent feature role was on the hit comedy Hot in Cleveland, which aired on TV Land from 2010 until 2015. Betty White was 88 years old when she landed the role of sharp-witted caretaker Elka Ostrovsky, alongside fellow sitcom vets Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves, and Wendie Malick. For the six seasons the show aired, the veteran actress says she never took the gig for granted. “It doesn’t always happen at my age,” she admitted in a 2014 interview with Parade.com. “I’m deeply grateful. I feel wonderful. To be lucky enough at this age to still be working in the business you love the best, with three people like this, I mean, one of these days I’ll wake up and find it’s not really true!”

White also said she knew she was incredibly fortunate to have landed yet another job on a beloved TV comedy. “Working with those girls. How lucky can I get?” she told Parade. “First the Mary Tyler Moore gang, then the Golden Girls gang – and now this beloved gang. I mean, that is in a lifetime once maybe. Twice, maybe would be a miracle. But three times? It’s just phenomenal.”

The End Of A Beautiful Era

Just two weeks before her 100th birthday, Betty White passed away on December 31st, 2021. According to her agent, Jeff Witjas, she passed away from natural causes. He admitted to People, “even though Betty was about to be 100, I thought she would live forever… I will miss her terribly and so will the animal world that she loved so much. I don’t think Betty ever feared passing because she always wanted to be with her most beloved husband Allen Ludden. She believed she would be with him again.”

What Is Betty White’s Net Worth?

According to CelebrityNetWorth.com, Betty White had an estimated net worth of $75 million. While that’s certainly a lot of money, it almost seems low when you consider the fact that she’d been a working actress for eight decades. Clearly, the early days of TV didn’t pay like it does today!

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