Betty White Biography: 'The Golden Girls' to 'The Proposal'

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton
Betty White's career began in radio in the 1940s, but it wasn't long before this talented actress became a fixture and a pioneer on the burgeoning television scene. Her big break was the TV program "Life with Elizabeth," but this wasn't her last taste of the spotlight. After earning a reputation as the "first lady of game shows," White took a role on the successful comedy series "The Mary Tyler Moore Show." She followed that with a completely different character on the massively popular sitcom "The Golden Girls," and has continued making audiences laugh ever since. Even as she celebrated her 90th birthday, this actress showed she was still young at heart. In this video, explores the life and career of Betty White.

Biography of Betty White

Her successful television career spanned over six decades, and secured her spot as one of America’s “golden girls.” Welcome to, and today we’ll be learning more about the life and career of Betty White.

Early Life

Betty Marion White was born January 17th, 1922, in Oak Park, Illinois, but grew up in Beverly Hills, California. Her love of performing developed in high school when she wrote and acted in a school play.

Career in Radio

Upon graduating in 1939, she began her career with small acting and modeling jobs. She eventually made a splash on radio airwaves in the 1940s with a series of shows.

First Efforts in Television

It wasn’t long before White became an important name in the burgeoning television scene. She was even nominated for the first ever Emmy for Best Actress in Television in 1950. Soon after, she became one of the first female TV producers when she co-founded Bandy Productions in 1952.

“Life with Elizabeth”

This led to White’s first starring role in a television series called “Life with Elizabeth.” This syndicated sitcom allowed her to shine both in front of and behind the camera, and it ran until 1955.

Game Show Appearances

White stayed in the spotlight during the ‘50s and ‘60s by becoming a frequent and beloved guest in both late-night television and on game shows. Her appearances on “Password” proved especially popular, and even led to White’s marriage to its host, Allen Ludden, in 1963.

“The Mary Tyler Moore Show”

She transformed her reputation as “the first lady of game shows” in 1973 with a successful guest spot on the already successful comedy series, “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” White’s role as the Happy Homemaker Sue Ann Nivens allowed her to demonstrate both her sweet and edgy sides, and she quickly secured a spot as a full-time cast member. That role won White two Emmy Awards.

“Mama’s Family”

She followed her stint on “Mary Tyler Moore” with a short-lived self-titled sitcom in 1977. She kept up her profile by hosting a game show, and by appearing in comedy sketches on “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.” She then reprised a character she had played on “The Carol Burnett Show” on “Mama’s Family” in 1983.

“The Golden Girls”

However, White’s next huge success came in 1985 when she joined the ensemble cast of Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan and Estelle Getty as the naïve Rose Nyland on “The Golden Girls.” During its seven-season run White was nominated for Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series every year, and won once.

More Emmy Awards

After “The Golden Girls” ended, White and fellow cast-mates McClanahan and Getty appeared in the short-lived spinoff series “The Golden Palace.” Following this, White lent her star power to a number of guest-starring sitcom roles, was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame, and won an Emmy for her appearance on “The John Larroquette Show” in 1996.

Back on the Big Screen

In 1999, White appeared on the big screen as a crude widow in the horror flick “Lake Placid.” She then appeared in some family-friendly projects, continued her successful stints on TV shows and returned to film opposite Steve Martin and Queen Latifah in the 2003 comedy “Bringing Down the House.”

“The Proposal”

White kept busy working well past her 85th birthday; however, she received renewed interest following her silver screen spot opposite Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds in the 2009 romantic comedy “The Proposal.”


Her career received another boost in 2010 because of a hugely popular Super Bowl ad for Snickers. That year, she appeared in the film “You Again,” and was the subject of a facebook campaign to host “Saturday Night Live,” which she did in May at age 88. For this, she won yet another Emmy.

“Hot in Cleveland”

The television world capitalized on White’s rekindled popularity by casting her in the series “Hot in Cleveland” that same year. This workaholic didn’t even slow down as she hit 90: she continued guesting on TV series and lent her voice to the animated Dr. Seuss film “The Lorax” in 2012.


Aside from her unparalleled professional resume, White has been an advocate for animal rights for much of her career. Because of this, her role as one of the pioneers of early television, and her young-at-heart attitude, Betty White is an entertainment icon.