Betty White
Birth Date:
January 17, 1922
Birth Place:
Oak Park, Illinois, USA
5' 4" (1.63 m)
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Betty White_150512
The Golden Girls

“I think that a show that is as successful as “The Golden Girls” is a once-in-a-lifetime thing. If you don't feel proud to be part of a show that has that kind of track record, then shame on you, because that's a privilege. We got the credit, but we couldn't do it without that writing. The writing was so phenomenal that we were like four points on a compass. Somehow they hit on very serious topics and still managed to keep the audience amused.” Betty White

Betty White is an American actress, comedienne, television personality and writer. She is best recognized by modern television viewers for her roles as Sue Ann Nivens on “Mary Tyler Moore Show” (1973-1977) and as Rose Nylund on “The Golden Girls” (1985-1992). Currently, she stars as Elka Ostrovsky in the TV Land sitcom “Hot in Cleveland” (2010-?). White has made guest appearances in a number of television shows, including “The John Larroquette Show,” “Yes, Dear,” “Practice,” “Boston Legal” and “My Name is Earl.” Her film credits include “Advise & Consent” (1962), “Lake Placid” (1999),  “Bringing Down the House” (2003) and “The Proposal” (2009). Active in showbiz since 1939, the dimpled, fair-skinned performer started out as a model and summer stock theater actress before breaking into broadcasting as a radio player in the 1940s. She continued to gain fame on the small screen as a game show panelist and host before scoring her first of a series of successes as an actress on “Mary Tyler Moore Show.” White has won five Emmy Awards and a Daytime Emmy Awards. She also has received honors from the Gracie Allen, Screen Actors Guild, Teen Choice, TV Land, American Comedy, and Viewers for Quality Television Awards. She was handed the TV Guide  Favorite TV Icon Award in 2011, and the Britannia Award for Excellence in Comedy and the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award both in 2010. She won the Television Critics Association Career Achievement Award in 2009 and the Golden Apple Award for Female Star of the Year in 1986.

White is a great animal welfare activist and works with many organizations, including the Los Angeles Zoo Commission, Actors & Others for Animals, and the Morris Animal Foundation. She is a ponsor for Farm Animal Reform Movement and Friends of Animals. She recalled, “ I always wanted to be a zookeeper when I was growing up, and I've wound up a zookeeper! I've been working with the Los Angeles Zoo for 45 years! I'm the luckiest old broad on two feet because my life is divided absolutely in half - half animals and half show business. You can't ask for better than two things you love the most.”

Ms. White married “Password”  host Allen Ludden from 1963 to his death in 1981. She previously had two short lived marriages: to Dick Barker (July-December 1945) and then Lane Allan (1947-1949).

Betty Marion

Childhood and Family:

Betty White was born Betty Marion White on January 17, 1922, in Oak Park, Illinois, to Horace Lawrence White, a traveling salesman and electrical engineer, and Tess White, a housewife. Her father was of Danish and English lineage, while her mother was of Greek, English, and Welsh origin. When she was two years old, her family moved to Los Angeles, California. Betty attended Horace Mann School in Beverly Hills, California, and graduated from Beverly Hills High School in 1939. She discovered her love in performing after playing the lead in a graduation play at Horace Mann School. Betty, who originally wanted to become a writer, also penned the play.

Betty has been married three times. She married first husband Dick Barker, a U.S. Army Air Corps pilot, on July 9, 1945, but they divorced several months later in December 1945. She went on to marry Lane Allan, a Hollywood agent, on November 8, 1947. The bond ended in divorce in 1949.

On June 14, 1963, Betty tried to build a new family by marrying television personality and host Allen Ludden, whom she met on his game show “Password” as a celebrity guest in 1961. After the marriage, she legally changed her name to Betty White Ludden. The couple stayed together until Ludden's death on June 9, 1981 from stomach cancer. The marriage does not produce any children, but  Betty has three stepchildren from Ludden's previous marriage to Margaret McGloin:  Martha, Sarah and David.

Betty is a practicing member of the Unity Church. She is also a registered Democrat.

