LOS ANGELES (AP) – A photo of Betty White, with a dimpled smile and a naive look, fills the cover of a coffee table book that arrived the month before her 100th birthday.
The image evokes the real White, according to the author of the book, Ray Richmond. After digging into her life and career, he has concluded that she is as warm and inviting as appearances suggest.
But her willingness to play the guy, whether as scheming Sue Ann on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” or naive Rose on “The Golden Girls,” proves just how talented and talented White is, said Richmond.
That, coupled with an impressive work ethic, took her from a television cameo in her early 1930s to the darling of “Saturday Night Live” in the 21st century, with a myriad of gigs in show business. along the way.
“You could make a compelling case that Betty White is the most versatile and beloved artist in American history,” said Richmond, whose “Betty White: 100 Remarkable Moments in an Extraordinary Life” was released on Tuesday.
In addition to appearing in sitcoms and appearing on dozens of others, she was a reliable and witty host and game show guest; master of ceremonies (California Rose Parade and New York Thanksgiving Day) and soap opera actor (“The Bold and the Beautiful”). She dabbled in drama on the big screen (including as a US senator on “Advise & Consent” in 1962) and television (“Bones”, “Boston Legal”).
Hosting “Saturday Night Live” in 2010 – at age 88 – earned him a fifth Emmy Award and a new generation of fans.
White, who will reach centennial status on Jan. 17, 2022, did not participate in the book. Richmond, a veteran entertainment journalist and critic, instead relied on research and interviews with friends and colleagues, including Carol Burnett, Candice Bergen and Gavin MacLeod (Murray on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”).
MacLeod, who died last May at the age of 90, wrote the front of the book. Hailing White as a great performer and a “national treasure,” he considered her “one of the most caring and loving human beings I have ever known.”
She’s also a pro, said Bill D’Elia, producer with David E. Kelley of “Boston Legal.” Kelley, who had worked with White on his movie “Lake Placid,” was thrilled to give him salty language and bad behavior to play, D’Elia says in the book.
“David liked the contrast in his image to what the character was saying,” he said. “She would be happy to say anything and do whatever the story and script called for.”
The book briefly describes the Illinois native’s early years before moving on to a detailed and casual account of White’s success in Hollywood. The great loves of her life – her husband Allen Ludden, who was a game show host, and animals of all races – are also getting attention. Among the photos in the book is that of the couple on their wedding day in Las Vegas in 1963 (Ludden died in 1981).
There are also studio and commercial photos of White alone and with her co-stars. One was taken the night she, Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan and Estelle Getty re-enacted scenes from “The Golden Girls” at a royal variety show in London in the presence of Britain’s Queen Mother, who would have requested their representation.
Among the moments and milestones recounted in “Betty White: 100 Remarkable Moments in an Extraordinary Life”:
- After performing on her high school graduation in 1939, White and another student were invited to participate in an experimental television test in Los Angeles. As the duo danced and sang on the sixth floor of a building owned by car dealership and broadcast pioneer Earle C. Anthony, the performance was transmitted into the lobby. The audience: parents of teenagers and a few others.
- When the United States entered World War II in December 1941, White, then just 20, joined a women’s volunteer organization that provided home support. She drove trucks carrying supplies for soldiers housed in camps in the Los Angeles area during the day; at night she joined in dances for troops to be deployed overseas.
- “The Betty White Show,” with White hosting half an hour of songs and interviews, debuted in 1954 on NBC. It featured 21-year-old black tap dancer Arthur Duncan at a time when people of color were rarely seen on television. Station managers, citing viewer complaints, threatened to withdraw the show. A provocative white started booking Duncan more frequently, with network backing. Duncan, who became a longtime regular on “The Lawrence Welk Show” from the 1960s and is now 88, is cited in the book hailing White for standing up for him and “opening many doors for me. to play”.
- White moved around in glamorous circles and created them. Burnett remembers attending “game nights” at the White-Ludden House. Charades and board games and the like was the entertainment, and “they had people like Fred Astaire hanging out right there. And Burt Reynolds. My God, there were so many, ”Burnett said.
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