Written by Kerry at The Film Detective
At 97, she was wishing for a call from Robert Redford for her birthday while enjoying a poker game. Now celebrating her 98th birthday today, there’s just no telling what this special day will have in store for the Queen of Television, Betty White!
Betty Marion White of Oak Park, Illinois, was born on this day in 1922. Betty’s fun-loving and optimistic spirit has captured the hearts of audiences for over seven decades on both the small and silver screens.
Moving to California at a young age, Betty fell in love with the performing arts and landed guest spots on multiple television shows. In 1952, a starring role came Betty’s way in the form of Life with Elizabeth (1953-1955), a sitcom of the antics of newlywed life starring Betty and Del Moore, which even allowed Betty her first shot as a producer.
Her natural way of connecting with the masses and making audiences laugh set Betty’s television career into high gear, starring in Date with the Angels (1957-1958) and earning regular roles in the game show circuit. Fans of What’s My Line (1950-1967) and To Tell the Truth (1956-1968) were quickly introduced to Betty’s wit, but no game show was more special to her than Password (1961-1975).
Password, the American game show featuring celebrity and civilian teams using one-word clues to win cash prizes, featured host Allen Ludden, leading the show for hundreds of episodes. Ludden was no fresh face to the hosting game, having already made a name for himself on The GE Electric College Bowl (1959-1970) among other shows. Meeting on Password, Allen and Betty got along together so nicely that when an opportunity to appear together in the summer stock play Critic’s Choice appeared, the new friends would form a budding romance that led to a near eighteen year marriage.
In 1973, Betty expanded her television success in the role of feisty Sue Ann Nivens, host of “The Happy Homemaker” show on The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1973-1977). While only designed to be a one-episode appearance by “someone like Betty White,” Betty proved to producers that there was no comparison to the real deal, and her magnetic performance as Nivens earned her a regular spot on the series.
We can all thank Betty for being a friend in the role of the unforgettable Rose Nylund on The Golden Girls (1985-1992). The Golden Girls placed Betty alongside Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan, and Estelle Getty in the tale of four women in their golden years living together in a Miami home. Betty’s role of Rose earned her an Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series Emmy in 1986, one of many Emmys on Betty’s shelves.
With so many years of performances, it would be easy to think Betty’s fanbase relies solely on the older generations, but think again! Betty thrilled millions with the Snickers commercial from the 2010 Super Bowl in which she was tackled in a pick-up game.
(Click the image to check it out for yourself.)
At 88, by popular demand, Betty hosted Saturday Night Live (1975-present), an appearance that garnered Betty an Emmy and landed her in the history books as the oldest star to host the show. From recent appearances in The Proposal (2009) and Hot in Cleveland (2010-2015) to Toy Story 4 (2019), there’s no question why Betty White is not only the Queen of Television, but the Queen of our hearts.
Happy Birthday Betty, we wish you a year of happiness (and with any luck, that call from Robert Redford).
In honor of Betty White’s 98th birthday, we are featuring a Life with Elizabeth (1953-1955) marathon RIGHT NOW on Sling, Stirr, and DistroTV. You can also watch Life with Elizabeth (1952-1955) on our web platform anytime!