Hot in Cleveland


After graduating from high school, Betty White landed work as a model, and made her professional acting debut with the Bliss Hayden Little Theatre. However, she was forced to put her career on the backburner when the World War II broke out. During this period, she joined the American Women's Voluntary Services. White later branched out to broadcasting as a radio player, and spent the 1940s working on various shows like “Blondie,” “The Great Gildersleeve” and “This Is Your FBI.” She also had her own radio show called “The Betty White Show.”

In 1949, after several years in radio, White eventually broke into television as a co-host with Al Jarvis in KLAC's “Hollywood on Television,” a live local variety show that covered news, interviews and comedy skits and was produced live six days a week for an arduous five and a half hours. The show brought her an Emmy nomination for Best Actress in 1951, for which she competed with legendary stars such as Judith Anderson, Helen Hayes, and Imogene Coca. This was the very first award and category in the new Emmy history intended for women on television.

In 1952, White collaborated with writer George Tibbles and producer Don Fedderson to establish Bandy Productions. The threesome worked to create new shows using existing characters from sketches shown on “Hollywood on Television.” The resultant, “Life With Elizabeth,” in which White starred as a boisterous young wife opposite straight man husband Alvin (played by Del Moore) in domestic vignettes, aired in syndication from October 7, 1953 until September 1, 1955. She also credited as the show's co-producer.

In 1954, White briefly hosted her own daily talk show, “The Betty White Show,” on NBC. In the following year, she began making regular appearances as a panelist on game shows like CBS' “What's My Line?” and “NBC's “Make the Connection,”  and after playing the title role in an episode of CBS's “The Millionaire” called “The Virginia Lennert Story” (1956), she starred as Vickie Angel in the ABC sitcom “Date with the Angels,” opposite Bill Williams as Gus Angel. The show ran for a season of 33 episodes from May 10, 1957 to January 29, 1958. She then hosted  her own variety program on ABC called “The Betty White Show,” which premiered on February 5, 1958.

In 1961, White became a panelist on the CBS game show “Password,” where she ended up winning the heart of the host Allen Ludden, to whom she was married from 1963 until his death in 1981. She also appeared in the show's three updated versions “Password Plus,” “Super Password” and “Million Dollar Password.” White made her feature film acting debut as Senator Bessie Adams in “Advise & Consent” (1962), an adaptation of the Allen Drury Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name, directed by Otto Preminger. Co-stars in the film included Henry Fonda, Charles Laughton, Don Murray, Walter Pidgeon, Peter Lawford and Gene Tierney. White, who had refused the offer to join the team of “NBC's  “Today,” spent the most of the 1960s as a mainstay on comedic panel game shows such as “Liar's Club,” “The Match Game” and “You Don't Say.” In 1967, she co-hosted “78th Annual Tournament of Roses Parade” (NBC).

White made her television movie debut in the Emmy Award winning crime/drama “Vanished” (1971), where she appeared as T.V. Hostess. The show was directed by Buzz Kulik and starred Richard Widmark, Skye Aubrey and Tom Bosley. The same year, she also produced and hosted the syndicated series “The Pet Set,” which spotlighted celebrities and their pets. Her interest in animal rights and welfare started in this time.   

White's career on television gained huge boost when she was cast as sour, man-hungry TV hostess Sue Ann Nivens on the James L. Brooks/Allan Burns acclaimed sitcom “Mary Tyler Moore Show” (CBS, 1970-1977), starring Mary Tyler Moore as Mary Richards, a single woman in her thirties. Joining the show in 1973, White's performance received plaudits, and she was handed two consecutive Emmys for Outstanding Continuing Performance by a Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series in 1975 and 1976. She received an additional Emmy nomination in 1977, and later, in 2004, she jointly netted a TV Land for Groundbreaking Show.

