Often called "The First Lady of Television," Betty White was a beloved and treasured presence on America's screens for much of the near-century she lived. In addition to her well-known roles as a comedic actress, White was one of the first female television producers, a competitive word-game maven, a devoted animal activist, and a WWII volunteer. Over the course of her long career, she stood up for those around her and paved a new path for older women in Hollywood. And she did it all with her famously snappy sense of humor.
White touched the lives of many people - her loved ones, her colleagues, and her many, many fans. From the people who were lucky enough to cross paths with the TV legend, there is no shortage of wonderful stories and tributes to her legacy. These are just a few of the moving memories that capture the essence of Betty, both on- and off-screen.
- Photo: The Proposal / Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures11,176 VOTES
Ryan Reynolds worked with Betty White in The Proposal, but he's been a fan for much longer. Reynolds remembered watching The Golden Girls growing up, and the impressive comedic chops of White. Reynolds told People:
I heard that scripts for Golden Girls were only 35 pages, which makes sense because so many of the laughs come from Betty simply looking at her castmates.
Reynold also joked to the magazine that White was "a typical Capricorn. Sleeps all day. Out all night boozing and snacking on men."
In the PBS documentary Betty White: First Lady of Television, Reynolds remembered what a positive experience filming with White was during The Proposal, for everyone involved:
She’s just this, sweet... lovely, older woman who is just beloved by this whole crew and cast and everybody would just do anything for her... She gets up to leave and everyone’s sad cause it’s her last shot, and she’s just walking out the door to say goodbye, and she turns around right in the door jam and she says, "I just want everyone here to know, this is the most fun I’ve ever had." [...]
The woman just kills everyone. Everybody spends the rest of the day at a perfect 90-degree angle, laughing.
After her passing, Reynolds tweeted:
The world looks different now. She was great at defying expectation. She managed to grow very old and somehow, not old enough. We’ll miss you, Betty. Now you know the secret.
- 21,540 VOTES
Vicki Lawrence Remembered Her Love Story With Husband Allen Ludden
Vicki Lawrence met Betty White on The Carol Burnett Show, and went on to work with her on numerous other occasions. The two also became lifelong friends. When asked by The Hollywood Reporter what it was like to work with White, Lawrence replied:
My recollections of Betty are nothing but sweet and happy and fun and raunchy and bawdy. But she was so professional in the middle of all that. I don’t remember Betty ever missing a line. It was so rare. She was so prepared. The only outtake I can remember ever was on Mama’s Family. [Her character] was having an affair with Mayor Tutweiler. We got to the taping and she said, “Mayor Tit-willow.” And it got stuck in her brain, and she couldn’t get it out, and it just digressed into a laughing mess.
She was the consummate professional - Carol used to call it “playing in the sandbox.” She never called it working. And Betty is the best playmate in the world. On game shows, and playing games with her, she was smart and clever. She was on it. She was so good at that stuff. If you were playing against Betty, you better bring your A-game because she was there to beat your [butt].
In the interview, Lawrence also offered a glimpse into White's third marriage, to Allen Ludden, which Lawrence described as her "love story":
I remember a Christmas party of ours, shortly before Allen passed... It was the biggest Christmas party we’ve ever thrown - with the valet parking, bartenders, caterers - in our house in the Valley. [Betty and Allen] asked us, “Where can we sit that would be quiet?” I remember Allen taking her into our bedroom because we had a little table and two chairs right in a bay window that overlooked the whole city, and they sat there and had a quiet, lovely romantic dinner in the middle of this huge party.
They were a lovely couple, and they were adorable together. She drove the car he gave her for as long as I can remember. She wore the same ring he gave her as long as I’ve known her. That was her love story.
According to Lawrence, White's last word before her passing was "Allen."
Steve Martin was a relatively unknown comedian when he met Betty White in 1974. He considered the fact that she'd actually heard of him a huge compliment. Martin shared on Twitter:
In 1974, I was an obscure opening act for Linda Ronstadt at the Troubadour in Los Angeles. Passing through the lobby before the show, I saw Betty White and her husband Allen Ludden waiting in line.
I loved Betty White, so I went up to them: “I’m so honored to meet you both.” And then I said, “Isn’t Linda great?” She said, “We came to see you.” I said, “Why?” “Because we heard you were funny.” I was elated.
Fellow actress Mia Farrow tweeted about the time she ran into Betty White at a Beverly Hills restaurant. While Farrow didn't want to bother her, it was White who made the introduction:
Once [I] was in a Beverly Hills restaurant [and] Betty White sat down at the table next to mine. [I] didn’t want to bother her. But after a few minutes she tapped me on the shoulder and with that radiant smile said, “ Hello! [I'm] Betty White.” People don’t do that in BH. I just love her.
- Photo: The Carol Burnett Show / CBS
After Betty White made several appearances on The Carol Burnett Show, she and Burnett became good friends. Burnett told People:
She'd come on my show, and if there was a tinge of risqué humor in one of our sketches, she'd roll with it and make it even funnier and add a little wink to show that she was thinking of something sexy. She's not a stand-up. She's not a jokester. It's the way she can twist a line to get a laugh.
Burnett also witnessed the loving relationship White had with her final husband, Allen Ludden:
[Designer] Bob Mackie put her in this sexy outfit... She had beautiful legs. Afterward Allen came backstage and said, "I knew she had a great set of gams, but wow, in that costume she really knocked everybody out." They loved each other so much. Once, when Allen was very sick, Betty would come in and rehearse my show and then leave to go to the hospital. She just soldiered through, brilliant as always. After he died, she was asked if she’d ever marry again, and she said, “Why remarry when you’ve had the best?”
- 61,285 VOTES
Betty White was vocal about her longtime crush on actor Robert Redford. According to her personal assistant, Kiersten Mikelas, White received a cardboard cutout of Redford for her 99th birthday: "For a long time, we had him in the office entryway... When she came in, she'd say, 'Hi, sweetheart.'"
In an interview with People, White joked about co-star Ryan Reynolds's feelings for her, which she couldn't reciprocate due to her affections for Redford: "I've heard Ryan can't get over his thing for me, but Robert Redford is The One."
After her passing, Redford shared that the feeling was mutual:
Betty lived life devoted to her craft and her love of animals... She made us all laugh, including me. I had a crush on her too!