Betty White, who starred on popular sitcoms “The Golden Girls” and “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” for more than seven decades and made US television audiences laugh, died Friday, according to US media. She was 99 years old.
The pioneering Emmy-winning comedienne had one of the longest careers in show business history, beginning with regular television appearances in 1949 and ending with a voice role in “Toy Story 4” in 2019.
“Even though Betty was about to turn 100, I thought she’d live forever,” her agent Jeff Witjas said in a statement to People magazine.
“I will miss her terribly, as will the animal world that she adored.”
“I don’t think Betty ever feared death because she always wanted to be with her most cherished husband, Allen Ludden.” She was confident she’d see him again.”
According to TMZ, she died at her home on Friday, citing law enforcement sources. The cause of death was not revealed right away.
The news prompted an outpouring of condolences, with President Joe Biden describing her as “a lovely lady.”
“I’m 89 years old, as my mother would say, God love her!” he told reporters.
White was one of the first female producers on “Life With Elizabeth,” a 1950s sitcom in which she also starred.
Then, as a nonagenarian, she interacted with much younger Instagram followers.
“It’s incredible that I’m still in this business — and that you put up with me!” White stated this at the 2018 Emmys.
She received five primetime Emmys, two daytime Emmys, one for lifetime achievement, and a regional Emmy in Los Angeles.
White, whose signature halo of white-blonde hair and clear blue eyes were instantly recognizable to American viewers, played a number of characters on-screen.
She transitioned from a 1950s housewife on “Elizabeth” to a man-hungry 1970s TV personality on “Moore” to a doe-eyed 1980s “Golden Girl” retiree on “Moore.”
In real life, she enjoyed delivering witty one-liners.
When asked about her favorite pastimes by late-night host David Letterman, the long-time animal welfare advocate replied, “(I like to) play with animals, mostly.” And vodka is a bit of a hobby.”
The golden girl
Betty Marion White was born on the outskirts of Chicago on January 17, 1922. During the Great Depression, the family relocated to California.
White said her love of acting stemmed from a school production, but she credits her comedic inspiration to her parents, a homemaker and a lighting company executive.
After a few years of modeling and a stint in the American Women’s Voluntary Services during WWII, White transitioned to radio work, reading commercials and playing minor roles.
Her first regular television appearance was on the variety show “Hollywood on Television” in 1949. She co-created “Life with Elizabeth” only a few years later.
White met her third and final husband, Ludden, through her early television career, who hosted the game show “Password,” on which she frequently appeared.
In fact, before Moore came calling, she was a game show staple in the 1960s and 1970s.
White went on to win two Emmys for her role on the newsroom sitcom as Sue Ann Nivens.
In the mid-1980s, “The Golden Girls,” about four older women sharing a house in Miami, struck again.
Rose Nylund, the ditzy and often naive Minnesota native who served as a foil to the more sophisticated characters played by Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan, and Estelle Getty, was played by White.
“Bea wasn’t crazy about me,” White admitted in an interview with HLN in 2011. “But I adored and admired Bea.”
White was nominated for another Emmy for her performance as Rose.
With her snarky, sometimes bawdy wit, White won over an entirely new generation of viewers as she aged, millennials who watched “Golden Girls” reruns.
She re-entered the public eye in the last decade, appearing on TV Land’s “Hot in Cleveland” and hosting the hidden camera prank show “Off Their Rockers.”
She even returned to game shows on a revamped “To Tell The Truth,” and she was the face of a Snickers candy bar ad campaign.
White became the oldest-ever host of the long-running comedy sketch show “Saturday Night Live” in 2010, at the age of 88, an experience she described as “probably the most fun I’ve ever had, and the scariest.”
Despite her extensive television career, White has only appeared in a few films, including “The Proposal” (2009) and the animated “The Lorax” (2012).
White attributed her lengthy career to being “blessed.”
White was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 1995, in addition to her numerous Emmys.
She received three Screen Actors Guild awards, including a lifetime achievement award in 2010, and a Grammy in 2011 for the audio version of one of her books.
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From 1963 until his death in 1981, White and Ludden were married. She never remarried and never had children of her own.