After “Mary Tyler Moore Show” left the airwaves, White starred in her own short lived television sitcom, “The Betty White Show,” which ran on CBS from September 12, 1977  until January 2, 1978. There she played  Joyce Whitman, a middle-aged actress. She continued to take on roles in a string of TV films like “With this Ring” (ABC, 1978), “Snavely” (1978), “The Best Place to Be” (NBC, 1979), “Before and After” (1979), “The Gossip Columnist” (1980), “Stephanie” (1981) and “Eunice” (1982, as Allen). In 1983, White began her recurring role as the clannish Ellen, the title character's oldest daughter, on the NBC sitcom “Mama's Family,” which she held until 1986. Still in 1983, she received an offer to host her own game show, “Just Men!,” which ran on NBC from January 3, 1983 to April 1, 1983. The show brought her a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Host or Hostess in a Game or Audience Participation Show.  

White gained further attention on the small screen thanks to her memorable portrayal of ditzy Rose Nylund on the Susan Harris created sitcom “The Golden Girls,” which also starred Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan and Estelle Getty. Premiered on September 14, 1985, the series garnered positive reviews throughout most of its run and picked up several awards, including the Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series twice and the Golden Globe for Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy three times. White took home an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, plus six additional nominations in the same category, an American Comedy for Funniest Female Performer in a TV Series (Leading Role) Network, Cable or Syndication, two Viewers for Quality Television Q Awards for Best Actress in a Quality Comedy Series and four Golden Globe nominations for Best Performance by an Actress in a TV-Series – Comedy/Musical. The show later also brought her TV Land Awards for Quintessential Non-Traditional Family (2003) and Pop Culture Award  (2008).

After “The Golden Girls” ended its run on May 9, 1992, White reprised the Rose Nylund role on the spin-off show “The Golden Palace,” which was canceled after one season due to poor ratings. The show ran on CBS from September 18, 1992, to May 14, 1993. She then joined the cast of the Bob Newhart sitcom “Bob” (CBS, 1992-1993), where she played Bob's boss, Sylvia Schmitt, before co-starring with Marie Osmond in the ABC sitcom “Maybe This Time,” playing Osmond's mother. The show was canceled after the end of its first season (September 1995 – February 1996). In 1996, she could be seen playing herself on an unforgettable episode of NBC's “The John Larroquette Show” called “Here We Go Again” and was handed an Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for her work. The same year, she also delivered a notable guest turn as Midge Haber on the “Golden Girl Friday” episode of “Suddenly Susan” (NBC), for which she picked up an Emmy nomination.     

1998 found White working with Morgan Freeman, Christian Slater and Randy Quaid in the action/thriller movie “Hard Rain,” directed by Mikael Salomon, playing Mrs. Wilson in the direct to video release “Dennis the Menace Strikes Again,” opposite Don Rickles, George Kennedy and Justin Cooper, and providing the voice of Dorothy in the animated television series “The Lionhearts.” She continued to play roles in films “Lake Placid” (1999, as Mrs. Delores Bickerman) and “The Story of Us” (1999, as Lillian Jordan). In 1999, she played Dr. Shirley Flott in an episode of “Ally McBeal” called “Seeing Green” and won an American Comedy for Funniest Female Guest Appearance in a TV Series for her performance. She played the regular role of Mitzi Stiles on the sitcom “Ladies Man,” which aired on CBS from September 20, 1999 until June 27, 2001.

White has kept on busy schedule in the new millennium. She provided the voice of Grandma Sophie in the animated made for television movie “The Wild Thornberry's: The Origin of Donnie” (2001), which starred the voices of Lacey Chabert, Jodi Carlisle and Tim Curry as Eliza Thornberry, Marianne Thornberry and Nigel Thornberry, respectively, had a recurring role on Fox's “That 70s Show” (4 episodes, 2002-2003), playing Kitty's mom, Bea Sigurdson, and received an Emmy nomination for her guest starring role in CBS's “Yes, Dear” (2002, as Sylvia). In 2003, she was cast alongside Steve Martin, Queen Latifah and Eugene Levy in the comedy film “Bringing Down the House,” directed by Adam Shankman. In the following year, the actress had a notable three episode stint as Carol Piper, a resident of Alan Shore's (played by James Spader) hometown in ABC's “Practice,” from which she picked up an Emmy nomination. She reprised the scheming, blackmailing gossip-monger Catherine Piper role in several episodes of ABC's “Boston Legal” from 2005 to 2008.  

