Remembering Betty White’s Best ‘Golden Girls’ Moments

by Jennifer Shea

Television icon Betty White passed away at her California home on Friday morning, just a few weeks shy of her 100th birthday. The legendary actress will be appearing on the cover of People during the week of Jan. 10 in honor of her Jan. 17 birthday.

“Even though Betty was about to be 100, I thought she would live forever,” her agent and close friend Jeff Witjas told People on Friday. “I will miss her terribly and so will the animal world that she loved so much. I don’t think Betty ever feared passing because she always wanted to be with her most beloved husband Allen Ludden. She believed she would be with him again.”

White was best known for her performances as the worldly TV homemaker Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and the sweet but ditzy Rose Nylund on The Golden Girls. She won Primetime Emmy Awards for both performances, but it was her portrayal of Rose on The Golden Girls that won White an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series.

So here, without further ado, are some of White’s best moments from The Golden Girls.

Betty White’s Impeccable Comic Timing: ‘That Backstabbing Slut’

In Season 5 of The Golden Girls, Rose finds a boyfriend she initially hits it off with: Miles (Harold Gould), a college professor. But once Rose learns that Miles is a professor, she becomes uncomfortable. She starts dodging his phone calls and looking for reasons to break up with him.

Finally, Rose asks Blanche (Rue McClanahan) to go out with Miles instead of her. Blanche at first demurs, but Rose insists. So Blanche agrees to go on a date with Miles as a favor to Rose.

But no sooner does Blanche leave the room than Rose lets slip her true feelings about her friend dating Miles. Watch the scene here:

Rose Dispenses Life Advice to a Girl Scout

In Season 3, Blanche gives away Rose’s precious teddy bear, Fernando, to Daisy (Jenny Lewis), a sweet-seeming Sunshine Cadet who is actually quite the little operator. Realizing the value of her new toy, Daisy basically holds the teddy bear hostage.

Towards the end of the episode, Rose declares that she’s been doing some thinking – not usually a good sign. But this time, it is. Rose delivers a stirring speech and caps it off with some hard advice to the young Daisy with a toughness that somehow doesn’t break with her character.

Watch Rose’s chipper volte-face here:

Betty White on Her Casting as Rose

White, in her self-effacing way, credited director Jay Sandrich with creating the character of Rose, but it was really White who made her what she was. White had initially auditioned for the role of Blanche, which would ultimately go to McClanahan. But Sandrich thought that character was too much like White’s Mary Tyler Moore Show character, so he switched the two actresses. And White, fatefully, was left with the “amorphous,” somewhat undefined character of Rose.

“Well [director] Jay [Sandrich] in his wisdom, bless his dear heart, said, ‘Look, if Betty plays another man-hungry neighborhood nymphomaniac, no matter how differently she tries to play it, they’re gonna equate it with Sue Ann and think she’s just doing the same thing. Let’s switch them,’” White recalled in a 2010 interview with the Television Academy Foundation.

“I didn’t have a clue as to Rose,” she went on to explain. “She was one of those amorphous characters. And again, Jay, he just gave me the character in two lines. He said, ‘She’s totally naïve.’ She turned out to be terminally naïve. She took every word as the surface meaning… So the girls could say terrible things to her, but the words all sounded fine, so she got along great.”

White’s conception of Rose was comic genius, and while Rose was often the butt of the other ladies’ jokes, it was White who got more of the laughs for her determined cluelessness and spot-on comic timing.

Watch more of Betty White’s best moments as Rose here: