TV’s Golden Girl, Legendary Actress Betty White, Dies at 99

Betty White, the comedic actress whose career spanned more than 80 years has died. She was 99 years old and just weeks shy of her 100th birthday.  White, best known for her roles on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” in the 1970s and “The Golden Girls” between 1985 and 1992. She continued acting until her late 90s. Full name Betty Marion White Ludden, she was born on January 17, 1922 in Oak Park, Ill. She was an only child.

White’s television career started in 1939. After graduating high school. She and her former classmate sang songs on a Los Angeles TV channel. In 1949, White co-hosted “Hollywood on Television” on KLAC-TV in Los Angeles. The show was White and her co-host would ad-lib on camera for 5 1/2 hours a day, six days a week. “Whatever happened, you had to handle it. There was never any rehearsal or script or anything,” White told NPR in 2014. “Whoever came in that door was on, and you were interviewing them.”

From 1953-1955 White went on to have her own series, “Life with Elizabeth”. She also made appearances in the short-lived series “Date with the Angels” during the 1950s. From there, she would have a number of guest appearances on many shows and TV movies.

Then came the role that made her carrier take off. It was on the “Mary Tyler Moore Show,” where White played the role of Sue Ann Nivens, a sharp-witted, man-chasing co-worker of Mary Richards (played by Moore) in a Minneapolis TV station newsroom.

After the show ended, there was a short-lived “Betty White Show” and another series of guest appearances on various programs over the next 18 years until her next big role – that of the sweet but naïve Rose Nylund on the hit television series “The Golden Girls.” It was very different from the character she played “Mary Tyler Moore.”

Initially, the role of Rose was supposed to go to Rue McClanahan while White was cast as Blanche Devereaux – a character similar to the one she played as Nivens. But the show’s director, Jay Sandrich, asked them to read each other’s parts. Both actresses welcomed the change.

White’s death was confirmed by Jeff Witjas, her longtime agent and friend. She would have turned 100 on Jan. 17.

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