Sunday, December 12, 2010

Betty White who played Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show

Betty White was born in Oak Park, Illinois in 1922 and has been in television a very long time. In addition to her role as Sue Ann Nivens in "The Mary Tyler Moore Show", she is also well known for playing Rose Nylund in the show "The Golden Girls".  In 2010 she became the oldest person ever to win an prime time Emmy award when she hosted the Saturday Night Live Show.  She has won a total of seven over the years. 

Betty White, in 1950

White made her first TV appearance in the 1945 short "Time to Kill" co-starring George Reeves, Barry Nelson, Don Hanmer, and DeForest Kelley.  Her first appearance on a series was four years later on "Hollywood on Television" with Al Jarvis.  In 1953 she starred as Elizabeth in "Life with Elizabeth" co-starring Del Moore and Jack Narz.  The show ran until 1955.  The following year she appeared in "The Millionaire"  She landed another role in the series "Date with the Angels" playing Vicki Angel.  She played the role for 33 episodes until the show ended.

In 1962 Betty starred in her first film "Advise & Consent" co-starring Franchot Tone, Henry Fonda, Walter Pidgeon, Lew Ayres, Don Murray, Burgess Meredith, and Will Geer.

Betty White in the 1950s
Betty White in the 1960s

It wasn't until 1969 when she appeared again on TV in shows such as "Petticoat Junction ", "The Pet Set" with Bob Crane (1971), "Vanished" with Larry Hagman, Tom Bosley, and William Shatner (1971), and "The Odd Couple co-starring Tony Randall and Jack Klugman in 1972.

Betty White in the early 1970s

In 1793 Betty won the role of Sue Ann Nivens on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" starring Mary Tyler Moore, Valerie Harper, Cloris Leachman, Georgia Engel, Ted Baxter, Gavin MacLeod, and Ed Asner.  She played the role in various episodes for four years until the show ended in 1977.

Betty White in 1975

Mary Tyler Moore (Mary Richards) and Betty White (Sue Ann Nivens) of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show"
Cast of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" Front: Betty White(Sue Ann Nivens), Georgia Engel (Georgette Franklin), Mary Tyler Moore (Mary Richards)  Back: Ted Knight (Ted Baxter), Gavin MacCleod (Murray Slaughter),  Ed Asner (Lou Grant)

During her stay on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show", she also appeared in shows such as "Ellery Queen" (1975) and "The Carol Burnett Show" co-starring Carol Burnett, Vicki Lawrence,Tim Conway, and Harvey Korman.

Cast of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" show off their Emmy Awards: Ed Asner (Lou Grant), Betty White(),  Mary Tyler Moore (Mary Richards)  Ted Knight (Ted Baxter)

After "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" ended in 1977, White manged to land her own TV show in the role of
Joyce Whitman, "The Betty White Show" which co-starred John Hillerman (John Elliot) and Georgia Engel (Mitzi Maloney), her co-star on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show".  The show suffered from poor ratings only ran for 14 episodes.  Hillerman would go on to star in "Magnum P.I.".

Betty White (Joyce Whitman) and John Hillerman (John Elliot) of "The Betty White Show"
Betty White as Joyce Whitman of "The Betty White Show"

White would go on to appear in TV movies and shows such as "With This Ring" co-starring Joyce DeWitt, Tom Bosley, Donny Most, Dick Van Patten, and John Forsythe (1978), "The Best Place to Be" with Donna Reed, Efrem Zimbalist Jr., and Stephanie Zimbalist (1979), "The Gossip Columnist" with Steve Allen and Jim Backus (1980), "Love, Sidney" with Tony Randall and Swoosie Kurtz (1982), "Eunice" Carol Burnett, Harvey Korman, Vicki Lawrence (1982), "Hotel" with James Brolin, Connie Sellecca and Shari Belafonte (1984), "St. Elsewhere" with Ed Begley Jr., William Daniels, Howie Mandel, David Morse, Christina Pickles, and Denzel Washington (1985), and "Who's the Boss?" with Tony Danza, Judith Light, and Alyssa Milano.

In 1983 Betty starred in the role of Ellen Harper Jackson in the TV show "Mama's Family" co-starring Vicki Lawrence, Beverly Archer and Ken Berry.  She left the show in 1986. During her run on "Mama's Family" from 1980 to 1985 White appeared in 5 episodes of "The Love Boat" with her former "Mary Tyler Moore Show" co-star Gavin MacLeod as Betsy Boucher.  "The Love Boat" also
starred Lauren Tewes, Bernie Kopell, Fred Grandy, Jill Whelan, and Ted Lange.

Betty White (seated right) on the set of "The Love Boat"
Betty White and Michael J. Fox show off their Emmy Awards

In 1985, White was cast in the role of Rose Nylund in "The Golden Girls" co-starring Bea Arthur (Dorothy Petrillo Zbornak), Rue McClanahan (Blanche Devereaux), and Estelle Getty (Sophia Petrillo).  She played the role until the show ended in 1992.  During her run of "Golden Girls", in 1987 White starred in the TV movie "Alf Loves a Mystery" with Paul Fusco, Luis Daniel Ponce, Shannen Doherty and Stephen Furst as well as appearances in "Santa Barbara" (1988), "Another World", "Carol & Company" co-starring Pat Crawford Brown, Swoosie Kurtz, Bernadette Peters, and Robert Urich (1990), "Nurses" with Arnetia Walker, Mary Jo Keenen, and Loni Anderson (1991), and several episodes of "Empty Nest" (1989-92).

