Comedian Betty White, who ended a career of more than 80 years by becoming America’s geriatric girlfriend after Emmy-winning roles in TV sitcoms “The Golden Girls” and “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” has died, less than three weeks shy of her 100th birthday, People magazine reported Friday, quoting her agent.
Her agent and close friend Jeff Witjas told the magazine: “Even though Betty was about to be 100, I thought she would live forever.”
In a youth-driven entertainment industry where an actress over 40 is facing career darkness, White was an older anomaly who was a star in the 60s and a pop culture phenomenon in the 80s and 90s.
White played on his impending sympathy and still starred in a TV sitcom, “Hot in Cleveland,” at age 92, until it was canceled in late 2014.
White said her lifetime was a result of good health, luck and love for her work.
“It’s incredible that I’m still in this industry and that you’re still sticking with me,” White said during a performance at the 2018 Emmy Awards ceremony, where she was honored for her long career. “It’s incredible that you can stay in a career for so long and still make people tolerate you. I wish they did it at home.”
White was not afraid to mock himself and throw a joke about his sex life or a stuffy crack that one would not expect from a sweet-smiling, white-haired older woman. She was often asked if, after such a long career, there was anything she still wanted to do, and the standard answer was, “Robert Redford.”
“Old age has not made her smaller,” the New York Times wrote in 2013. “It has given her another wind.”
Betty Marion White was born on January 17, 1922 in Oak Park, Illinois, and her family moved to Los Angeles during the Great Depression, where she attended Beverly Hills High School.
White began his entertainment career in radio in the late 1930s and in 1939 had made his television debut singing on an experimental channel in Los Angeles. After serving in the American Women’s Voluntary Service, which helped American efforts during World War II, she was stuck in “Hollywood on Television,” a daily five-hour variety show, in 1949.
A few years later, she became a pioneering woman in television by helping to found a production company and acting as a co-creator, producer and star in the 1950s sitcom “Life With Elizabeth”.
Throughout the 1960s and early ’70s, White was regularly seen on television, hosting the annual Tournament of Rose Parade and appearing in game shows such as “Match Game” and “Password.” She married “Password” host Allen Ludden, her third and last husband, in 1963.
White reached a new level of success on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” where he played the host of a homemade TV show, the naughty, lustful Sue Ann Nivens, whose credo was “a woman doing a great job in the kitchen is sure to reap her rewards in other parts of the house. ” White won Emmys’ Best Supporting Actress for the role in 1975 and 1976.
She won another Emmy in 1986 for “The Golden Girls,” a sitcom about four older women living together in Miami that featured an age demographic that was rarely featured on American television. White was also nominated for an Emmy six other times for his portrayal of the widow Rose Nylund, a sweet, naive and dingy Midwestern native, in the program, which ran from 1985 to 1992 and was one of the best-rated series of its time.
After a less successful sequel to “The Golden Girls,” came a series of small film parts, talk show appearances, and stand-alone TV roles, including one that won her an Emmy for a guest appearance on “The John Larroquette Show.”
In 2009, she was becoming ubiquitous with more frequent TV appearances and a role in the Sandra Bullock film “The Proposal”. She starred in a popular Snickers candy commercial that aired during the Super Bowl and got a brutal hit in a mud puddle in a football game.
A young fan started a Facebook campaign to get White to host “Saturday Night Live,” and she ended up appearing in every sketch in the program and winning another Emmy for it.
The Associated Press named her entertainer of the year in 2010, and a 2011 Reuters / Ipsos poll found that White, then 89, was the most popular and trusted celebrity in America with an 86 percent favorability rating.
White’s witty and brash demeanor came in handy as host of “Betty White’s Off Their Rockers,” a show with a hidden camera in which older actors made fun of younger people.
“Who would ever dream that I would not only be so healthy but still be invited to work?” White said in a 2015 interview with Oprah Winfrey. “It’s the privilege … to still have jobs to do is such a privilege.”
White, who had no children, worked for animal rights. She once turned down a role in the movie “As Good as It Gets” because of a scene where a dog was thrown into a garbage can.
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