Betty White pictured in 2009, has enjoyed a successful career that has spanned more than 75 years.
Betty White pictured in 2009, has enjoyed a successful career that has spanned more than 75 years.

Famous birthdays this week: Betty White

17/01/1922 - current (96 years old).

"I like double entendre because then the people who get it enjoy it, and the people who don't get it don't know about it”.

1922: Betty Marion White Ludden known professionally as Betty White was born in Oak Park, Illinois, USA and is an American actress, comedian and animal health advocate with the longest television career of a female entertainer. She has stated that Betty is her legal name and not a shortened version of Elizabeth. White is the only child of Christine Tess, a homemaker and Horace Logan White a lighting company executive.

White's family moved to Alhambra, California and later to Los Angeles, during the Great Depression. To make extra money, her father would build radios and sell them wherever he could.

1930's: She attended Horace Mann School Beverly Hills and Beverly Hills High School, famously used as a filming location for popular titles such as Clueless and It's a Wonderful Life, where she was a member of the 1939 graduating class. Her interest in wildfire was sparked by family vacations to the High Sierras. She aspired to become a forest ranger, but was unable to accomplish this dream because women were not allowed to serve as rangers during this period. Instead, White pursued an interest in writing. She wrote and played the lead in a graduation play at Horace Mann School and discovered her interest in performing. This is where she decided to become an actress.

1939: White began her television career, three months after high school graduation, when she and a classmate sang songs from The Merry Widow on an experimental Los Angeles channel. White found work modeling, and her first professional acting job was at the Bliss Hayden Little Theatre. White's career was disrupted immediately, as World War II broke out, causing her to join the American Women's Voluntary Services.

1940s: She worked in radio, appearing on shows such as Blondie, The Great Gildersleeve, and This is Your FBI. She then got her own radio show, called The Betty White Show.

1945: White married Dick Barker, a U.S. Army Air Corps pilot. The marriage was short-lived.

1947: She married Lane Allen, a Hollywood agent. This marriage ended in divorce in 1949.

1949: She began appearing as co-host with Al Jarvis on his daily live television variety show Hollywood on Television, originally called Al Jarvis' Make-Believe Ballroom on KFWB radio and on KLAC-TV in Los Angeles.

1955: Regarded as a pioneer of television, she was one of the first women to have control both in front of and behind the camera and is recognized as the first woman to produce a sitcom which was Life with Elizabeth which contributed to her receiving the honorary title Mayor of Hollywood.

1962: She made her feature film debut as Kansas Senator Elizabeth Ames Adams in drama, Advise & Consent. Although her performance was well received, it would be her only big-screen appearance for decades. White began a nineteen-year run as hostess and commentator on the annual Tournament of Roses Parade broadcast on NBC (often co-hosting with Lorne Greene), and appeared on a number of late night talk shows and daytime game shows.

1963: On June 14, White married television host and personality Allen Ludden, whom she had met on his game show Password as a celebrity guest in 1961 and her legal name was changed to Betty White Ludden.

1973-1977: She is known for her Emmy Award-winning roles as Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Rose Nylund on The Golden Girls. The Writers Guild of America has included both sitcoms in its list of the 101 Best Written TV Series Of All Time (sic). A staple guest of many American game shows such as Password, Match Game, and The $25,000 Pyramid. White has been dubbed the 'First Lady of Game Shows' and became the first woman to receive an Emmy Award for Outstanding Game Show Host in 1983 for the show Just Men!

Following the end of The Mary Tyler Moore Show in 1977, White got her own sitcom on CBS, her second series entitled The Betty White Show.

Cast photo from The Betty White Show of 1977. From left-John Hillerman, Betty White, Georgia Engel.
Cast photo from The Betty White Show of 1977. From left-John Hillerman, Betty White, Georgia Engel.

1981: Her husband, Allen Ludden died from stomach cancer on June 9 in Los Angeles. They had no children together, though she is stepmother to his three children from his first marriage, with his late wife. White has not remarried since Ludden's death.

1983-1985: She became the first woman to win a Daytime Emmy Award in the category of Outstanding Game Show Host, for the NBC entry Just Men!. Due to the amount of work she has done on them, she has been deemed the "First Lady of Game Shows”. White had a recurring role playing Ellen Harper Jackson on the series Mama's Family, along with future Golden Girls co-star Rue McClanahan. White had originated this character in a series of sketches on The Carol Burnett Show in the 1970s.

1987: The American Veterinary Medical Association awarded White with its Humane Award for her charitable work with animals.

2007: In the beginning of this year, White was featured in television commercials for PetMeds, highlighting her interest in animal rights and welfare.

2009: White is the president emerita of the Morris Animal Foundation, where she has served as a trustee of the organization since 1971. She has been a member of the board of directors of the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association since 1974. Additionally, White served the association as a Zoo Commissioner for eight years.

2010: White appeared alongside Abe Vigoda in an advertisement for Snickers during the 2010 Super Bowl XLIV. The ad won the top spot on the USA Today Super Bowl Ad Meter. The slogan was, "You're not you when you're hungry”.

2010: White took on the role of Elka Ostrovsky the house caretaker on TV Land's original sitcom Hot in Cleveland along with Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves and Wendie Malick. Hot in Cleveland was TV Land's first attempt at a first-run scripted comedy (the channel has rerun other sitcoms since its debut). White was only meant to appear in the pilot of the show but was asked to stay on for the entire series. On November 9, the USDA Forest Service, along with Smokey Bear, made Betty White an honorary forest ranger, fulfilling her lifelong dream.

2011: She was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for her role as Elka, but lost to Julie Bowen for Modern Family. In October, White was awarded an honorary degree and white doctors coat by Washington State University at the Washington State Veterinary Medical Association's centennial gala in Yakima, Washington.

2012: White hosted and executive produced Betty White's Off Their Rockers, in which senior citizens play practical jokes on the younger generation. For this show, she received three Emmy nominations. A special Betty White's 90th Birthday Party aired on NBC a day before her birthday on January 16. The show featured appearances of many stars with whom White has worked over the years.

2013: NBC once again celebrated Betty White's birthday with a TV special featuring celebrity friends, including former president Bill Clinton; the special aired on February 5. She starred as herself in the documentary Betty White Goes Wild.

2015: Starred in Saturday Night Live Grandmother Episode: "Saturday Night Live 40th Anniversary Special”. Fireside Chat with Esther as Rose. Bones as Dr. Beth Mayer in two episodes. Betty White's Smartest Animals in America as Host.

2016: Sponge Bob Square Pants as Beatrice (voice) in the Episode: "Mall Girl Pearl”. Crowded as Sandy in the Episode: "The Fixer”.

2017: Young & Hungry as Ms. Wilson in two episodes and If You're Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast as Herself.


In a career that has spanned more than 75 years, she has received eight Emmy awards in various categories, three American Comedy Awards, three Screen Actors Guild awards, and a Grammy. She also has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, is a Television Hall of Fame inductee (class of 1995), and a Disney Legend (class of 2009).


White is a pet enthusiast and an animal health advocate who works with animal organisations, including the Los Angeles Zoo Commission, the Morris Animal Foundation, African Wildlife Foundation, and Actors & Others for Animals. Her interest in animal rights and welfare began in the early 1970s while she was both producing and hosting the syndicated series, The Pet Set, which spotlighted celebrities and their pets.

White has published several books during her career. In August 2010, she entered a deal with G.P. Putnam's Sons to produce two more books, the first of which, If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won't), was released in 2011. In February 2012, White received her first Grammy Award (”Best Spoken Word Recording”) for the audio recording of the book.

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