Cast of "The Golden Girls" Front center: Estelle Getty (Sophia) Back: Bea Arthur (Dorothy), Rue McClanahan (Blanche), Betty White (Rose)
"The Golden Girls" on set:  Betty White (Rose), Estelle Getty (Sophia),  Bea Arthur (Dorothy), Rue McClanahan (Blanche)

After the "The Golden Girls" ended in 1992, Betty White continued her role as Rose Nylund in "The Golden Palace" from 1992-93 co-starring Rue McClanahan, Estelle Getty, Don Cheadle, and Cheech Marin.  This was basically "The Golden Girls" minus Bea Arthur with a different story line.  However, it was not nearly as successful as it's predecessor. That same year White starred in another series "Bob" in the role of Sylvia Schmidt.  She co-starred Bob Newhart and Cynthia Stevenson.

In 1995, White starred in another show "Maybe This Time" as Shirley Wallace with co-stars Marie Osmond, Ashley Johnson, and Dane Cook.  The show lasted one year and ended in 1996.  The same year Betty appeared in "Diagnosis Murder" starring Dick Van Dyke, Victoria Rowell, and Barry Van Dyke.  A couple of years later in 1996 White used her voice talents in the animation "The Story of Santa Claus" with former "Mary Tyler Moore Show" co-star Ed Asner and Tim Curry.

Betty White

The next couple of years White appeared in various TV movies and shows such as "A Weekend in the Country" (1996), "Suddenly Susan" with Brooke Shields, Judd Nelson, Nestor Carbonell, Barbara Barrie, and Kathy Griffin (1996) and "Me & George" with Jillian Armenante, Melanie Griffith and Jeffrey Tambor (1998).  Also in 1998, Betty starred in the film "Hard Rain" co-starring Morgan Freeman, Christian Slater, Randy Quaid, Minnie Driver, and former "Mary Tyler Moore Show" co-star Edward Asner.

In 1999, White starred in the film "Lake Placid" with Bridget Fonda, Bill Pullman, Oliver Platt, and Brendan Gleeson.  That same year she also starred in "The Story of Us" co-starring Bruce Willis, Michelle Pfeiffer, Rob Reiner, Julie Hagerty, Rita Wilson, and Tom Poston.  Also that same year on the TV side, White began playing the role of Mitzi Stiles in "Ladies Man" with Alfred Molina, Sharon Lawrence, Stephen Root, Alexa Vega, and Shawna Waldron.

Betty then appeared in another string of TV movies and shows such as "The Retrievers" (2001), "The Ellen Show", "Yes, Dear" (2002), and "Providence" (2002), "That '70s Show" (4 episodes 2002-2003), "The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy" (voice, 2003), "Stealing Christmas" with Tony Danza, Lea Thompson and Angela Goethals (2003), "Everwood" (2 episodes, 2003-2004), "My Wife and Kids" (2004), "Malcolm in the Middle" (2004), "Annie's Point" with Richard Thomas and Amy Davidson.

Boston Legal cast members William Shatner, Betty White, and Rhona Mitra

During this time she also appeared in the films "Bringing Down the House" (2003) and "The Third Wish" (2005).  In 2005 she was cast as Catherine Piper in the TV show "Boston Legal" with James Spader, William Shatner, Candice Bergen, and Rhona Mitra.  Betty starred in 16 episodes for the last three years the show aired.  The series ended in 2008. However, simultaneously she was performing the role of Ann Douglas on the soap "The Bold and the Beautiful" until 2009. White filled in the gaps during this period by doing many voice roles for various animated shows.  She would go on that year to star in "The Proposal" with Sandra Bullock, Ryan Reynolds, Mary Steenburgen, and Craig T. Nelson.

"The Golden Girls" at the 2008  Emmys:  Rue McClanahan (Blanche), Betty White (Rose),  Bea Arthur (Dorothy)

Betty White and Sandra Bullock in "The Proposal"
Betty White in 2009

While it seemed that Betty White faded from the scene, in part due to her voice roles and fewer parts on prime time television, she never really left as you can see by her credits.  She regained national recognition again after she appeared in a 2010 Superbowl commercial for Snickers candy bars which featured White playing tackle football which a bunch of guys that are telling their friend "You're playing like Betty White out there!" and her retort was "Oh yeah, that's not what your girlfriend says".  This appealed to a younger audience and also made everyone take notice that Betty White was still around which led to a surge of personal appearances on talk shows and gigs hosting many award and variety shows with some fifty plus appearances.  She hosted the Saturday Night Live show for which she received a Grammy Award, making her the oldest person in history to win a prime time Emmy Award.  

"You're playing like Betty White out there!" ...the Superbowl commercial that put her back in the spotlight

Watch the commerical:
"The NPR" or "muffin" skit on Saturday Night Live 2010 featuring Betty White
Betty White 2010
Betty White and Mary Tyler Moore at the 2010 Emmy Awards
White appeared in the film "You Again" in 2010 co-starring Jamie Lee Curtis,Kristen Bell, Odette Yustman, Sigourney Weaver,Victor Garber, Patrick Duffy, and former "Mary Tyler Moore Show" co-star Cloris Leachman. Also in 2010 at 88 years young, she was cast in the role of Elka Ostrovsky in "Hot in Cleveland" with another season for 2011 ready to be aired.  Her co-stars on the show feature another resurging star, Valerie Bertinelli of "One Day at A Time" fame.  "Hot in Cleveland" also features Jane Leeves, Wendie Malick, and Mary Tyler Moore.  This was the first time Betty White shared the set with her old boss since "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" ended in 1977.
The cast of the film "You Again": Betty White, Jamie Lee Curtis, Segourney Weaver, Odette Yustman, Kristen Bell
Jamie Lee Curtis, Kristen Bell, and Betty White in "You Again"

Betty White as Elka Ostrovsky in "Hot in Cleveland" 2010
Hopefully we will see much more of Betty White in the future!

View more actors from the past in the Character Index 

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