In December 2006, White joined the CBS soap opera “The Bold and the Beautiful” in the role of  Ann Douglas, the long lost mother of arch Stephanie Forrester (played by Susan Flannery). She remained with the show until 2009.    

White played herself as the victim of Wilhelmina Slater's (played by Vanessa Williams) temper in an episode of “Ugly Betty” (ABC) called “Bananas for Betty” (2007). She was nominated for an Emmy Award in the category of Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for her portrayal of Crazy Witch Lady in the “Witch Lady” episode (2009) of “My Name is Earl.” The year also saw the actress co-star with Sandra Bullock, Ryan Reynolds and Mary Steenburgen in the comedy film “The Proposal.”  

In 2010, White was cast as Elka Ostrovsky, an elderly Polish caretaker, on the TV Land sitcom “Hot in Cleveland,” opposite Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves and Wendie Malick. Premiered on June 16, 2010, the show has brought her a 2011 Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series, a 2011 Screen Actors Guild for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy and a 2011 Gracie Allen for Outstanding Female Lead in a Comedy Series.

The same year, White hosted NBC's “Saturday Night Live” after fans campaigned on social networking site Facebook. She took home an Emmy for  Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for her work. In addition, White portrayed Grandma Bunny in the comedy/romance film “You Again,” starring Kristen Bell, Odette Annable and Sigourney Weaver, appeared in two episodes of “Community” as Professor June Bauer, and guest starred in “The Middle.”

In 2011, White “co-starred as Caroline Thomas in the made for television movie “The Lost Valentine” (CBS), opposite Jennifer Love Hewitt and Nick Moon Stephens.

Recently, in 2012, White provided the voice of Grammy Norma in the animated film “Dr. Seuss' The Lorax,”  which released in the United Stated on March 2. The film also starred the voices of Zac Efron, Taylor Swift and Danny DeVito.

White has released several books. Her first book, “Betty White's Pet-Love: How Pets Take Care of Us,” was published in 1983, followed by her second effort, “Betty White In Person,” in 1987. She also wrote “The Leading Lady: Dinah's Story” (1991), “Here We Go Again: My Life In Television” (1995), “If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won't)” (2011), which earned her a 2011 Grammy in the category of Best Spoken Word Recording,  and “Betty & Friends: My Life at the Zoo” (2011).


Gracie Allen: Gracie, Outstanding Female Lead in a Comedy Series, “Hot in Cleveland,” 2011
Screen Actors Guild: Actor, Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series, “Hot in Cleveland,” 2011
TV Guide: Favorite TV Icon, 2011
BAFTA/LA Britannia : Britannia Award, Excellence in Comedy, 2010
Emmy: Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series, “Saturday Night Live,” 2010
Screen Actors Guild: Life Achievement Award, 2010
Teen Choice: Choice Movie: Dance, “The Proposal,” 2010
Television Critics Association: Career Achievement Award, 2009
TV Land: Pop Culture Award, “The Golden Girls,” 2008
TV Land: Groundbreaking Show, “Mary Tyler Moore,” 2004
TV Land: Quintessential Non-Traditional Family, “The Golden Girls,” 2003
American Comedy: Funniest Female Guest Appearance in a TV Series, “Ally McBeal,” 2000
Emmy: Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series, “The John Larroquette Show,” 1996
American Comedy: Lifetime Achievement Award in Comedy, 1990
Viewers for Quality Television: Q Award, Best Actress in a Quality Comedy Series, “The Golden Girls,” 1988
American Comedy: Funniest Female Performer in a TV Series (Leading Role) Network, Cable or Syndication, “The Golden Girls,” 1987
Viewers for Quality Television: Q Award, Best Actress in a Quality Comedy Series, “The Golden Girls,” 1987
Emmy: Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, “The Golden Girls,” 1986
Golden Apple: Female Star of the Year, 1986
Daytime Emmy: Outstanding Host or Hostess in a Game or Audience Participation Show, “Just Men!,” 1983
Emmy: Outstanding Continuing Performance by a Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series, “Mary Tyler Moore,” 1976
Emmy: Outstanding Continuing Performance by a Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series, “Mary Tyler Moore,” 1975
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